March 4, 2011
A bill that was the subject of a 5½-hour hearing Tuesday would sharply curtail the powers of the Texas Medical Board if it becomes law.
Backers argued that it would bring much-needed transparency and provide greater fairness to doctors whom, some say, the board is persecuting. They especially raised concerns about practitioners of alternative medicine and those who treat conditions such as autism.
Opponents, however, said the legislation would leave patients more vulnerable to bad doctors and make it difficult for patients to complain about physicians in a state where the Legislature has made it harder to sue for malpractice.
In the end, the House Public Health Committee said it would amend House Bill 3816, which also would disclose the names of some complainants to doctors and create an advisory committee to oversee the board. The committee didn’t specify what it might change.
“I don’t want to make a mistake,” said chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.
The mission of the board, which licenses and disciplines doctors in Texas, is to protect the public.
“This bill does not keep faith with the people of Texas,” said Melinda Fredricks of Conroe, who served on the medical board from 2003 to 2008. She said the state passed a tort reform law in 2003, and “as a trade-off, we toughened the medical board,” which had been criticized as being too lax. Fredricks was the last to testify among two dozen people.
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