Do you know if your doctor is on probation for misconduct, abuse, or negligence? The hospital they work at does. Their medical malpractice insurance company does. But consumer advocate groups say that, unless you know to look, you may never know. One group is looking to change all of that in California by pushing for a patient disclosure provision with the state Medical Board. If successful, it could very well change the way all patients (and doctors) look at medical care and treatment.
Physicians and Probation
Doctors can be placed on probation for a number of things, such as sexual misconduct, substance abuse, violence, patient deaths, incompetence, and negligence (and those are just the beginning). State boards stress that these doctors – the ones that are simply placed on probation but never lose their license – are still allowed to practice medicine, but there are some highly disturbing statistics when it comes to risk.
The Consumers Union, an advocacy group in California, alleges that physicians who are on probation are much more likely to require further discipline than a doctor who has not been disciplined. And, sadly, real life provides many, many examples.
In the state of New York, a psychiatrist who had pleaded guilty to federal drug charges and had received a conviction for falsifying Medicaid records was allegedly allowed to continue practicing, facing only 18 months of suspension and four-and-a-half years of probation. He allegedly continued treating patients while on suspension and then had his license revoked in 1995. The Medical Board then reportedly restored his license ten years later. He is now facing charges for alleged rape.
In Sacramento, a physician with an alleged alcohol problem was allowed to continue treating patients. Several breast cancer patients reportedly came forward, claiming they had been left with flesh-eating infections that kept them from being able to receive their cancer treatments. A few family members of those patients even alleged to have smelled alcohol on the doctor’s breath but had given him the benefit of the doubt because he was a physician. According to reports, that doctor eventually lost his license.
While these cases are extreme, they can and do happen. But they should not – and they probably would not if the general population had any say over the matter. In fact, a recent survey suggests that many patients would be outraged to discover their treating physician was on probation.
Patients Uncomfortable Being Treated by Doctor on Probation
According to research from the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 79 percent of people surveyed said that the responsibilities of a doctor on probation should be restricted to care that does not involve direct patient care. However, the opposition feels this is both unnecessary and excessive action. They also stress concern over how disclosure may disrupt the doctor-patient relationship. The also posture that patients are able to check the status of their physician’s medical license at any given time through their local state’s Medical Board information website.
But should it really be the patient's responsibility to check the license status of their doctor consistently? And what of emergency room care situations, where the patient may not have the foresight (or ability) to check ahead of time? These issues and many others should be openly discussed by both patients and advocacy groups because, as we all know, malpractice injuries and wrongful deaths occur entirely too often. Patients do (and should) have a say.
At Kinnally Flaherty Krentz Loran Hodge & Masur, P.C. we believe in advocating for the rights of the patients and victims. Our experience provides us with the knowledge needed to tackle the complexities of medical malpractice cases. Our compassion keeps us at your side and dedicated in our search for answers needed to build a strong case against those that have injured you or your loved ones. To learn more about how our Kane County medical malpractice attorneys can assist you, schedule your free initial consultation. Call 630-907-0909 today.