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Doctors need all the information they can get, to properly treat their patients.
Patients like AdrianTarkington assume those details will remain private, unless they agree to share it.
That's why Tarkington and Ted Mazer, M.D. are shocked that one North County physician is now accused of showing intimate photos of at least three patients, to friends, for "entertainment."
The state medical board claims Gregory Scott Campbell, M.D. of Escondido shared photos of a patient "who had been shot through the penis" and another, "partially nude" patient, with an "open belly wound".
If so, Tarkington said, as a patient, he would be outraged.
"It's not appropriate,” said Ted Mazer, M.D., with the San Diego County Medical Society. “And that's something where the medical board needs to step in and take action, so the doctor learns, ‘You can't do that.’”
The board's accusation seeks to revoke or suspend Campbell's license for those alleged violations of patient privacy.
Campbell, a trauma surgeon in Escondido, declined our request for comment but his lawyer told us the "alleged acts are unproven” and he says Campbell "intends to present a full defense at his hearing." Read full statement here
Our investigation revealed that Campbell is one of more than 50 San Diego County doctors accused of unprofessional conduct, criminal acts, or negligence, by the medical board, in the past 15 months.
One South Bay doctor had his license suspended for three months and agreed to seven years probation after being accused of sexual abuse of a female patient during a routine office visit.
A North County physician faces discipline for revealing intimate details about a patient, and sexual misconduct with two female patients.
Another was forced to close his practice after repeatedly showing up drunk, for work, and prescribing the wrong medicines.
"You're putting your life in their hands. You're putting your child's life in their hands," said Julie D'Angelo Fellmeth with the Center for Public Interest Law.
In another case, the medical board says North County OB/GYN Robert Biter, MD put at least seven female patients at risk, by repeated acts of medical negligence including removing the wrong fallopian tube and ovary from a 22-year-old patient and not telling that patient or her husband about the alleged mistake.
Biter also declined our request for an interview but the Encinitas physician has his supporters.
When Biter lost his staff privileges two years ago at Scripps Hospital, patients rallied for him and his lawyer told us Biter will fight these unproven allegations at a medical board hearing. Read full statement here
"The board's paramount priority, stated in the law, is patient protection," D’Angelo said.
But she said the medical board takes too long to stop dangerous doctors.
She and her students at the University of San Diego School of Law have analyzed hundreds of cases, and attended countless medical board meetings.
D'Angelo says it takes about 18 months for the board to investigate a complaint and file an allegation another 18 months to reach a settlement, or go to trial, in administrative law court.
"Every day that doctor is permitted to continue practicing risks the life and the health of could be dozens of patients," she said.
"We certainly support making the whole process faster," said James Hay, M.D., president of the California Medical Association.
He says the Medical Board should do a better job prioritizing its cases... and not pursue charges against doctors who commit technical violations, but do not harm patients.
"When the focus is on the small stuff, they're missing the big stuff,” Hay said. “The punishment needs to fit the crime."
Hay and D'Angelo agree, the Medical Board needs more investigators, and a bigger budget, to protect patients.
"Doctors can kill you, if they are impaired or negligent or reckless or violent," D’Angelo said.
The Medical Board says it has reduced by five percent, the time it takes to process a complaint against a doctor.
A board spokesman told us process can be lengthy, because doctors, like all defendants, have the legal right to challenge any accusations.
You can learn more about your doctor's training, and their standing with the medical board by reviewing their information via this website.
This report originally aired on NBC 7 on April 30, 2012.