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High-profile suicide and patient injury put medical board in TV spotlight

In a special TV news story, ABC affiliate KGTV focused on the California  state medical board July 15 amid charges that the board takes too long to investigate and charge physicians alleged to be negligent, reckless or impaired.  The May suicide of retired football star Junior Seau and the amputated leg of another patient were among the outcomes associated with California doctor David Chao, named in 12 malpractice cases.   Chao is on probation while the state medical board investigates but the news team wanted to know why Chao continues to see patients in his sports medicine practice.

Julie Fellmeth, senior attorney with California Public Interest Law, has been monitoring the medical board for 27 years and charges that enforcement delays are a significant problem, with the board taking 15 or 16 months between receipt of a complaint and filing of formal charges.  Board representative Cassandra Hockenson, in response, cited the time needed to obtain records and patient permission, the high standard of proof required to prosecute a physician, and the need to provide due process to physicians as factors causing delay, and noted the board’s enforcement record has improved in recent years.
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