If your doctor had committed a serious transgression, wouldn’t you
want to know about it? Under existing California law, doctors are not
required to notify their patients when they have been placed on probation
by the Medical Board of California. Thankfully, that could soon change.
Legislative Efforts to Require Patient Notification
In order to make informed decisions about their healthcare, patients must
have access to key information about their doctors. The Medical Board
of California posts information regarding doctors on probation on its
website. However, significant gaps still exist for patients to be fully
informed about disciplinary action taken against their physician.
Last year, the Medical Board of California rejected a proposal by Consumers
Union to require doctors to notify patients of disciplinary action. In
addition, legislation that
would have required doctors to proactively notify their patients when they have been put on probation for serious offenses, such as sexual
misconduct, substance abuse, gross negligence, or a felony conviction
related to patient care and treatment, failed to pass.
Pressure is again mounting for California lawmakers to pass legislation
that would require doctors to inform their patients when they have been
disciplined by the Medical Board. Last month, a legislative report revealed that
there are currently 635 physicians on probation in California. Of those, 44 practice in San Diego County. The Senate committee report
also recommends that existing regulations should be amended so “that
patients receive timely notification of their physician’s probationary
New Bill Eliminates Possibility of Probation for Certain Violations
Even after committing serious violations, California doctors are frequently
allowed to keep their medical licenses and continue to treat unsuspecting
patients. Recently introduced legislation would make probation unavailable
for certain transgressions.
Assembly Bill Number 505 provides that the Medical Board of California may not enter into any stipulation
for disciplinary action, which includes placing a licensee on probation,
if the operative accusation includes any of the following:
- Felony conviction involving harm to patient safety or health
- Drug or alcohol abuse directly resulting in harm to patient safety or health
- Sexual act or sexual exploitation
The California Medical Association supports the new bill, which would require
doctors facing any of the above charges to go through the court process
rather than the Board’s administrative process. “This will
protect due process but allow the medical board to appropriately discipline
bad actors and protect California patients,” the Association said.
Patient safety advocates maintain that the bill does not go far enough
to protect the public from potentially dangerous doctors. We agree. Assembly
Bill 505 lacks any patient notification provision. Accordingly, patients
whose doctors face serious charges not listed in the legislation will
still be left in the dark.
The lack of patient notification is particularly concerning considering
that studies show that physicians who have received serious sanctions
in the past are far more likely to face additional disciplinary action
in the future. In addition, many patients, including vulnerable groups
like seniors, don’t regularly use the Internet and, therefore, have
no way to access important safety information about their doctors.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious harm due to a serious medical
mistake, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.