The Times podcast: What does it take for a doctor to lose their license?

A seated woman with one leg
Tammy Martinez says her surgeon botched an operation, causing her leg to need amputation.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The Medical Board of California was established to protect patients by licensing doctors and investigating complaints when things go wrong.


But even when it accuses a doctor of causing patients to lose limbs, become paralyzed or die, the board often lets the doctor continue to practice. There’s no limit on the number of times the board can put a doctor on probation.

Today we speak with L.A. Times investigative reporter Jack Dolan. He, along with our colleague Kim Christensen, looked into how and why the medical board rarely takes away doctors’ licenses and has long pushed back against calls to toughen its approach. We’ll also hear from people who were operated on by California doctors who were on probation and woke up from their surgeries worse off than they were before.

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guests: L.A. Times investigative reporter Jack Dolan and former spinal surgery patient Lenora Lewis

More reading:

Botched surgeries and death: How the California Medical Board keeps negligent doctors in business

Critics say physicians ‘cartel’ obstructing efforts to punish bad doctors


Finding information about your doctor isn’t always easy. Here are some ways to dig deeper

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producer Denise Guerra and producers Shannon Lin, Marina Peña and Melissa Kaplan. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Shani O. Hilton. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our intern is Ashlea Brown. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.