Drink, Drugs and Disclosure Day For Doctors

Monday is Drink, Drugs and Disclosure Day for doctors in Sacramento when three major patient safety bills are scheduled to be heard in the Senate Business & Professions committee.

The common theme is oversight and transparency for doctors. Will the Senate require openness and accountability from the medical community, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved?

SB 1177 (Galgiani) is a California Medical Association-sponsored bill that would allow doctors with drug or alcohol addictions to keep their problem secret from their patients and the Medical Board that regulates them. It’s a clear threat to patient safety when doctors don’t have to disclose substance abuse to regulators, or their patients. Last time docs were allowed to keep their substance abuse secret, the program failed 5 state audits and had to be disbanded. Consumer and patient safety groups are opposed.

SB 1033 (Hill) would require doctors to disclose to patients before an appointment if they are on probation for serious problems, including drug and alcohol use, overprescribing narcotics or sexual abuse of a patient. This information is already public record, and reported to hospitals and physicians’ insurance companies, but doctors would prefer to keep it hidden from patients on the Medical Board’s archaic website. Consumer and patient groups support this effort to demand transparency when doctors do serious harm.

SB 1174 (McGuire) would give the Medical Board more information about doctors who are overprescribing psychotropic drugs to our most vulnerable youth, foster kids. Alarming statistics show that too many kids are being over-medicated, but right now the Medical Board doesn’t have the information it needs to crack down on the worst offenders. Consumer and patient safety groups support this bill to require more disclosure of dangerous overprescribing.

1033 and 1174 require greater transparency to patients and regulators, both about doctors’ prescribing habits and regarding their own drug and alcohol use. That’s just the opposite of the confidentiality around substance abuse that the doctors are pushing in 1177.

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