Malpractice records removed from state's online physician database

Physicians in Massachusetts with malpractice allegations or criminal charges on their records need not worry about their dirty laundry being aired, according to an article in the Boston Globe that examines an investigation by the Northeastern University Initiative for Investigative Reporting. Doctor-friendly laws, according to the investigation, mean that such offenses regularly are purged from an online public database initially created to bring such information to light.

According to the Globe, the Massachusetts medical board is one out of only three in the United States that removes the online profiles of doctors who lose or don't renew their licenses. What's more, the state is one of four that also cleans disciplinary and malpractice discretions off of a physician's record after 10 years.

Doctors in Massachusetts penalized by other state medical boards also are not subject to public disclosure, according to the Globe.

"It's a system that favors physicians over patients, and it's tragic," Linda DeBenedictis, president of the New England Patients' Rights Group, told the Globe.

Since the database's creation in 1996, the state's medical board has not updated its disclosure policy, according to the Globe. Board executive director Stancel M. Riley argued to the newspaper that such a policy was for the better.

"[I]f nothing has happened to you in 10 years, you would think that would be a good indicator that you were pretty good," Riley said.

Similarly, malpractice information for more than 100 licensed doctors in Connecticut was missing from the state Department of Public Health's physician profile website, FierceHealthcare reported in January 2011. In that instance, however, department officials said they were not aware of the missing information.

To learn more:
- read this Boston Globe article

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