Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nearly 500 California Doctors Are on Probation But Patients Are Kept in the Dark

SACRAMENTO, CA – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, filed an administrative petition with the Medical Board of California today urging it to require doctors who are on probation to notify their patients.  Nearly 500 doctors in the state are on probation, but they are not required to disclose that information to the patients they treat.

“Californians deserve the right to know whether their doctor is on probation for serious misconduct that could jeopardize their health,” said Lisa McGiffert, manager of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.  “But right now, most patients have no idea when their doctor has been disciplined and put on probation by the Medical Board.”

Doctors can be put on probation by the Medical Board for a variety of offenses, including repeated gross negligence, substance abuse, sexual misconduct, and other miscellaneous violations.  For a list of California doctors on probation as of September 29, 2015 compiled by the Medical Board of California and obtained by Consumers Union in accordance with the California Public Records Act, see California Doctors on Probation.  In addition to the physicians listed in this spreadsheet, an additional 48 physicians were issued probationary licenses by the Medical Board and continue to be on probation as of September 29, 2015.

In 2012, the staff of the Medical Board of California recommended that doctors on probation should be required to inform their patients, however that proposal was rejected by the Board, which is made up mostly of doctors.  Instead, the Medical Board posts information about the doctors who are on probation on its website and distributes that information upon request.  Doctors on probation must disclose their disciplinary status to hospitals and malpractice insurers, but they have no obligation to tell their patients.

The California Research Bureau found that doctors who have been sanctioned by the Medical Board for serious offenses are far more likely to be disciplined in the future than doctors who have not been sanctioned.  Indeed, the Medical Board’s own research reached the same conclusion.  It found that 17 percent of the 444 doctors who were actively practicing while on probation during FY 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 required additional discipline or surrendered their licenses while on probation.  By comparison, similar research has found that less than 1 percent of doctors who were unsanctioned were subsequently disciplined during a follow-up period studied.

“Patients shouldn’t be kept in the dark when their doctor has been put on probation,” said McGiffert.  “The Medical Board of California needs to put patients’ interests first by requiring doctors on probation to inform those they treat.”



Contact:  Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org415-431-6747, ext 7606