As a patient safety activist, I read the Journal of the American Medical Association to remain informed about medical doctors’ thinking on improving patient safety. In the September 15, 2010 issue of JAMA I noticed a “JAMA Patient Page” called “Medical Licensure.” These pages are intended for physicians to copy and hand out to their patients. Typically these pages deal with a disease condition, but this one seemed to be targeted to reinforcing a patient’s confidence in his physician’s knowledge and purity. I was surprised that physicians felt the need to bolster their esteem in the eyes of their patients. As I read this page I discovered several factual errors, which I reported to the journal editor. He acknowledged that my comments would be considered and corrections made.

In the section called “Keeping a Medical License” I noted three false statements: “1) the physician must not have committed any crime, and 2) the physician must not have an alcohol or substance abuse problem, and 3) every state in the United States has CME requirements for physicians, including formal course work and more informal self-study.” I was amazed that the authors of this page (two MDs) did not know better when they wrote it.

Below is the response of the JAMA as posted on its website:

There one can also find a corrected version of the revised patient page:

Based on my careful search of JAMA hard copies, I’m a little disappointed that a revised page has not been published in the print version of this highly regarded journal, but at least there was an on-line correction for which I am grateful. The public generally holds physicians in high esteem; however, people must understand that once a physician is licensed, he can get away with some behaviors that place patients at higher risk of a medical harm.

Guest blog post by John James, founder of Patient Safety America