Consumer Reports Investigation: Doctors on Probation

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Across the country, thousands of doctors are on probation for dangerous or unprofessional behavior.

Across the country, thousands of doctors are on probation for dangerous or unprofessional behavior.

Those doctors, many of whom are still practicing are being disciplined by state medical boards.

But finding out who and why is difficult.

Consumer Reports did get a list from the state of California, and it highlights a weakness in the system when it comes to informing patients.

Nearly 500 doctors in California are on probation for offenses ranging from practicing medicine under the influence of illegal drugs to sexual misconduct with patients.

Others face charges of negligence leading to botched surgeries and wrongful deaths.

Lisa McGiffert, the director of Consumer Reports' Safe Patient Project says it's a national problem.

"Thousands of doctors in the U.S. keep practicing even though they're on medical probation for serious issues such as drug use, sexual misconduct, and gross negligence, making careless and sometimes deadly mistakes,"

says McGiffert.

A Consumer Reports' investigation shows how hard it is to find those citations.

You can check your doctor's history at the Federation of State Medical Boards' site,, but if you find an "action" it can be difficult to tell what the reasons are.

You often have to find and then navigate reams of hard-to-understand legal documents.

User-review sites aren't much help either.

And patient reviews can be misleading.

At, a gynecologist on probation for negligence, including taking out the wrong ovary, has more than three stars out of five.

"It should be easier for consumers to look up the disciplinary history of their doctors," says McGiffert.

Consumer Reports petitioned the California medical board to require that doctors inform their patients when they're on probation.

The board rejected the idea, saying it would put too much of a burden on doctors and damage the doctor-patient relationship.

New Jersey and Delaware do post the names of doctors online who've been disciplined.

In New Jersey, you can find it at: NJ Division of Consumer Affairs.

New Jersey includes documents explaining the charges and actions.

In Delaware, the information is at: Board of Medical Licensure.

Pennsylvania also has a database. It allows you to search by name.

It can be found on

You can read the full Consumer Reports investigation here.

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