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California Gets Poor Grades From Public Citizen On Physician Discipline

If you find yourself in need of medical treatment, California may not be the best place to receive it. A study by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen reveals that California is one of the worst states as far as disciplining negligent doctors and having their licenses revoked. The state’s medical board ranking slipped into the bottom 15 in the country in both 2010 and 2011, plummeting from its previous position in the top half of the list of 50 states in 2005.

In the 19-year study, Public Citizen found that the California Medical Board neglected “to take disciplinary action” against 710 doctors who were disciplined by their own hospitals or other health care organizations for “wrongdoing.” This does not bode well for many who need medical treatment or procedures. The Public Citizen study concludes that the decline in California’s rank means the Board is disciplining fewer doctors than it should be; this in spite of the fact that California has over 100,000 doctors.

The underlying result of not properly disciplining doctors is that patient health care is put at risk by doctors who are not properly treating their patients.

Injuries from doctor negligence listed in the study included death in one case from an accidental overdose of acetaminophen, and in another by a doctor failing to recognize that a woman should have received a C-Section. Other common injuries caused by doctor negligence include anesthesia errors, errors related to labor and delivery, medication errors, and surgical errors, including leaving instruments inside of surgical patients and performing incorrect surgery or unnecessary surgeries.

Although the numbers are difficult to estimate, according to the Institute of Medicine, every year in the U.S., between 44,000 to 98,000 deaths are caused by medical errors that could have been prevented.