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California doctors not required to reveal probation to patients

A California patient who goes in to see his or her doctor likely anticipates that he or she will receive care from a knowledgeable and responsible source, a doctor who is properly trained and allowed to be treating patients. What California patients may not anticipate is that the doctor they are seeing is actually on probation due to surgical errors or other misconduct. Under current law, doctors do not have to disclose information about their probationary status to patients.

Recently, the Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project presented a petition to the Medical Board of California with the goal of requiring physicians to tell their patients when the Medical Board of California has placed them on probation. According to the Consumers Union, there are almost 500 doctors on probation in California for transgressions ranging from substance abuse to sexual misconduct to repeated gross negligence.

Current law does not require doctors who have been placed on probation to tell their patients of such probation, although he or she must inform the hospitals where they work as well their malpractice insurance providers. The Medical Board of California rejected the petition presented by the Consumers Union based partially on the Board's concern that it would harm the doctor-patient relationship. However, the Board has formed a task force to study the issue of whether doctors should be required to reveal their probationary status to patients.

It may be startling for some Californians to realize that a doctor who is on probation for a wrong-site surgery or fatal surgical error may continue to practice and to operate, but this is the reality today in California. It remains to be seen whether the Medical Board of California will require disclosure of probationary status to patients in the future. If you have been injured by a doctor, whether he or she was on probation or not, you may wish to consult with legal counsel to discuss your rights.

Source:, "A Push for More Disclosure When Docs Are in Trouble," William Heisel, Nov. 16, 2015

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