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Governor Brown signs landmark law requiring doctors on probation to notify patients

First-in-the-nation law protects patients’ right to know when doctors are disciplined for serious misconduct

September 19, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation today that requires doctors on probation for certain serious offenses to notify their patients.  Doctors who have been put on probation by the Medical Board of California are currently required to disclose their disciplinary status to hospitals and malpractice insurers, but they have no such requirement to inform their patients.  California is the first state in the nation to require patient notification, which will take effect on July 1, 2019.

“Patients shouldn’t be left in the dark when their doctor has been put on probation for serious disciplinary offenses that could put their health at risk,” said David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy for Consumer Reports.  “California’s landmark new law puts patients first by protecting their right to know.  We applaud Governor Brown for supporting this measure and encourage other states to follow California’s lead on this important patient safety issue.”

SB 1148, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill, was supported by Consumer Reports and a number of consumer and patient safety organizations.  Once the law goes into effect, doctors will be required to provide notification when they have been put on probation for offenses involving sexual misconduct with patients, drug abuse that can harm patients, criminal convictions involving harm to patients, and inappropriate prescribing of medication that harmed patients.

Under the new law, physicians will be required to ask patients to sign a form on their first visit after probation has been imposed that discloses the length and end date of their probation, any restrictions placed on their ability to practice, contact information for their licensing board and information on how to access additional details about why they were disciplined.

Consumer Reports first helped bring public attention to this issue in 2015 when it petitioned the Medical Board of California to adopt a patient notification requirement.  The Medical Board turned down the petition despite a previous recommendation by its staff that doctors on probation should be required to inform their patients.  Consumer Reports then joined Senator Hill and other patient safety advocates to urge state lawmakers to support legislation requiring doctors on probation to inform their patients.  After a three-year effort, state lawmakers approved the patient notification requirement on the final day of this year’s legislative session.

Nearly 500 doctors in California are on probation for a variety of offenses and are allowed to continue practicing medicine during this disciplinary period.  The public overwhelmingly favors requiring doctors on probation to notify their patients.  A 2016 Consumer Reports nationally representative survey found that 82% of Americans favor the idea of doctors having to tell patients that they are on probation, and why.

Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-431-6747 (office) or 415-902-9537 (cell)