Doctor's chest

There are multiple websites where conscientious patients can research a doctor before visiting him or her or allowing the doctor to perform a procedure. You can find out how other patients have rated them. You can also get some information on a doctor's history through state medical board websites.

However, finding out whether a doctor has been placed on probation by his or her medical board or the reason for that action can be difficult. Sometimes it's necessary to uncover and then decipher lengthy legal documents to determine the reason for a disciplinary action. These actions can be for everything from medical errors to unprofessional or illegal behavior.

Nearly 500 California Doctors Are Currently on Probation

Recently a Northern California television news team partnered with Consumer Reports to obtain a list of doctors on probation in that state. The magazine found almost 500 doctors throughout California who are currently on probation. The offenses include negligent and even fatal errors. They also include sexual misconduct with patients and illegal drug use on the job.

Consumer Reports asked the California Medical Board to mandate that physicians in the state notify patients of their probationary status. However, the board rejected the petition. It asserted that requiring such disclosure would damage the doctors' relationships with patients and place an undue burden on them.

One California state senator has proposed legislation that would require such notification by doctors. He notes that patients have just as much right, if not more, to be aware of physician misconduct as malpractice insurers and hospitals, to whom doctors must already disclose the information. At the very least, according to the head of the Safe Patient Project for Consumer Reports, the information should be easier for patients to obtain.

Lack of Information Available to Patients Is a Nationwide Problem

The Consumer Reports official notes that the system weaknesses are not limited to California, but are nationwide. She says, "Thousands of doctors in the U.S. keep practicing even though they're on medical probation for serious issues, such as drug use, sexual misconduct, and gross negligence, making careless and sometimes deadly mistakes."

Most people can't determine whether they have a medical malpractice case without legal advice. The law is very specific on what constitutes malpractice. Most cases require investigation by legal and medical professionals well-versed in malpractice cases. Finding an experienced medical malpractice attorney is a good start.