Database of Dangerous Doctors Gets Yanked from Public Eye

The Obama administration's decision to remove from the Web a database of physician discipline and malpractice activity shows how far this country is from giving the public ready access to information on who the most dangerous doctors are.

The National Practitioner Data Bank was set up in 1986 to provide a clearing house for hospitals and state licensing agencies to easily check out a doctor's prior history of malpractice claims and licensing discipline. From the start, the database has shielded from the public the names of the doctors in its data set. Only hospitals and licensing agencies could get the real goods. The idea was that by keeping the database confidential, health care providers would be encouraged to send in reports that would strengthen the quality of the information.

Each year, a public report of filings to the data bank is published, with all identifying information scrubbed out. The idea is to provide statistical trends.

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