California NPs' suit over use of 'doctor' title faces opposition

Licensed allopathic and osteopathic physicians in California are the only individuals who should be allowed to use the title "Dr.," according to the California Medical Association and the American Medical Association. The two groups filed an amicus brief Sept.6 in defense of an 86-year-old state law protecting just that, according to a news release. 

"[The] courts have consistently relied upon a readily discernible goal of the Legislature to prevent confusion and potential harm to members of the public who may be misled into believing they are dealing with physicians whenever those terms are used by non-physicians,” the jointly filed brief states. "The original purpose of [this law] remains as relevant and vital today as in 1937 when [it] was enacted."

The amicus brief's filing comes a little more than one month after California nurse practitioners filed a lawsuit against the state's restrictions on the title in July. 

The move to ban nurse practitioners and physician assistants from using that title has been met with strong opposition from groups like the AANP. In a previous interview, April Kapu, DNP, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, told Becker's she agrees patients have the right to know who is providing care, but also stated that not allowing these trained professionals to use that title is also "anticompetitive and punitive measures that unnecessarily prohibit nurses and other health professionals from accurately communicating their education, licensure and certifications to patients and the public."

However, the California Medical Association and AMA assert that the risk of adding to public confusion in an already complex healthcare system would further exacerbate existing issues.

"While the laws delineating who can use the term 'doctor' have been on the books for decades, the public's understanding of the physician-patient relationship goes back much further than that," CMA President Donaldo Hernandez, MD, said in a news release. "Patients understand and have long-standing expectations of who they are talking to when they're speaking to their doctor. By ignoring that precedent, we risk deceiving or confusing our patients."

Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars