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Report Says Medical Boards Fail to Discipline Dangerous Doctors

California voters may take action (August 22)

USA Today analyzed a decade of physician discipline records and found that the nation’s medical boards have failed to take action against thousands of dangerous doctors despite “findings of serious misconduct that puts patients at risk.” California was singled out as one of the problem states. An initiative measure proposed in California for the 2014 ballot would enact new oversight of patient safety and physician-discipline laws.

USA Today looked at data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal database of incidents of physician malpractice and patient endangerment. It found that state medical boards had failed to take disciplinary action against more than half of doctors who had their hospital privileges suspended, including 234 cited as “an immediate threat to health and safety” and 120 who were “unable to practice safely,” including substance abuse problems.

The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would address these problems by requiring random drug testing of physicians to identify dangerous doctors; by mandating the suspension of physician licenses until a physician identified as a substance abuser can practice safely; and by requiring physicians to report colleagues they suspect of substance abuse or malpractice to the medical board.

The Act is sponsored by Bob Pack, who lost two children in an automobile accident caused by a drug-abusing driver who had been over-prescribed pills by physicians.

The ballot measure’s reforms of patient safety and doctor discipline laws in California include:

  • Mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for physicians, and mandatory physician drug and alcohol testing after reports of adverse events
  • Mandatory use by physicians of the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California
  • Adjusting for inflation the $250,000 cap on recovery for medical negligence victims, which has not changed since 1975
  • Requiring doctors who witness substance abuse by physicians or medical negligence to report it, and protecting those physicians from lawsuits by other doctors when they do

The measure will need 504,760 valid signatures from California voters to go before voters on the November 2014 ballot.

Source: Consumer Watchdog; August 22, 2013.

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