Report Finds Drop in Doctor Discipline in California, U.S.
California disciplined fewer physicians in 2007 than 2006, dropping its ranking from 27 to 36 in a new report by Public Citizen, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Nationwide, disciplinary action by state medical boards against physicians dropped 6% from 2006 to 2007, marking the third consecutive year of a trend of more leniency, the report states (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 4/23). Since 2004, despite a growing number of licensed physicians, the rate has fallen 22%, according to the report (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 4/23).
Public Citizen ranks states by calculating the number of disciplinary actions over the number of physicians who are licensed in the state. Such actions include revocation, surrender and suspension of medical licenses.
The report found that California regulators took 2.74 serious actions per 1,000 doctors (Los Angeles Times, 4/23).
Alaska was the highest in discipline with 8.33 actions per 1,000 physicians (Miami Herald, 4/23). It was followed by:
- Arizona; and
- Nebraska (Cite>Los Angeles Times, 4/23).
South Carolina was lowest at 1.18 actions per 1,000 doctors (Miami Herald, 4/23). States preceding South Carolina at the bottom of the rankings were:
- South Dakota;
- Mississippi; and
Sidney Wolfe, author of the report, said that more funding and staffing, and better investigations and leadership at medical boards are necessary to discipline physicians appropriately (Los Angeles Times, 4/23). "These numbers show that many states are thereby continuing to allow doctors to endanger the lives and health of some of their residents because of inadequate discipline," Wolfe said (Miami Herald, 4/23).
However, Candis Cohen, a spokesperson for the California Medical Board, said that the rationale of the rankings is unreliable because the report does not consider "more meaningful actions, including state medical boards' educational efforts directed to physicians and consumers" (Los Angeles Times, 4/23).
Louis Costa, president of the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners, also challenged Public Citizen's conclusions, noting that the report does not take into account differences among states in licensing criteria and revocation policies (Coley, Charleston Post and Courier, 4/23).