On July 1, 2019, a California law (SB 1448) will be activated that ends secrecy about doctor sexual assault, drug use, and devastating patient harm. This first-in-the-nation bill requires that doctors on probation need to inform patients before their first visit. The California Medical Board had refused to initiate such a practice. The California Medical Association had vigorously opposed the bill, arguing that forcing doctors to tell patients upfront about their probationary status would interfere with patient care. What a joke! It took California State Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo, to fight for the bill over a period of years. He finally won. But the bill only exists in California.
The Me Too movement and multiple cases of sexual abuse by doctors (Larry Nassar, University of Michigan, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison) helped to advance support for the law. At the University of Southern California, about 500 current and former students came forward with allegations against Dr. George Tyndall, who worked at the University for 30 years. Former patients reportedly say that Tyndall took pictures of them, made them remove their clothes and touched them inappropriately. Tyndall has denied any wrongdoing. The University of Southern California agreed to pay $215 million to settle all the cases. Just one bad doctor can do enormous damage.
Even though California is the first state to enact such a law, in the 49 other states when a doctor is on probation the doctor’s patients remain in the dark. Wouldn’t you want to know if your doctor has been found guilty of performing an operation under the influence of drugs, or if your doctor is on probation for sexual abuse of patients? (Probation information is normally on the web, but it may be both difficult and time-consuming to find. Now, in California, this information is up-front.)
The doctor-patient relationship requires trust on both sides. In California, about 500 to 600 doctors are on probation at one time. Patients have every right to know which are doctors on probation. Let’s hope other states enact similar laws.