Patient advocates today will call on the Medical Board of California to reform a physician oversight process that shuts out patients, prioritizes secrecy and ultimately fails to adequately protect patients from doctors who cause harm. Their testimony asks board members to back Patient Bill of Rights legislation, including reforms to give consumers a voice in the enforcement process and make discipline tougher and more transparent. The Medical Board meets in-person in Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday.
Medical Board public member and whistleblower TJ Watkins released a Board “Accountability Act” in an interview with NBC LA Wednesday. It proposes model legislation to make physician discipline robust, transparent and accountable with consistent disciplinary guidelines that serve as a deterrent to patient harm. Consumer Watchdog supports the proposal, which embraces reforms patient activists have advocated for years.
The Board has been under withering scrutiny from lawmakers, the news media, and the public for enabling dangerous doctors to continue to practice. A Los Angeles Times exposé found the board rarely disciplines doctors after patient complaints and is lenient when it does issue discipline, allowing doctors who have caused harm to continue to practice, resulting in further patient injuries and deaths. The Board faces a “sunset review” of its performance by the Legislature early next year.
Patient advocates who have been catastrophically injured and families whose loved ones died due to medical negligence will testify about the dangerous and deadly consequences of the Board’s failure to act when doctors cause harm.
“Families must have the right to tell our side of the story when a medical tragedy happens,” said Bakersfield advocate Tracy Dominguez, who lost her daughter and grandson after the common pregnancy complication preeclampsia went undiagnosed. “The medical board would not accept new evidence when I filed a complaint for the negligent death of my daughter, and they told me not to bother filing a separate complaint for my grandson, who lived for 18 hours, because ‘it would not matter.’ Every death complaint must be investigated, and the medical board must interview families before they dismiss a complaint. I’m fighting for these rights for all families.”
Consumer Watchdog joins the activists to call for Patient Bill of Rights legislation reforming how the Board disciplines doctors, including:
The experiences of the families testifying expose the problems a Patient Bill of Rights will address. Among those families are:
Michele Monserratt-Ramos (Los Angeles County), whose fiancé Lloyd Monserratt lost his life after a surgical mistake leading to infection and signs of sepsis were ignored. His family was never informed that the Board was about to discipline the surgeon for prior surgical errors, or of his arrest record for drug possession. Monserratt-Ramos is the Kathy Olsen Patient Advocate with Consumer Watchdog.
Tammy Smick (Riverside County), whose son Alex died of an overdose administered in the hospital. The Board charged his doctor with gross negligence, which calls for a minimum five years probation under the Board’s disciplinary guidelines. Yet the Board ultimately settled the case with a letter of reprimand and no probation.
Tracy Dominguez and Xavier de Leon (Kern County), the family of Demi Dominguez and baby Malakhi who lost their lives when doctors ignored Demi’s clear symptoms of preeclampsia. She was never informed of her doctor’s history, including two prior probations for negligence in maternal care and an ongoing investigation of a third mother’s death.
Robert Andrian (Orange County), whose mother Tonya passed away immediately after a heart procedure that went well beyond what she consented to. Andrian’s complaint to the Medical Board was erroneously dismissed; because the Board did not interview Andrian, they did not have the facts right.
“The Medical Board is closing complaints without hearing from injured patients, reducing discipline to a slap on the wrist, and keeping doctors’ histories secret. As a result, dangerous doctors continue causing harm and the Board fails to keep patients safe. Medical Board Members must endorse the legislative reforms in the Patient Bill of Rights and Accountability Act that are needed to make doctor discipline tougher and more transparent, and guarantee injured patients an equal voice in the process,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
The Medical Board’s reform proposals to the legislature last year do not do enough to improve transparency, increase consumers’ voice or ensure patients are protected from dangerous doctors, said Consumer Watchdog.