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Doctors Behaving Badly: Kansas medical board hides misdeeds from public scrutiny

Doctors Behaving Badly: Kansas medical board hides misdeeds from public scrutiny

The Kansas Board of Healing Arts has an interesting approach to public disclosure. The board tells you what, if anything, it did to discipline a doctor, but it refuses to tell you why.

How a doctor harmed patients, what types of drugs a doctor may have been taking while performing surgeries, whether a doctor had a long history of dangerous practices. These are considered secrets best kept among the professionals.

Take Dr. Christopher Ceman of Phillipsburg, Kansas.

Phillips County Hospital took the rare step of firing Ceman, according to board documents.

How rare?

Public Citizen reported last year that 69% of the 150 hospitals in Kansas have never reported any sort of disciplinary action to the National Practitioner Data Bank. And, the Phillips County Health System only has one full-time doctor on staff. The rest are visiting specialists.

The Kansas board reported that "on or about January 2006, Phillips County Hospital dismissed [Ceman] from their employment. (confidential) (confidential)"

The words in parentheses are part of the disciplinary record for Ceman. And they appear repeatedly in documents related to Ceman and to other doctors given slaps on the wrist by the board. Remember Dr. Christie Mensch, the doctor with the meth addiction? The Kansas Board did not even do citizens the courtesy of explaining fully what Mensch did to deserve probation, even when it was relying on discipline taken in other states against Mensch.

In 2010, after multiple hearings and meetings, Ceman was given a public censure for whatever happened at Phillips County Hospital. For discipline to be a deterrent, both the crime and the punishment need to be made clear. Instead, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts is sending this message to physicians who break ethical or legal boundaries: your secrets are safe with us.

Final question: Why did it take the board three years to take any action against Ceman? Wouldn't a full disclosure of the chain of events that led to his censure allow patients and Kansas taxpayers to have a better accounting of how well the board is doing its job?

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