A little sunshine falls on state medical board
ould the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice actually be posting too much information aboutdoctor disciplinary actions on its consumer Web site? That was a topic of discussion at its most recent meeting in Minneapolis on Jan. 13, though it was di...
ould the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice actually be posting too much information aboutdoctor disciplinary actions on its consumer Web site?
That was a topic of discussion at its most recent meeting in Minneapolis on Jan. 13, though it was directly counter to the News Tribune's "First, Do No Harm" editorial series last month that found more often, too little information is disclosed. Touted as a way for consumers "to make educated decisions about the qualifications of physicians," the site includes nothing about malpractice suits and scant details of even high-profile criminal acts committed by doctors, including one serving a37-year-to-life sentence formurder.
Most cases, however, are far less extreme, such as that of a physician who married hisformer ob-gyn patient after being cited for having"inappropriately induced labor." Board President Dr. Jon Thomas said the couple wrote complaining that the patient's identity was now made public because she was now the doctor's wife.
It's an interesting predicament, except the records don't say anything about the marriage of the couple who, according to board Executive Director Robert Leach, have gone on radio to make themselves very public. Yet it sparked a discussion of larger issues: Should the board only post a digest of each sanction? Do doctors who agree to public disciplinary actions understand that now means the details can be accessed in home computers, not just county courthouses?
"These are public documents. People signed an agreement knowing that they would be public. They may be more public now than what they were," said Dr. Steven Altchuler, the board's past president, offering a motion to restrict the information.
As rays of sunshine peeked through the vertical blinds, the board thankfully voted it down. Altchuler himself said he only made the motion for the purpose of forcing the discussion. In a second vote, the board agreed to study the matter, to head off, as Leach put it, "the Legislature [telling us what] to put on the profiles."
Well, the Legislature is the people, and the people have a right to know about public actions. But it's encouraging that the board saw a little bit of sunshine, anyway.