Update: Death Certificate Project

Photo by Carol Duff

Health Editor’s Note: We have been following this process….Carol

Death Certificate Project Accuses 64 Calif. Doctors

By Cheryl Clark Contribution Writer for MedPage Today

The so-called Death Certificate Project initiated by the Medical Board of California that began in 2015 has now resulted in formal accusals of wrongdoing filed against 64 physicians related to their drug prescribing, primarily involving opioids, newly updated records show.

Five of the 64 have surrendered their licenses; six others were put on probation, and eight received public reprimands.

These are out of a total of 469 physicians investigated for excessive prescribing because of patients’ overdose deaths in 2012 or 2013.

Two of the 64 accusations were withdrawn, according to statistics released by the board last week.

The remaining 43 physicans of the 64 accused still await final decisions; half of these have been hanging more than 7 months and five for nearly a year.

Beyond the 64 doctors against whom an accusation had been filed, another 11 of the 469 are still under investigation. It remains to be seen whether a round orange gavel signifying a disciplinary action will mark any of their profile pages.

The agency’s investigators continue to prowl the state Department of Justice’s prescription drug database to identify doctors who prescribed opioids to a patient who, according to a death certificate, fatally overdosed in 2012 or 2013, even as long as three years after that doctor wrote that script, and not necessarily from the same drug the doctor prescribed.


In the next leg of the investigation, the medical board, which licenses some 140,000 physicians, will scrutinize practices of doctors whose patients fatally overdosed in 2016 and 2017, when presumably far more conservative opioid prescribing had replaced more liberal practices and as the extent of addiction potential and lethality of these drugs was better understood.

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