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CPIL's Julie Fellmeth Weighs In on Voted-Down Proposal That Would Have Required Doctors to Notify Patients of Probationary Status

CPIL's Julie Fellmeth Weighs In on Voted-Down Proposal That Would Have Required Doctors to Notify Patients of Probationary Status

San Diego (October 31, 2015) – Recent articles in Sacramento Bee and San Diego Union Tribune featured comments from University of San Diego (USD) School of Law’s Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) Administrative Director Julie D'Angelo Fellmeth regarding a voted-down proposal by the Consumers Union that would have required all doctors placed on probation for varied offenses, including sexual misconduct, drug or alcohol abuse, or medical negligence, to tell their patients, verbally and in writing.

Sacramento Bee reported that, under the Consumers Union proposal, doctors would be required to notify patients when they call to make an appointment and when they check in at the doctor’s office. Patients would sign a written acknowledgment of the probationary status. Doctors also would be required to post a probation notice in the office.

While the original proposal was voted down 11-1 by the Medical Board of California, the board is forming a task force to consider less prescriptive ways to notify patients when their doctor is on probation for medical misdeeds.

In a statement Monday, the board signaled that it is ready to consider wider notification than it now offers. “The public needs to know when a physician has been disciplined and put on probation,” it said. The task force, which has yet to be assembled, will “ensure the public has easy access to the information they need to be an informed patient.”

“They thought it was too prescriptive and would be penalizing doctors who are on probation for relatively minor violations or violations that are not related to practice of medicine, like not paying child support,” said attorney D’Angelo Fellmeth, who attended the hearing.

D'Angelo Fellmeth, who supported the Consumers Union proposal and who has focused much of her career on the regulation of the health care professions, is hopeful the task force will find a compromise. “There might be a middle ground somewhere. We could pick out serious violations where patients should be notified, but maybe not in all the ways that Consumers Union wanted.

A San Diego Union Tribune article reported that from 2003 through last year, the board investigated 17,528 complaints and directly revoked 497 licenses. An additional 797 doctors voluntarily surrendered their right to practice medicine when faced with the prospect of a public accusation of wrongdoing.

D’Angelo Fellmeth said these numbers feed the public’s perception that too many physicians are allowed to stay on probation for long periods of time instead of being suspended or kicked out of the profession. There are many instances, she said, where doctors re-offend while on probation and still do not have their licenses revoked.

“There are studies out there that say the biggest single predictor of future discipline is current discipline,” said D’Angelo Fellmeth.

While this particular proposal did not pass, D’Angelo Fellmeth believes the Consumers Union did a terrific job making their case.

Read the full articles on sacbee.com and sandiegouniontribune.com.

About Julianne D’Angelo Fellmeth

Julianne D'Angelo Fellmeth serves as administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law at USD School of Law and editor of the California Regulatory Law Reporter. She supervises CPIL's student intern program, team-teaches regulatory law courses with Professor Robert C. Fellmeth, and assists law students in their monitoring of agencies and drafting of articles for the California Regulatory Law Reporter.

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Celebrating 60 years of alumni success, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is recognized for the excellence of its faculty, depth of its curriculum, and strength of its clinical programs. Each year, USD educates approximately 900 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 23rd worldwide in all-time faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.

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