In a major victory for Illinois patients and advocates for patients’ rights, such as the experienced Illinois medical malpractice lawyers of Passen & Powell, the Illinois Patients’ Right to Know Act has now passed both houses of the state legislature and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.
If, as expected, Governor Pat Quinn signs the bill into law in June, it will provide a major step forward for patients looking to protect themselves from dangerous doctors. In a climate where scores of patients are injured or killed each day by the very professionals who they pay to safeguard their health, accurate information about a doctor’s background is an invaluable asset – and an absolute necessity.
Under the Patients’ Right to Know Act, patients will be able to access physicians’ histories online, as part of a database on all Illinois doctors. The database will allow patients to check whether a doctor has been convicted of a crime, fired, or made a payment due to medical malpractice (whether due to a judgment or a settlement) in the past five years.
This legislation has been in the works for more than ten years, but has been repeatedly scuttled by lobbyists for physicians, and the insurance companies, including the Illinois State Medical Society. But State Representative Mary Flowers, a democrat from Chicago, persevered, and made sure the legislation was delayed, but not buried.
The bill finally passed after recent public outcry over physicians convicted of sex offenses, even sex crimes against patients, who are permitted to continue practicing. Our medical malpractice attorneys were among those who pressured our legislature to take action on this dangerous situation.
Once the bill becomes law, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will compile the data, and post it on the Department’s website, idfpr.com. The Department will then update and maintain the database.
In fact, the Department has previously compiled all this information. The profiles were posted for nearly a year beginning in 2005. Unfortunately, the profiles were originally posted thanks to an amendment to the law capping medical malpractice awards in Illinois. Due to the way in which the law was written, when the Illinois Supreme Court courageously struck down the damages cap, the profiles perished, as well.
This removed the information from public accessibility. This was a travesty, and certainly not unnoticed by the public. In fact, during the year the profiles were posted, they drew over 130,000 clicks per week, proving that the public knows just how important this information is to public health and safety.
Unfortunately, the old 2005 information is now virtually obsolete. Once the bill becomes law, the Department has stated that it will take months to assemble the information for posting, as it requires data from courts, hospitals, insurance companies, and other sources.
Although we are disappointed by the likely delay, we understand that assembling the information will take time. We are eager to see the complete and accurate profiles become accessible as soon as the department is able.
Indeed, we have only one real concern about the physician profiles going live. Many commentators have suggested that making malpractice settlements public will discourage settlements, as physicians strive to protect their practices from the consequences of public settlement. On the whole, however, we believe that the benefits to the public from these public profiles is worth the risk. If this problem should manifest itself, then we, as a better informed public, can face it together.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.