Malpractice Database Access Urged

ByABC News
September 20, 2000, 5:04 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 20 -- A California man whose wife died duringcosmetic surgery in 1997 urged Congress today to open asecret government database that tracks disciplinary actions andmalpractice payments by physicians and other health-care providers.

Testifying before the House Commerce Committee, Ruben Fernandezsaid his wife would not have chosen Dr. William Earle Matory Jr. toperform a face lift, liposuction and other procedures if she hadknown that he had been sued for malpractice four times previously.

I firmly believe if I had been provided access to the NationalPractitioner Data Bank, it would have saved the life of my belovedJudy, he said.

The California Medical Board ultimately ruled that Matory hadbeen grossly negligent and incompetent in the death of JudyFernandez and revoked his license.

Victimized by Lack of InformationFernandez was joined at todays hearing by two other medicalmalpractice victims who told lawmakers they had been victimized bydoctors because they had no way of discovering adverse informationin their backgrounds.

Such information is maintained in the National Practitioner DataBank, which was created by a 1986 federal law that requiresinsurance companies, hospitals and state and federal regulators toreport malpractice payments and disciplinary actions against allhealth-care providers.

But the law prohibits public disclosure of identities of theproviders, limiting access to insurance companies, hospitals andfederal and state health regulators.

An Associated Press review of the public version of the databank with the names removed found that nearly 500 doctors anddentists across the country have been slapped with at least 10disciplinary actions and malpractice payments over the past decade.

The New York Daily News, The Hartford Courant and the AP alsohave used the public version of the database and court records toidentify doctors with large numbers of malpractice payments ordisciplinary actions.