A hard fact of life is that anxiety makes some people extremely litigious. Like money, health issues can produce a good deal of anxiety and, accordingly, an abundance of lawsuits. Many such actions are content to simply collect from a physician’s malpractice insurance. Others, however, can threaten a doctor’s very right to practice medicine, affecting livelihood, family and future. Given the years of painstaking diligence required to attain a medical license, loss of the same because of a single episode or event can be a devastating blow. At the same time, it need not be a foregone conclusion.
Ultimately, the maintenance of a physician’s license rests with the state board of medical examiners, the body that issued the credential in the first place. In Florida, for example, this body is part of the Department of Health; in New Jersey, the Department of Consumer Affairs. Regardless of its position within a bureaucracy, this panel is responsible for issuing, renewing, suspending and, in some cases, revoking licenses for doctors and other health care professionals. If a physician is subject to a disciplinary hearing, he or she should secure the services of an attorney experienced and familiar with the workings and processes of this board.
Reasons for Disciplinary Action
Complaints against doctors can come from myriad sources: hospitals, insurance companies, patients or other physicians, to name a few. They can impugn a doctor’s competence or character…sometimes both. For instance, impairment due to the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered an offense worthy of license suspension. Likewise, sexual misconduct or inappropriate treatment will often bring about complaints against a practitioner.
Faulty administration of anesthesia; improper authorization of prescriptions; and practicing with a suspended license can all incur professional penalties. Misrepresentation in billing, in the same way, is considered a form of fraud. Of course, flagrant violation of the law, e.g. assisting suicide in a state where it is forbidden, will doubtless throw a medical license into jeopardy. Sometimes, in fact, the mere accusation is sufficient for a hearing.
What to Do When Your License Is Threatened
A doctor’s first recourse when accusations are leveled should be to retain competent counsel. This goes beyond an attorney who is simply bar-certified. In such dire straits, a beleaguered physician needs a lawyer who is well-versed in health care law and experienced in advocating before the medical examiners. Professional licensure boards and administrative judges operate differently than do courts of law. Accordingly, the lawyer of choice can best protect a doctor’s interest when he or she is grounded in how investigations are conducted, what documents are needed and which complaints to take the most seriously.
The Best Attorney Available
When in need of a license defense attorney, physicians are well advised to balance technical legal knowledge with experience and empathy. Intellect and instinct are both required for this crucial assignment so a careful search benefits a doctor under professional fire.