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Doctor database reopens but with restrictions for journalists: Part 2

As discussed in the previous post, the Health Resources and Services Administration in September took down a database where doctors who had medical malpractice claims brought against them and settled were listed. The doctors were listed anonymously, but journalists sometimes identified doctors partly through the list, but also through other sources and investigative techniques.

The HRSA took down the site after a neurosurgeon complained about being identified in the Kansas City Star as someone who had settled many malpractice claims.

The HRSA recently put the database back up for the public after many complaints by public safety advocates, journalists, a U.S. senator and others, but they will only let journalists use the information if they promise not to use it to identify doctors. Journalists and public safety advocates and others remain upset about this change.

The neurosurgeon in the Star article was part of a story telling about more than 20 doctors who had settled numerous medical malpractice claims but still had unblemished medical licenses.

One investigative reporter pointed out in the Star that the government really shouldn't be in the business of telling reporters what they can do with information.

It will be interesting to see if the HRSA will respond to the latest complaints and allow full access again to its anonymous records.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "After protests, national doctor database reopens -- with a catch," Alan Bavley, Nov. 10, 2011

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