Maryland Medical License Defense Lawyer Handling Licensure Matters and Disciplinary Actions Before the Maryland Board of Physicians
Since the earliest days of statehood, Maryland has strictly regulated the professional practice of medicine. This regulation extends not just to traditional physicians but also to a wide range of “allied health professionals.” If you are subject to licensure in Maryland, it is critical that you adhere to all applicable state laws and regulations, otherwise your ability to practice may be in jeopardy. If your license is in jeopardy, it is crucial to speak with an experienced Maryland medical license defense lawyer as soon as possible.
So, while it is rare for a physician or allied health professional to lose his or her license in a disciplinary proceeding, it is still a very real possibility. Even a lesser sanction can permanently affect a person’s reputation and employment.
At The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., our experienced team of medical license lawyers assists all types of medical professionals in dealing with the Maryland Board of Physicians. Whether you have been denied an initial license or are facing disciplinary action that may result in suspension or revocation of an existing license, we can walk you through the legal process of challenging the Board’s decision. Our goal is to ensure that the Board and other state agencies respect your due process rights and do not unfairly deprive you of your ability to earn a living and serve your patients.
Who Needs to be Licensed by the Board of Physicians?
All physicians must be licensed before practicing in Maryland. If you currently have an active, unrestricted license issued by another state, you may qualify for an expedited “initial licensure by reciprocity,” a policy that took effect in Maryland during 2017. Otherwise you will need to go through the more formal licensing process. According to the Maryland Board of Physicians, a qualified applicant can normally expect a license “within 10 days of receipt of the last qualifying document.”
In addition to meeting the basic educational requirements–an M.D. or D.O. from an accredited medical school–and passing a licensing exam, new applicants must also be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal history records check. Even after complying with all of these requirements, the Board still has the discretion to deny a license if it finds the applicant previously engaged in unethical conduct or lacks “good moral character.” For example, if a license applicant committed malpractice or engaged in misconduct with a patient during his or her medical residency, that would be grounds for denying a license.
In addition to traditional physicians, the Board also has jurisdiction over the following groups of allied health professionals:
- Athletic Trainers: An individual who provides clinical evaluation, assessment, and emergency care to athletes, as well as offering education and assistance to help minimizing the risk of injury to athletes in general.
- Naturopathic Doctors: An individual who provides “therapeutic care,” including “hot or cold hydrotherapy,” as well as “administer natural medicines through transdermal administration,” or provide certain diagnostic services such as phlebotomy, electrocardiograms, and physiological function tests.
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists: An individual who assists physicians by preparing and administering certain kinds of radioactive drugs used for medical imaging tests and therapy.
- Perfusionists: Individuals who work as part of a cardiothoracic (heart and lung) surgical team to operate a bypass machine.
- Physician Assistants: An individual who is trained in general medicine and can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medicine to a patient under the supervision of a licensed physician.
- Polysomnographers: An individual who assists licensed physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related disorders.
- Radiation Therapists: An individual who administers radiation treatments to patients with cancer and similar diseases.
- Radiographers: Sometimes referred to, inaccurately, as “X-ray technicians,” these are individuals who operate a wide range of various diagnostic equipment used to produce not only X-rays, but also computed technology (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
- Radiologist Assistants: An individual who assists a licensed radiologist in assessing patients and performing radiological procedures.
- Respiratory Care Practitioners: An individual who usually works in an intensive care unit (ICU), operating room, or home health care environment to assist patients with pulmonary disease.
Each of these allied health professions have their own training, licensing, and ethical standards. If you have any questions about the laws and regulations applicable to your particular field, it is a good idea to speak with a medical license defense lawyer. The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C. can advise you on whether you may run into trouble with the Maryland Board of Physicians with respect to a licensing issue and advise you on the appropriate steps to take.
When can the Board of Physicians Open a Formal Investigation of My License or License Application?
The Maryland Board of Physicians actively supervises all licensees to ensure their ongoing compliance with state law. Any individual, including a patient, may file a complaint with the Board against a licensed physician. The Board is responsible for investigating such complaints, and, if necessary, taking disciplinary action against the physician or allied health professional.
It is important to understand that most complaints do not lead to any formal action by the Board. Patients often complain to the Board over minor issues regarding their care–e.g., they had to wait too long to see the doctor, they were “overcharged” for a test, et cetera. In these situations, the Board may simply ask the physician to provide copies of the medical records to help clarify the patient’s concerns.
Matters That Require the Help of a Maryland Medical License Defense Lawyer
Unfortunately, there are more serious allegations that require a detailed investigation by the Board. Some of the more common issues we see include:
- Practicing without a license or employing an unlicensed person in a professional capacity;
- Failing to meet continuing medical education (CME) requirements as a condition of license renewal;
- Engaging in “unprofessional conduct” while practicing medicine;
- Demonstrating physical or mental incompetence;
- Failing to keep proper medical records, intentionally falsifying a medical record, or failing to provide lawfully requested medical records to another physician or health care provider;
- Malpractice, i.e. providing “substandard care” in violation of accepted professional norms, as determined by “appropriate peer review”;
- Having sexual or other inappropriate contact with a patient;
- Personal abuse of alcohol or drugs, or prescribing any controlled substance for non-medical reasons;
- Intentional billing for medical services that were never provided, or accepting payment for patient referrals; and
- Conviction of any crime, whether or not it directly involves the license holder’s professional practice.
