Health & Medicine

Larry Nassar survivors ‘elated’ Gov. Brown signs bill giving patients right to know

California resident and former standout softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez said she was elated Thursday morning after hearing Gov. Jerry Brown had signed Senate Bill 1448 requiring physicians, chiropractors and other practitioners notify patients if they are on probation for serious misconduct such as sexual abuse.

Lopez, now 38, said she was just 17 and 18 years of age when Michigan State University team doctor Larry Nassar molested her. Nassar, who also treated many of the nation’s foremost gymnasts, was sentenced earlier this year to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse. Lopez said she came to Sacramento twice to testify in support of SB 1448.

“This is definitely a day for celebration,” Lopez said. “I am elated that this has come to pass and the governor signed it.”

SB 1448, known as The Patient’s Right to Know Act, applies not only to doctors and surgeons licensed by the Medical Board of California but also to practitioners licensed by the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the state’s Naturopathic Medicine Committee, the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners and the California Acupuncture Board.

The bill mandates that, after July 2019, all such practitioners must notify patients prior to their visit if their licensing agency has put them on probation in any of the following categories:

Sexual misconduct with a patient.

Drug abuse that can harm patients.

Criminal conviction involving harm to patients.

Inappropriate prescribing resulting in patient harm and five or more years of probation.

The legislation failed to win legislative approval for two years in a row, but this year, with testimony from Lopez and other survivors of the high-profile Nassar abuse case, co-authors Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley, finally secured passage.

“This legislation owes its success to all the brave survivors who have testified about their traumatic and deeply personal experiences in the past three years,” Hill said. “They include mothers, grandmothers, former students, star athletes, a prosecutor and other professionals who shared their stories with lawmakers to persuade the legislature to lift the veil of secrecy that has protected bad actors.”

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The hearings also were overshadowed by the #metoo movement and allegations from roughly 200 women that Dr. George Tyndall, a gynecologist at the University of Southern California, touched them inappropriately and in ways that were not medically necessary. Allegations date back to the 1990s. Tyndall has said his exams were thorough and appropriate.

The California Medical Association, which represents 43,000 doctors, initially opposed the legislation because it allowed notification for a broad range of things that impinged upon the due process rights of doctors. Janus Norman, CMA’s senior vice president for government relations, said the organization was pleased that amendments to the legislation had addressed those concerns.

“The California Medical Association has long been dedicated to an effective, fair, and well-functioning Medical Board oversight process,” Norman said. “Our collaborative work with the legislature and stakeholders resulted in amendments to SB 1448 that ensure due process and appropriately define patient harm.”

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