Physicians are seen as trusting figures, but would you trust them to tell you the entire truth? KCRA News in Sacramento, CA recently interviewed Tina Minasian, a Consumers Union activist, to share her story about a doctor on probation. Doctors are put on probation by the Medical Board for a number of offenses, including repeated gross negligence, serious substance abuse, sexual misconduct, and other miscellaneous violations. Doctors on probation must disclose their disciplinary status to hospitals and malpractice insurers, but they have no obligation to tell their patients. Minasian found out that the Medical Board had taken action against her surgeon after she underwent botched surgery back in 2002. She filed a complaint with the board and seven years after her surgery, that doctor’s license was revoked. Minasian expressed if she had information about doctors it would have spared her a lot of pain emotionally and physically. She shared she “would have never chosen him if [she] knew he had a substance abuse problem.”
Tina joined Consumers Union’s “Docs on Probation” campaign to improve access to lifesaving information about doctors’ records, including their medical board disciplinary history and probation status. Consumers Union petitioned the CA Medical Board last October with a detailed number of concerns about the information available on the Medical Board’s website and to ask the board to require doctors on probation to inform their patients. The Medical Board denied Consumers Union’s petition, but launched a public education campaign about how patients can search for their doctor’s disciplinary record online. Project Director of the Safe Patient Project, Lisa McGiffert, said “The Medical Board’s public education campaign falls far short of what is needed to ensure patients are properly informed when their doctor is on probation.”
Following the denial we took our concerns to the CA legislature. CA Senator Jerry Hill is taking a stand on behalf of consumers. “It’s not ok to have to look through a cumbersome website to get this information,” Hill said. Recently, Senator Hill proposed a bill (SB1033) that requires doctors to tell their patients of their probation status and requires the medical board to include a plain language summary on its website that tells why a doctor is on probation and any restrictions on the license.
We invite everyone to look at Consumer Reports’ new report “What You Don’t Know About Your Doctor Could Hurt You” and to join our discussion on Twitter by following the hashtag #DocsOnProbation.