On September 19, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the “Patient’s Right to Know Act of 2018” (SB 1448), which will require practitioners to notify their patients when they are placed on probation on or after July 1, 2019 for the following offenses:

  • The commission of any act of sexual abuse, misconduct, or relations with a patient or client;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse directly resulting in harm to patients or to the extent that such use impairs the ability of the practitioner to practice safely;
  • Criminal conviction directly involving harm to patient health; or
  • Inappropriate prescribing resulting in harm to patients and a probationary period of five years or more.

The notification must provide details of the practitioner’s probation status, the length of the probation, the probation end date, all practice restrictions placed on the practitioner by the licensing board, the board’s telephone number, and an explanation of how the patient can find further information about the probation. Such patient notice is required regardless of whether the probation is the result of an administrative hearing in front of an administrative law judge, or a stipulated settlement between the practitioner and the Medical Board of California without any findings of fact or admissions of guilt.

Although such information has long been publicly available on licensing board websites, this new law will require a practitioner on probation to obtain a signed copy of the disclosure prior to each patient’s first visit following the effective date of the practitioner’s probation. Exceptions to the disclosure requirement exist for specific situations where a disclosure prior to treatment is not feasible (e.g., unscheduled urgent care or emergency room visits).

Although similar bills had been introduced in prior years, key to the passage of SB 1448 was the testimony of survivors of physician sexual assault, including athletes who had recently testified against Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar.

The new law, which amends various provisions of the Business and Professions Code, will apply to physicians, osteopaths, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, podiatrists and acupuncturists. The full text of the law is available at the California Legislature’s website.