The Board employs its own staff to conduct investigations of any serious allegation of misconduct. If, based on this investigation, the Board feels it has a “reasonable basis” to find a physician or allied health professional has violated the applicable licensing laws, a formal charge is then brought. The accused then has the right to an administrative hearing.
An administrative hearing is similar to a civil trial in Circuit Court, except that an administrative law judge (ALJ) employed by the state oversees the proceedings. The critical difference is that the ALJ’s decision is subject to final review and approval by the Board itself. In other words, even if the ALJ concludes you did nothing wrong, the Board can, in theory, reverse that finding and suspend your license anyway. However, you may seek judicial review of an adverse final decision by the Board to a Maryland circuit court, and possibly the Court of Appeals or the Court of Special Appeals.
Even when the Board of Physicians determines that a doctor or allied health professional has committed a serious infraction, that does not necessarily mean that his or her license will be revoked or even suspended. The Board has broad discretion to fashion a remedy, including placing a private letter of reprimand in the licensee’s file, or imposing probationary terms and conditions on the practitioner’s license. In fact, according to the most recent annual report from the Board, only 49 complaints resolved during the 2017 fiscal year resulted in a “total loss of license,” while only about 250 cases involved any formal disciplinary action.
So, while it is rare for a physician or allied health professional to lose his or her license in a disciplinary proceeding, it is still a very real possibility. Even a lesser sanction can permanently affect a person’s reputation and employment. That is why it is critical to take any complaint regarding professional misconduct seriously.
Common Issues Leading to Medical License Suspension (or Revocation)
While there are numerous issues that can lead to discipline for doctors and other licensed medical professionals, suspensions (and revocations) are relatively rare. Nonetheless, they do happen, and certain types of allegations can present a higher risk of losing your ability to practice. Some examples of these allegations include:
Diverting prescription medications for patients, friends, family members or personal use is an extremely serious matter. If you are found to have stolen medications, stolen a prescription pad or written prescriptions for medications that were not medically necessary, this could potentially lead to suspension or revocation of your medical license.
Facing a Criminal Charge or Conviction
Facing a criminal charge or getting convicted of a crime can also lead to suspension or revocation of your medical license. Different medical boards have different rules and standards; but, generally speaking, charges for both misdemeanor and felony-level offenses have the potential to put your ability to practice in jeopardy.
Facing a DUI Charge or Conviction
In some jurisdictions, driving under the influence (DUI) is classified as a traffic offense rather than a crime. However, getting a DUI (or even getting charged with drunk driving) can still put your medical license at risk.
Testing Positive for Alcohol or Drugs
Testing positive for alcohol or drugs in the workplace can lead to significant disciplinary action as well. In fact, in some cases, it can lead to automatic suspension of your license to practice medicine. Treating patients while under the influence of alcohol, illicit drugs or judgment-impairing medications can be extremely dangerous—and medical licensing boards treat it accordingly.
Suspension vs. Revocation: What’s the Difference?
When discussing potential disciplinary action in medical licensing board proceedings, it is worth clarifying the difference between suspension and revocation. In short, a suspension results in temporary loss of your ability to practice medicine, while a revocation is, generally, permanent.
However, as a practical matter, even a temporary license suspension can have permanent implications for your medical career. Prospective employers will take your suspension into account when comparing you to other candidates, and some facilities and providers may not even consider your application if you have a prior license suspension on your record.
What If I Know I Violated My Professional Obligations?
Some of our clients come to us knowing that they have violated their professional obligations. They feel remorse, and they are prepared to accept the consequences of their mistake. So, if you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone.
However, this does not mean that you should simply let the disciplinary process run its course. Many forms of professional misconduct can carry a wide range of sanctions depending on the severity of the misconduct and the specific circumstances involved. Additionally, in many cases, doctors and other medical professionals will have procedural defenses unrelated to the substantive merits of their case. As a result, regardless of the circumstances at hand, you owe it to yourself to consult with an experienced physician license defense lawyer regarding the options you have available.
Our Experienced Maryland Medical License Defense Lawyer Can Help You – Call Today for a Consultation
If you have been notified of a complaint made against you with the Maryland Board of Physicians or the Board has denied your initial application for a license, the first thing you need to do is contact a qualified Maryland medical license lawyer. Just as your patients trust you to provide specialized care in your field of expertise, you can trust attorney Jamaal (“Jay”) W. Stafford and his qualified legal team to provide you with first-rate representation in your licensing matter. Remember, as with any legal proceeding, you have the right to the assistance of counsel during any administrative hearing that affects your rights.
Regardless of the accusations against you, The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., will fight to ensure the Maryland Board of Physicians treats you fairly and in accordance with the law. A complaint does not mean the end of your career. Call us today at 410-514-6099 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation. An experienced Maryland license defense attorney will sit down with you and discuss your particular licensing situation and will help you determine the appropriate response.