California Assembly OKs bill requiring doctors on probation to notify patients

Experts

Director, Special Projects
Media Director

Consumers Union urges Governor Brown to support bill to create first-in-nation law

 August 31, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Assembly approved legislation today that would require doctors on probation for certain serious offenses to notify their patients.  An earlier draft of the legislation has already been approved by the Senate, which is expected to adopt the Assembly version later today.  If signed into law, California will become the first state to require such patient notification.

SB 1148, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill, is supported by Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumers Reports, and a number of consumer and patient safety organizations.  Doctors on probation are currently required to disclose their disciplinary status to hospitals and malpractice insurers, but they have no such requirement to inform their patients.

“Californians have a right to know when their doctor has been put on probation for serious offenses,” said Betsy Imholz, Director of Special Projects for Consumers Union.  “But most patients have no idea when their doctor has been disciplined by the Medical Board for misconduct.  This bill will help ensure that patients aren’t left in the dark and get the notice they deserve when their doctor winds up on probation.”

Nearly 600 doctors in California are on probation for a variety of offenses and are allowed to continue practicing medicine during this disciplinary period.  SB 1448 requires doctors to provide notification when they have been put on probation for offenses involving sexual misconduct with patients, drug abuse that can harm patients, criminal convictions involving harm to patients, and inappropriate prescribing of medication that harmed patients.

The public overwhelmingly supports the type of notice to patients set forth in SB 1448. A 2016 Consumer Reports nationally representative survey found that 82% of Americans favor the idea of doctors having to tell patients that they are on probation, and why.

Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-431-6747 (office) or 415-902-9537 (cell)