What Is the Patient’s Right To Know Act?

Until recently, gaps in California’s laws led to a lack of transparency in reporting doctor sexual assault and sexual abuse. Sadly, this increased the risk of patient sexual abuse by health care providers, who can use their positions of power to take advantage of their patients.

In 2019, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill (SB) 1448, otherwise known as the Patient’s Right to Know Act. This bill mandates that physicians must disclose previous or ongoing cases or investigations against them to their patients, including sexual assault allegations.

About California Senate Bill 1448

The Patient’s Right to Know Act states that as of July 1, 2019, doctors who are licensed by the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California must provide disclosures to patients (or patients’ guardians or health care surrogates) regarding probationary orders before the patient’s first or next visit.

According to the bill, the medical board in charge of a licensed physician must require the licensee to provide a separate disclosure to a patient prior to that patient’s initial appointment after the incident. Physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other medical care providers must disclose it if they are on probation for certain infractions, including sexual assault.

The disclosure must contain specific information and details about the probationary order, including:

  • Probation status
  • The length of the probationary period and its end date
  • Any practice restrictions in place against the licensee
  • The medical board’s telephone number
  • Information on where the patient can learn more about the probationary order

A licensee with a probationary history is required to obtain a signed copy of the disclosure form from the patient or the patient’s authorized medical representative. The only exceptions are if the patient is unconscious, the visit occurs in an emergency room or urgent care facility, the licensee does not have a direct treatment relationship with the patient, or the patient does not know his or her doctor until immediately before the first visit.

What Types of Probation Orders Are Required To Be Disclosed?

The Patient’s Right to Know Act is meant to improve patient safety by increasing transparency between a doctor and his or her patients. This act allows a patient to decide whether or not he or she wishes to proceed with medical care with a practitioner upon learning that the practitioner is on probation pursuant to a probationary order or investigation.

According to SB 1448, licensees in California must disclose probationary orders or current investigations that could end in probation that are made on or after July 1, 2019, for any of the following circumstances:

  • Sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, sexual assault or inappropriate sexual relations with a patient or client.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse by the physician that resulted in harm to a patient or impaired the physician’s ability to practice medicine safely.
  • Medication prescribing errors that resulted in harm to a patient and a probationary period of five years or longer.
  • A criminal conviction against the licensee that involved patient injury, illness, harm or death.

The Patient’s Right to Know Act gives patients important knowledge about a doctor’s alleged crimes or proven misconduct, including sex crimes committed against patients and clients. This gives the patient a choice about whether or not to continue with the doctor’s visit. It prevents patients from entering exam rooms with no prior knowledge of a doctor’s probationary history.

Help for Survivors of Physician Sexual Assault

New laws in California are constantly changing the rights of sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors, as well as implementing changes to prevent future cases of sexual assault. The Patient’s Right to Know Act is a step in the right direction for protecting patients from sexual assault and abuse at the hands of a medical practitioner.

If you or your child is a survivor of physician sexual assault, contact a Los Angeles sexual assault lawyer for a confidential legal consultation right away. You may have grounds to file a civil claim against the perpetrator in Los Angeles, CA. An attorney can provide legal advice during a 100 percent private case review.