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USA Today Report Says Medical Boards Fail to Discipline Dangerous Doctors

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Aug. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- USA Today analyzed a decade of physician discipline records and found endemic problems at the nation's medical boards that 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 strong new oversight and discipline of dangerous doctors.

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 any 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; mandating suspension of physician licenses until a physician identified as a substance abuser can practice safely; and, requiring physicians to report colleagues they suspect of substance abuse or malpractice to the medical board.

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"State medical boards have repeatedly failed to keep bad doctors from endangering their patients, not just for the last decade but over the last 30 years. Soon California voters will have a chance to take on this patient safety crisis and enact reforms that will serve as a model for every state," said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

The "Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act" is sponsored by Bob Pack, who lost his two children in an accident caused by a drug-abusing driver who had been over-prescribed pills by physicians.

Read Bob's story:

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, which Pack developed for the state of California in the wake of his family's tragedy;
  • Adjusting for inflation the 37-year-old $250,000 cap on recovery for medical negligence victims, which has not changed since 1975, and as the author of the original law recently came forward to support;
  • 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 is awaiting a title and summary from the Attorney General, and will need 504,760 valid signatures from California voters to go before voters on the November 2014 ballot.

Download the text of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act:

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
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