Medical Board Denies Petition Requiring Doctors to Notify Patients of Discipline

Consumers Union filed a petition with the board, which voted against it 11-0

Doctors placed on probation by the State Medical Board will not be required to tell their patients about their discipline after the Medical Board of California denied the proposed petition Friday.

Consumers Union, the consumer group leading the campaign for physician disclosure of doctor discipline, said it will continue its efforts to assure “… patients are property informed when their doctors have a history of serious misconduct.”

The group filed a petition with the Medical Board of California outlining why the board should require all doctors on probation to notify their patients of that disciplinary status.

The patient lobbying group noted that approximately 500 California doctors are on probation for gross negligence, substance abuse, sexual misconduct and other license violations. In California there are 102,000 physicians in active practice.

Consumers Union said doctors on probation are at risk for repeating their dangerous and sometimes illegal behavior. The group argued patients have a right to know about their doctor’s status, so they can decide whether to continue treatment with that physician.

The Medical Board denied the Consumers Union petition, voting 11-0 against it, with one abstention, at its quarterly meeting Friday in San Diego.

The board did establish a task force to study ways to better inform the public about problem doctors. A board committee will also review how the agency responds to probation violations.

“Today’s hearing made clear that the Medical Board is taking this issue seriously and understands that it needs to do more to ensure Californians aren’t left in the dark,” said Lisa McGiffert, manager of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.

The California Medical Association (CMA), which represents the professional interests of many California doctors, did not take a position on the Consumers Union petition, but expressed reservations about the proposal.

After the vote, the CMA issued this statement: “CMA has some concerns with the proposal. For example, probation has a wide range of meanings and can include anything as simple as record keeping. Also, it’s important to note that probation isn’t an intermediary step before a physician’s license is suspended or revoked; it’s a classification that says the physician is safe to be practicing medicine and treating patients. CMA is always concerned with keeping patients safe, but a requirement like this would put a burden on the physician patient relationship and take time away from important patient appointments that are already limited. Additionally – this information is already public and available online and can be accessed by anyone which makes this a duplicative burden that will interfere with patient care.”

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