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Doctor database reopens but with restrictions for journalists: Part 1

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At the beginning of September, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) took down a public database where doctors who had medical malpractice actions taken against them were listed anonymously. The HRSA cut off the public’s access to the site because journalists sometimes identified doctors on the site with a history of medical malpractice claims being brought against them through the use of other sources and investigative journalism techniques.

The HRSA didn’t take the site down when newspapers in the past had identified doctors, but took action recently after a neurosurgeon who was identified by the Kansas City Star as part of a larger newspaper story complained.

After the HRSA took down the site, public safety advocates, a U.S. senator, academic researchers and journalists complained vocally and consistently. The HRSA responded by allowing access again to the site, but with the caveat that journalists cannot use the database to identify doctors.

The neurosurgeon who complained to the HRSA was identified along with 20 other doctors who had no marks on their Kansas and Missouri medical licenses even though they had settled numerous medical malpractice claims.

Public safety advocates, journalists and others remain concerned about the actions of the HRSA. The next post will further discuss this issue.

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

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