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New York might scrap doctor malpractice information website

Threatening public access to physician credentials and malpractice records, the current budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo cuts funding for the New York State Physician Profile website. Originally created by legislation in 2000 and run by the Health Department, the online database allows free access to information about doctors in the state. Details like hospital affiliations, background information, professional misconduct, and legal malpractice actions are available at the website.

The current cost of running the website is $1.2 million a year. The website has been known to attract over 30,000 visits in a month as people look up information about doctors. Consumer advocates consider this publicly funded resource critical to helping people perform due diligence on doctors that may be treating them or loved ones.

A Health Department representative said that the information its website provides can be found elsewhere on the internet. However, the data is not always free to the public, said a spokesperson for New York Public Interest Research Group, who added that the website is more reliable.

Grassroots efforts led to the creation of the New York State Physician Profile after a Long Island woman lost her 3-year-old son during routine surgery. The website was meant to give people a way to learn if a doctor had been disciplined or sued before.

If a doctor harms a patient through negligence, he or she has the option of launching a medical malpractice lawsuit. The purpose of the suit is generally to receive compensation for pain and suffering and medical expenses. Proving negligence on the part of the doctor is an important factor. An attorney may be able to identify potentially important evidence in medical records and in the doctor's background that support a charge of negligence.

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