Los Angeles, CA – Consumer Watchdog called on legislative leaders to enact a Patient Bill of Rights to reform physician oversight and accountability in California. The nonprofit consumer advocacy organization said reform proposals recently floated by the Medical Board of California are good start, but “do not go far enough to prioritize the problems patients, not the Board’s regulators, suffer because of California’s failed systems of physician oversight.”
The recommendations follow ongoing revelations by news media, a Medical Board whistleblower, and patient advocates across the state of how state regulators and the legal system fail to hold dangerous doctors accountable and protect patients from harm.
“The choices you make this year – to demand accountability for dangerous doctors or protect the status quo – will determine whether patients are protected or more innocent lives are lost,” wrote Consumer Watchdog to legislative leaders.
The Patient Bill of Rights centers the needs of families who have been harmed by, or lost loved ones to, medical negligence and was developed with a coalition of such families featured at www.PatientsforFairness.org. They faced insurmountable hurdles at the Medical Board of California and in the courts when they sought accountability and to protect future patients from harm.
This week the Los Angeles Times editorial board also called on the legislature to prioritize patient safety, writing: "California’s system for getting bad doctors out of the profession is obviously not working.”
Consumer Watchdog urged lawmakers to prioritize three reforms also embraced by the Medical Board this year:
- Change the composition of the Medical Board to establish a public board member majority.
- Change the evidentiary standard from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of evidence” in disciplinary actions to match the standard in 41 other states.
- Raise physician licensing fees to adequately fund oversight.
“Ultimately however, the legislature must do much more to repair the state’s dysfunctional physician oversight system and protect patients from harm,” wrote Consumer Watchdog.
Proposed legislation (AB 1636 by Assembly Member Weber) to ban physicians convicted of sexually abusing their patients from ever again practicing medicine in California is long overdue, said the group, but barely scratches the surface of the problem. Lawmakers must enact a Patient Bill of Rights to ensure transparency and accountability and improve patient care, Consumer Watchdog wrote.
The Patient Bill of Rights would, in addition to the reforms above:
- Ensure public input in the Board’s enforcement process:
- Board must interview complainant/family member before a complaint is dismissed.
- Board must contact complainant/family member following the physician interview to allow them to provide additional information.
- Board or the Deputy Attorney General must contact the complainant/family member prior to a settlement offer or give the complainant the opportunity to provide a victim impact statement at the ALJ hearing.
- Amend AB 1636 to also prohibit a doctor who commits multiple acts of negligence resulting in serious patient injuries or death from practicing in California.
- Amend 2018’s Patient Right to Know law, which requires disclosure of physician probation for drug abuse or sexual misconduct, to also require doctors to disclose when they are on probation for gross negligence that caused patient harm.
- Expand disclosure on the Board’s website to include pending investigations into a complaint of physician misconduct if that conduct resulted in serious harm to a patient or death, or the physician is a repeat offender.
- Inform patients of physicians’ financial conflicts of interest (payments by drug and device manufacturers) as proposed in Assembly Member Nazarian’s AB 1278.
- Restore patients’ ability to seek accountability in court when they are harmed by updating the state’s nearly 50-year-old cap on compensation in medical negligence cases.
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