Governor Signs Landmark Patient’s Right to Know Act by Senator Jerry Hill

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SB 1448 Makes California the First State to Require Doctors to Notify Patients If Placed on Probation for Serious Misconduct Involving Patient Harm

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday September 19 signed Senate Bill 1448, the Patient’s Right to Know Act, which makes California the first state to require doctors who are placed on probation for serious misconduct involving patient harm to notify their clients.

“It’s a great day for Californians and the movement to increase consumer protections for patients and bring greater transparency to patient-doctor interactions,” said state Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “Patients have the right to be notified of their doctor’s status so they can make informed decisions about their care.”

“This legislation owes its success to all the brave survivors who have testified about their traumatic and deeply personal experiences in the past three years,” Senator Hill said. “They include mothers, grandmothers, former students, star athletes, a prosecutor and other professionals who shared their stories with lawmakers to persuade the Legislature to lift the veil of secrecy that has protected bad actors.” 

SB 1448, The Patient’s Right to Know Act, coauthored by Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley, requires physicians who are disciplined by their regulatory board for the following four categories of misconduct to notify their patients prior to their visit:

  • Sexual misconduct with a patient
  • Drug abuse that can harm patients
  • Criminal conviction involving harm to patients
  • Inappropriate prescribing resulting in patient harm and five or more years of probation

In addition to physicians, SB 1448 applies to surgeons, osteopaths, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, podiatrists and acupuncturists who are placed on administrative probation by regulators on or after July 1, 2019. 

Currently, doctors are legally obligated to notify their insurer and their hospital or clinic about their probation status, but patients receive no notice. They are able to look up their physician’s status online, provided they have access to a computer and the internet and are aware that such information is public. SB 1448 ensures that consumers are fully informed if their doctor is on probation for cases of serious professional misconduct that involved patient harm or potential patient harm. 

The Legislature passed SB 1448 on August 31 in the final hours of the 2017-18 session. The votes by both houses capped three years of legislative efforts by Senator Hill, patient safety advocates and survivors of doctors’ abuse to change state law to require that patients are notified if their doctors are placed on probation. 

The legislative push gained new momentum this year when star athletes whose testimony helped bring disgraced sports doctor and sexual predator Larry Nassar to justice lent their support to SB 1448. 

“As the testimony of survivors showed, leaving patients in the dark about this critical information makes them vulnerable to abuse,” Senator Hill said.

The new law takes effect January 1.