Bill to Open Doctor Malpractice Database Snubbed in Congress
Other lawmakers said that opening the data bank would only give the public "raw data" rather than useful information in making an informed decision about a doctor. According to Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), "[The information] would be very easy for the general public to misinterpret."
Rep. Greg Ganske, MD, (R-Iowa) noted that some doctors in specialties such as plastic surgery are sued more frequently than other doctors, and those physicians who see high-risk patients or perform innovative procedures face more malpractice suits regardless of their competence.
And Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that opening the data bank would discourage doctors from greater openness about mistakes in the medical system, keeping the nation's medical error death toll unacceptably high.
According to Tom Coburn, MD, (R-Okla.), "This is a state issue. It has no business in Washington." Indeed, led by Massachusetts' medical licensing board, numerous state boards have put out "physician profile" information for the public.
While lawmakers were almost unanimously unenthusiastic about Bliley's bill, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) was a lonely supporter, saying the legislation should be strengthened to include a toll-free telephone option for consumers to access the doctor information.
Several citizen groups also testified in favor of the bill today, including the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumers Union, and the Consumer Federation of America.
The AMA, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Hospital Association officially oppose the legislation.