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Medical Board Oversight of California Doctors Remains Broken, Consumer Watchdog Will Testify Today at Legislative Hearing into Board’s Future

Patients Kept in the Dark About Dangerous Doctors
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Carmen Balber

Sacramento, CA – Physician oversight remains broken four years after a legislative review committee considered shutting down the Medical Board of California if it did not improve patient protection, Consumer Watchdog will testify today at the sunset review hearing into the future of the Board.

Many consumers who complain to the Medical Board when they are harmed by a doctor are not contacted or interviewed by the Board before it dismisses their complaint. In the few investigations that move forward at the Medical Board, they take longer to finish today than they did four years ago. When investigations do result in doctor discipline, doctors on probation are not required to inform their patients. The Board should be disbanded if it cannot improve, Consumer Watchdog will testify.

“It would be unthinkable for police to close a rape case without collecting evidence and interviewing both the victim and the accused. It’s equally inconceivable that the Medical Board would get a complaint that a doctor’s mistake killed a patient but dismiss it after only getting the doctor’s side of the story. Even when investigations lead to discipline, patients are kept in the dark about the results,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “Little has changed since lawmakers censured the Medical Board for poor enforcement four years ago, and the stakes are too high for patient safety for these failures to continue without consequences.”

A Southern California woman who has come forward about being sexually assaulted by her doctor will also testify. Since she went public, law enforcement has uncovered multiple additional accusations of sexual assault against the same doctor that were reported to the Medical Board, but not to law enforcement or the public. The doctor had also been placed on probation for gross negligence and improper prescribing in the treatment of several patients, but did not have to disclose this probation to his patients. Lisa L. Maki, who represents the woman who came forward, will also be at the hearing to answer questions.

The Senate and Assembly Business and Professions committees issued a sunset review report in advance of the hearing that identified more than 500 doctors who are currently on probation statewide, for offenses as serious as drug abuse, sexual battery, opioid overprescribing and negligence causing the death of a patient. These doctors on probation continue to see patients. The committees recommend requiring doctors to disclose their probationary status to patients, and call on the Board to justify how consumers are treated when investigating a consumer complaint. Read the report: http://sbp.senate.ca.gov/sites/sbp.senate.ca.gov/files/MBC%20Background%...

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter to the sunset review committee: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/cwmbcsunset2-6-17.pdf <>

“Four decades ago, patients’ ability to hold dangerous doctors accountable in court was restricted with the promise that a strong Medical Board would substitute for this lost legal deterrence. How much longer will the Board be allowed to fail in that duty?” asked Balber.

Medical Board surveys of consumers show that the Board’s handling of consumer complaints is rated poor to very poor by 88% of respondents. Read more in the Board’s report to the sunset review committee: http://www.mbc.ca.gov/About_Us/Meetings/2016/Materials/materials_2016102...  <http://www.mbc.ca.gov/About_Us/Meetings/2016/Materials/materials_20161027_brd-9.pdf%20>

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