Bad Doctors' Ranks Swelling in Northern California, Report Finds

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A study commissioned by the Medical Board of California has made a bit of a splash, suggesting that the disciplinary process for misbehaving doctors hasn't been handled well by the office of Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Jerry Brown.

As California Watch reports, the AG's office is contesting conclusions in the study, asserting that it wasn't given a chance to provide input to author and consultant Benjamin Frank. Yet one of the interesting tidbits in the report has been lost in the political shooting match: According to Frank's statistics, accusations against practicing doctors have increased in Northern California over the past several years.

More than 60 accusations were filed against physicians in Northern California each of the past three years, compared to 50 accusations the two years before that, according to the report. By contrast, Southern California had only 55 accusations filed annually over the same period.

The report also found that the percentage of disciplinary actions that led to revocation or suspension of a doctor's license, or probation for the doctor, is higher in Northern California. (Doctors can also be subject to a public reprimand that does not directly affect their practice.) In Northern California, 74 percent of cases led to the more severe outcomes, about seven points above the the rate in Southern California.

This isn't to say you should panic about your doctor's competence. But it never hurts to do a thorough review of a physician's background -- you might be surprised at what you find.

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