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Patients in Illinois to Gain Access to Doctors’ Medical Malpractice Histories

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The power will be placed back into the hands of patients in Illinois. Recently, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill that would allow patients to see their doctors’ medical histories, including times they were fired, whether they had made medical malpractice payments in the last five years, and whether they had ever been convicted of a crime.

The Patients Right to Know Act has been blocked by the influential and powerful doctors’ lobby for years. This year the bill finally passed after the Chicago Tribune revealed that state regulators had allowed dangerous doctors–even those convicted of sex crimes–to continue practicing without any punishment. Now, within two months, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will be required to post doctor histories on their website. Doctors may also edit or review their profiles over the next 60 days before they are published for the public. However, doctors who provide inaccurate information face disciplinary action.

This type of public information available on doctors is incredibly important to protect patients and help them to make informed decisions about who they see for medical care. For example, the non-profit group, Public Citizen, also recently revealed that California’s medical board failed to discipline 710 doctors even as they were disciplined by hospitals, surgical centers, and other healthcare organizations. One doctor who faced discipline in 1991 had 15 subsequent medical malpractice payouts between 1993 and 2009, including leaving an object in a patient after surgery and another case in which a patient was significantly and permanently injured. Public Citizen conducted their analysis using requested data from the California Department of Health and Human Services databank on doctors’ discipline, medical malpractice, and other actions. The California Medical Board claims that they cannot further investigate the claims in the Public Citizen report due to inadequate funding. For now, patients in California won’t know if they’re putting their lives at risk by seeing a particular doctor with a spotty medical history, exemplifying the need for a public database like the one in Illinois.