June 10, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Licensing & Regulatory Issues
Last week, the California Senate rejected a bill that would have essentially denied physicians their right to due process in the event of a medical board investigation. The bill (SB 1033) would have required physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors to notify patients if their licenses are placed in probationary status.
This bill would have undermined due process by essentially requiring this patient notification based on unproven accusations, not a final judgment or accusations to which a physician has admitted guilt.
The California Medical Association (CMA) opposed the bill, arguing that as written it would amount to a de facto suspension by severely restricting physicians' ability to practice. If suspension were appropriate, the Medical Board of California could have pursued that action. Probationary status of a medical license was never intended to prevent the physician from continuing to practice medicine. Patients can already receive information on a physician's license status on the medical board's website.
Senator Richard Pan, M.D., a pediatrician, said he voted against the bill for that reason. “This is a significant concern, because I do believe that everyone has a right to due process in this country," said Dr. Pan. "It’s an issue of principle." Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, Chair of the Senate Judiciary committee and an attorney, also raised concerns about the implications of the bill for due process.
Under current law, physicians are required to notify hospitals and malpractice insurers when they’re placed on probation.
The patient notification requirements in the bill would inevitably expand into time that should be spent caring for patients. CMA also argued that the process is unlikely to be seamless and straightforward when put into practice.
The bill, which required 21 votes to pass the Senate Floor, received only 15 votes.