Patients With Medical Horror Stories Demand the California Medical Board Back Patient Bill of Rights Requiring Transparency, Accountability To Prevent Patient Harm

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Los Angeles, CA – Patients who were sexually assaulted by doctors and lost loved ones to doctors’ negligence shared their medical horror stories today and pressed the California Medical Board to adopt a new Patient Bill of Rights and ensure future patients are protected.

The stories told at today’s meeting of the Medical Board illustrate the devastating harm caused to patients by a regulatory system in which doctors’ records of patient harm are hidden and patient complaints go unheeded. The patients and families testifying included:

-Karie H., whose doctor was sentenced to prison this week for sexual exploitation and battery of five patients. The Medical Board had failed to act on prior complaints about the doctor and did not remove him from practice until after a criminal complaint had been filed.
-Tammy Smick’s son, Alex, was administered a lethal cocktail of drugs in the hospital where he sought help to safely detox from prescription medications. Smick fought for four years to ensure the investigation was completed. The Medical Board issued a Letter of Reprimand, its version of a stern warning, against Board disciplinary guidelines.
-Michele Monserrat-Ramos lost her fiancée to surgical mistakes, untreated infection and sepsis; the family was never informed the doctor had an arrest history the Medical Board knew about, including one for felony drug possession, and five prior negligence actions.
-Eric Andrist lost his mentally disabled sister after doctors missed severe sepsis and followed an incorrect “Do Not Resuscitate” order when she went into cardiac arrest. The Medical Board first closed his case without obtaining the autopsy report, then closed it a second time without interviewing Andrist.
-Marian Hollingsworth lost her father after a series of medical mistakes including a cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs the family never consented to. She was also never interviewed by Medical Board investigators before they closed her complaint with a minor reprimand that took more than a year to issue, and another year to enforce.

“Patients have lost all protection in a system that does not mete out serious discipline even when people are killed, and patients are not notified even when doctors are disciplined for serious misconduct,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “The Board must acknowledge it’s time to lift the veil of secrecy around sexual assault in the doctor’s office and other patient harm, or abdicate its responsibility to keep patients safe. A Patient Bill of Rights will ensure transparency and accountability in doctor discipline.”

The Patient Bill of Rights addresses these failures in the Medical Board’s enforcement process, which is statutorily mandated to prioritize patient safety. A key provision would require doctors on probation, for reasons including sexual assault and patient death, to inform their patients. Lawmakers will vote on Monday in Sacramento on SB 1448 by Senator Jerry Hill, that would mandate doctors disclose when they are on probation.

The Patient Bill of Rights includes the:

– Right to Notice & Participation, such as the right to be interviewed, participate in proceedings and respond to investigators before enforcement case is closed.
– Right to Transparency, such as disclosure to the patient if a doctor is on probation before an appointment, and plain language summaries of reasons disciplinary action was, or was not, taken in response to a complaint.
– Right to Independent Arbiters, to prohibit conflicts of interest by enforcement staff and decision makers in a disciplinary case.
– Right to Timely Action, such as moving complaint investigators to the Department of Justice to speed up enforcement proceedings.
– Right to Proportionate Enforcement, such as ensuring high priority complaints, including patient death, sexual misconduct or substance abuse, receive full investigations.
– Right to Accountability, including an outside investigation of the Board’s enforcement activities by the State Auditor.

“Four decades ago, patients’ ability to hold dangerous doctors accountable in court was restricted with the promise that a strong Medical Board would keep patients safe. Without a Patient Bill of Rights the Board will continue to fail in that duty,” said Balber

Read the Associated Press story about the launch of SB 1448, the probation disclosure legislation:

Read the KTLA story on the Encino doctor convicted of sexual battery and exploitation of his patients:

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Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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