Column: Borenstein: Legislature Keeps Patients in the Dark About Bad Doctors

July 13, 2017

East Bay Times | Bay Area News Group
By Dan Borenstein

Doctors win another round. Patients lose again. Secrecy prevails.

Physicians on professional probation can continue hiding their status from patients after a Sacramento showdown this week between two Silicon Valley legislators ended — for now — with victory for the California Medical Association.

We’re talking about a small group of bad docs. There are currently only 609 on probation, half of 1 percent of all active California physicians. But these are serious offenders.

Like the Piedmont doctor who had sexual relations with one patient and inappropriately prescribed narcotics for another. The Antioch internist who kept sloppy records and provided negligent care to a patient who subsequently died. And the Los Gatos internistwho excessively prescribed narcotics and psychotropic drugs to multiple patients.

Patients should be warned about derelict doctors who are one misstep away from losing their licenses. Instead, no matter their age or computer literacy, patients currently can only access that information by looking up doctors individually on the California Medical Board’s abysmally slow and cumbersome web site.

The doctors’ lobbyists like it that way. They know disclosure at physicians’ offices would chase away patients. So they’d rather leave them in the dark.

For years, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, has championed transparency, seeking a law requiring doctors on probation to notify patients before treating them.