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Patients may gain access to doctors' disciplinary data

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 09 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:592
  1. Deborah Josefson
  1. San Francisco

    Patients in the United States may soon be able to access currently protected information about their doctors, including malpractice data, if a bill about to be introduced through Congress is passed.

    Representative Tom Bliley, chairman of the House commerce committee, is spearheading controversial legislation that will allow the public to have access to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The legislation enters delicate territory, as it must balance the consumer's right to knowledge against a doctor's right to privacy and protection against libel.

    The data bank was set up by Congress in 1986. Its aim was to facilitate both peer review and the process for licensing doctors. Access to the database has been limited to hospitals, insurance companies, state medical boards, and doctors seeking information about themselves.

    Currently, the database collects information such as adverse disciplinary actions taken by state medical and dental boards, suspensions of clinical privileges by hospitals, medical malpractice liabilities, exclusions from participating in …

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