In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a now famous study finding up to 98,000 deaths in hospitals each year due to medical negligence. The statistics are now much worse. (See our coverage here, for example.) Following the IOM study, several newspapers ran extensive series on the degree and cost of malpractice in their state. That included New York.
In March 2000, a New York Daily News week-long investigative series found that “hundreds of New York State doctors, dentists and podiatrists – ranging from modest practitioners to prominent surgeons – have amassed extensive hidden histories of malpractice yet continue to treat patients.” See here.
Later, an investigation by the New York Post found, “Some of [New York City’s] most frequently sued doctors are still practicing with the blessing of the state Health Department.” They include doctors sued for “such offenses as possibly setting off an outbreak of hepatitis C and botching boob jobs and face lifts.”
New York, like most states, used to make it impossible to find out anything about one's doctor. “You know more about the safety of your automobile than you know about the safety of your doctor. That’s just unconscionable,” Public Citizen’s Dr. Sidney Wolfe once told NPR.
Following the New York Daily News exposé, however, New York passed a “landmark law” that “not only ended the ban on disclosing malpractice histories, but required the Health Department to share key facts with the public.” Indeed,
[T[he state Health Department began publishing physician profiles to give consumers basic protection against incompetence and quackery. That breakthrough system, available at NYDoctorProfile.com, was visited 35,000 times in December alone — a clear case of the public making good use of its right to know.”
But as the Daily News notes in a damning editorial this week, “Gov. Cuomo’s budget includes a proposal to kill the program.… Cuomo aides contend the state program is no longer necessary because much of the information has become available from private websites.” Of course, that’s completely untrue. That’s why, "Sixteen consumer groups from across the state have sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to drop his plan to get rid of a state website that provides medical malpractice and other background information about New York doctors” and to expand the site to post similar information about “hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices”.
" ... if just one person avoids death or disability because they use this site to choose a doctor with better credentials, the money is well worth it," the letter says. It is signed by Consumers Union, New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment, New York Statewide Senior Action Council, Citizen Action of New York and other groups.
The New York Daily News notes, “After blowback from consumer groups, the governor’s aides said he would continue the portion of the system that discloses malpractice histories.” The paper says, however, that’s not good enough, urging Governor Cuomo to “reverse course completely — and continue full support for this important tool for navigating a complex health-care system.”
Newsday has another strong editorial against the Governor's plan. NYDoctorProfile.com is one of the nation’s most forward-thinking patient safety advancements. It should be a source of immense pride for New Yorker State. Instead, the Governor seems to want to destroy it - and that's shameful.