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Ending Secrecy of Doctor Sexual Assault

Tuesday, September 25, 2018By Nina Shapirshteyn and Richard Alexander

California has become the first state in the U.S. to mandate doctors disclose information to patients when they are disciplined for sexual assault or other types of patient harm. SB 1448 has been signed into law by Governor Brown. It requires a doctor on probation for causing patient harm [sexual misconduct with a patient, overprescribing, criminal conviction or drug and alcohol use], to disclose that information to his or her patients prior to an appointment.

Patient Right to Know Act

The Patient Right to Know Act was authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo. This is the third year in a row that Senator Hill has proposed this legislation. Under SB 1448, the veil of secrecy that prevents patients from learning about their doctors’ misconduct will be lifted, and patients will have the information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare and safety.

Doctors on Probation in California

According to Consumer Watchdog, the Medical Board of California places approximately 124 doctors on probation each year, and research suggests that about 30 percent are likely to reoffend. At this time, patients can access this type of information on the Medical Board website, but that places the burden on patients, many of whom don’t even know they have a right to this information. Additionally, the website is notoriously difficult to navigate. Under SB 1448, The Patient Right to Know Act, the doctor will have to disclose this critically important information with a patient before an appointment.

SB 1448 corrects the problem with doctors who have histories of sexual assault or other serious misconduct hiding their misdeeds for years or in some cases even decades without their patients knowing, such as Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted after decades of abusing the athletes under his care.

Patient Bill of Rights

Additionally, to help increase transparency and accountability in physician disciplinary matters, Consumer Watchdog has called on the Medical Board of California to endorse a Patient Bill of Rights, which can be found here.

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