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Checking Up On Your Doctor
CNBC.com | September 12, 2011 | 10:37 AM EDT

Levine says the recent case of Delaware pediatrician Earl B. Bradley (photo at left) is "an example of everything that can go wrong" with physician oversight. Bradley was arrested in 2009 and sentenced on Aug. 26 to 14 life sentences for raping or sexually abusing 86 children. A recent report ordered by the governor found that allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct first came to the attention of Delaware law enforcement officials in 2005 and came to the attention of other licensed physicians at least 10 years before his arrest.

Of course, only a small percentage of the more than 815,000 licensed physicians in the U.S. is disciplined every year. State boards take fewer than three serious actions for every 1,000 physicians, a statistic Public Citizen says is kept low by the fact that doctors are disciplining doctors.

In any case, patient advocates say your best bet for rooting out doctors with a checkered past is to do your own digging into their histories. And dig you must.

No federal database tracking physician licensing and disciplinary records is available to the public for free.

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