Texas Web Site Web Site With Plaintiff Database Shuts Down
DoctorsKnow.Us -- a Texas Web site that included a database of patients who had filed medical malpractice lawsuits, their attorneys and expert witnesses -- on Wednesday shut down voluntarily after the site "ignited a firestorm because it could potentially be used to deny care to patients," the Wall Street Journal reports (Silverman, Wall Street Journal, 3/11). Dr. John Jones, a Texas radiologist, developed the Web site -- which was launched in November -- to "act as a deterrent to frivolous suits," but according to some patient advocates, the site could "potentially be used to deny patient care," the Wall Street Journal reports (Silverman, Wall Street Journal, 3/5). "They can sue, but they can't hide," the Web site states. A subscription to the database costs $4.95 per month for the first 250 searches and two cents per additional search. Subscriptions also allow users to add names to the database "from official and unofficial public records" (Blumenthal, New York Times, 3/5). Patients, trial attorneys and consumer advocates had opposed the Web site, "saying patients have the right to sue for compensation for medical negligence and shouldn't be denied care for previous suits," the Journal reports.
Jones declined to comment on the decision to shut down the Web site (Wall Street Journal, 3/11). The Web site on Wednesday posted the statement, "We apologize, but the DoctorsKnow.Us Web site is no longer available." Later on Wednesday, the Web site posted the statement, "DoctorsKnow.Us has permanently ceased operations as of 3/9/04. The controversy this site has ignited was unanticipated and has polarized opinions regarding the medical malpractice crisis. Our hope is that this controversy will spark a serious discussion that results in changes that are equitable to both patients and physicians" (Blumenthal, New York Times, 3/11). Dan Lambe, executive director of Texas Watch, a consumer advocacy group, said that a "public outcry" based on newspaper reports earlier this month led to the decision to shut down the Web site. Lambe added, "While we are relieved to see this offensive Web site at least for now no longer exists, we have to be diligent in the future to prevent this type of blacklisting of innocent patients" (Wall Street Journal, 3/11).
NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Wednesday included a discussion about the Web site. Guests on the program included Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and Dr. Jack Lewin, executive vice president of the California Medical Association (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 3/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.