In last week’s blog, we covered the story of Dallas-based neurosurgeon, Christopher Duntsch and the horrific acts of medical misconduct he committed. Our blog also highlighted the fact that, all too often, doctors of Duntsch’s ilk are protected from having their wrongdoings become public knowledge. Criminally, this only leads to more patients having their lives ruined forever.
This week, we’re happy to report that the state of California has taken steps to ensure than none of its residents ever unknowingly engage with doctors who have caused their patients harm. As reported by Joanne Finnegan on FierceHealthcare.com, starting July 1, 2019, all California-based doctors who have been placed on probation for causing patient harm must notify their patients of their wrongdoing.
This is a first-of-its-kind law.
Signed by California Govenor Jerry Brown, the new law is the first of its kind in the United States. As reported by Finnegan, it “will require doctors to report activities under the Patient’s Right to Know Act, including sexual misconduct, drug misuse that has harmed or could harm patients, a criminal conviction involving harm to patients and inappropriate prescribing.”
Naturally, the intent of the new law is to protect patients from the potential abuse that so many patients have suffered before them. The Patient’s Right to Know Act, is especially meaningful to many Olympic gymnasts who, at the hands of former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, were subject to sexual assault. These brave individuals backed the legislation, helping California to become the first state to require doctors to disclose to their patients the fact they were once on probation for harming patients under their care.
The #MeToo movement helped to get the new law passed.
Finnegan notes that two attempts to pass the Patient’s Right to Know Act failed in the past. But with the rising popularity of the #MeToo movement, which encourages sexual abuse survivors to expose and protest any and all acts of assault, the legislation is finally in effect. Not surprisingly, there are physician groups who opposed the bill, claiming it would be “unfair and overly burdensome” on physicians.
Although disciplinary actions against doctors have always been public in California, it was up to patients to research their doctors’ records. The Medical Board of California has an online registry that lists when physicians are on probation. It also lists the reasons for the disciplinary action. However, under the new law, physicians on probation must directly alert their patients about their status before booking an appointment.
Lee Harris is the president of the Consumer Attorneys of California. In a BMJ.com article by Owen Dyer covering the story about the Patient’s Right to Know Act, Harris called the passing of the new law as a “long overdue fix”. “It’s never made sense that doctors have had to tell their insurance companies, hospitals, and clinics when they are put on probation, but not the people who are most at risk—their patients,” he is quoted as saying.
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