Patient Protection

Since 1986, CPIL has taken a special interest in the Medical Board of California ("MBC") and its enforcement program, which — because it is intended to protect patients from physicians who are incompetent, negligent, reckless, impaired, and/or otherwise dangerous—is one of the most important regulatory functions in the state.

In 1986, CPIL secured a three-year grant to study MBC’s physician discipline system.  In 1989, CPIL published Physician Discipline in California: A Code Blue Emergency, a 100-page critique of the Board’s enforcement program; the report—dubbed "Code Blue"—described the fragmented structure, minimal output, and misguided priorities of the Board’s physician discipline system as it then existed, and outlined substantial structural and administrative reforms that would cure those flaws. CPIL’s critique quickly led to comprehensive reform legislation, which implemented many of the recommendations in Code Blue. 

CPIL has succeeded over the years in seeking legislation to enhance MBC’s ability to effectively discipline doctors who harm or have the potential to harm California patients, including:

  • amending Business and Professions Code section 2229 to elevate public protection above physician rehabilitation as the “paramount” priority of MBC’s enforcement program;
  • creating the Health Quality Enforcement (HQE) Section in the Attorney General’s Office and a special Medical Quality Hearing Panel of administrative law judges within the Office of Administrative Hearings;
  • streamlining procedures to “interim suspend” the license of an egregiously dangerous licensee pending conclusion of the lengthy disciplinary process;
  • enhancing required reporting to MBC on physician negligence and misconduct and increasing the maximum penalty against hospitals for failure to report adverse peer review actions to MBC as required by Business and Professions Code section 805;
  • requiring MBC to annually report certain specific information to the Legislature and the public;
  • enhancing the authority of MBC investigators to request and receive medical records from physicians under investigation;
  • enhancing the resources for MBC’s enforcement program by increasing its biennial license renewal fees;
  • amending Business and Professions Code section 2337 to streamline judicial review of MBC disciplinary decisions; and
  • Establishing MBC’s public disclosure policy

CPIL’s work on behalf of patients includes:

  • Protecting the Public from Substance Abusing Physicians and Surgeons:  In 2007, the Medical Board of California unanimously voted to abolish the confidential diversion program for substance-abusing doctors it had been operating for 27 years (between 1981 and 2008).  The board’s decision to abolish the program came after the fifth failed audit of the program found that the program failed to adequately monitor its substance-abusing participants, placing patients at substantial risk.

Since then, CPIL has vigorously continued to advocate for patients in this arena:

Additionally, CPIL’s former Administrative Director, Julianne D’Angelo Fellmeth, has personally attended quarterly Medical Board meetings for over 29 years and has personally investigated and audited the Medical Board’s enforcement program while serving as the Medical Board Enforcement Program Monitor from 2003 - 2005.