Public Control, Mandatory Patient Interview, Among Bill’s Consumer Protections
Sacramento, CA – Legislation to strengthen consumer protections and improve physician oversight at the Medical Board of California passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee today and heads to the Senate Floor. It must pass the Senate by the end of May.
The bill, SB 815 by Senator Richard Roth and Assemblymember Marc Berman, contains patient safety reforms long sought by patient advocates and Consumer Watchdog, including:
- Changing the balance of power at the board so it has a public member majority;
- Increased rights for patients in the enforcement process, including a mandatory interview before a complaint is closed, and the right to submit a victim impact statement before discipline;
- A licensing fee increase to adequately fund the board’s operations;
- Reducing the standard of proof for most doctor discipline to match the standard used by 41 other state medical boards.
The Medical Board of California has previously endorsed many of the changes contained in SB 815.
“Senator Roth, committee members, and the Medical Board deserve credit for acting on the pleas of Californians who have shared their tragic stories of medical harm in order to improve doctor oversight and protect patients. While the details need fine-tuning, this bill is a significant step forward for patient protection in California,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
A remaining gap in the bill is increased disclosure, said Consumer Watchdog. Patients in California currently have no right to know when they walk into a doctor’s office if the Medical Board is investigating, has charged, or has disciplined their provider for causing a patient’s injury or death. Even criminal charges are not disclosed to patients before a medical appointment.
“We urge lawmakers going forward to address the missing piece — transparency — because we all have a right to know if our doctor has a history of harm,” said Balber.
For example, Dr. Carlos Chacon is currently charged with murder for actions in December of 2018 that led to the death of patient Megan Espinoza, and is still allowed to practice. At least 7 other women were harmed by the doctor, several in the four years following Mrs. Espinoza’s death, according to criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and complaints shared with Consumer Watchdog. Those patients were not warned about the doctor’s history, even after he was first charged with manslaughter in December 2021, until a criminal court this month required him to disclose the murder charges as a condition of bail. Read more about the case: https://consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/san-diego-doctor-charged-with-2nd-degree-murder-in-patients-death-shows-failure-of-californias-doctor-discipline-patient-disclosure-laws/
California patients denied justice at the Board have shared their stories to illustrate the need for reform before the Medical Board and the Legislature. Hear the testimony of many of the patients advocating for change here and read their stories, and those of their loved ones, here.
Read Consumer Watchdog’s sunset review letter to the Senate and Assembly Medical Board oversight committees here.