FAQs and Defense Strategies for Medical Board Investigations
It takes a long time for physicians to get their medical licenses. But it only takes a single medical board investigation for them to lose it. Whether you have received an official administrative complaint from your state’s Board of Medicine or licensing board for an alleged violation of the code of conduct or a breach of the standard of care, you are likely to have serious and pressing questions about the process, your rights, and the potential avenues of defense.
3 Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Board Investigations
1. Does the Board Have a Strong Case Against Me?
It can be hard to tell from the administrative complaint, alone, and the context is not always much help. However, the best thing to do is to treat every state Medical Board investigation as a very serious case that is beatable. By being proactive and vigorously raising all of your rights and defenses, you can protect your medical license from a costly suspension or revocation.
Generally if the claim against you is frivolous, your state Medical Boards will not file the complaint. The complaint is not the first step in the investigation, so if the case has gotten this far, then there is almost always something to back it up. This means that it is always something to be taken seriously. However, there is no reason to lose hope. The investigation process is not a mere formality. The Board still has a high legal standard to meet to strip you of your medical license. By invoking your rights to a hearing, you can put their evidence and arguments to the test and see if they withstand your challenge. In many cases, they do not.
2. Do I Have a Right to a Hearing?
Yes. However, you have to invoke that right and demand a hearing. If you do not, none will be scheduled for you.
Your right to a hearing comes from the fact that your medical license is a “property interest” that triggers your Due Process rights under the U.S. Constitution. While the hearing does not need to be an extremely formal one in a courtroom, you are entitled to a procedure that allows you to defend yourself and present your side of the case before a neutral and unbiased hearing panel.
3. Are All Hearings the Same?
No. You have the right to choose between an informal hearing and a formal one.
An informal hearing is one adjudicated by the Medical Board’s own staff. However, this hearing panel is not responsible for determining what happened. Instead, it is generally for cases where there are no factual disputes and the only issue is the severity of the sanctions.
A formal hearing is one held before an administrative law judge. It is similar to a trial in a courtroom but without most of the formalities. For example, it can happen in a typical meeting room. During the formal hearing, the investigators will present their case, and then you will have the opportunity to rebut their evidence with your side of the story. The administrative law judge will then decide what happened based on the evidence and issue a recommendation to the Board of Medicine. You have the opportunity to file exceptions to the recommendation before the Board makes a final decision, and have the right to appeal the Board’s eventual decision to a federal district court.
Strong Defense Strategies for Medical Board Investigations
Every situation is unique. The context in which the investigation was initiated can alter how to best respond, as can your interests. The best way to determine which defense strategy is going to work for your situation is to hire a qualified legal counsel or a medical board defense lawyer, establish a good attorney-client relationship, and thoroughly discuss your case.
1. Give the Investigation and Your Defense Your Full Attention
Lots of licensed medical professionals who get notified of a Medical Board investigation or who receive an administrative complaint put it off or try to handle it on their own while still spending most of their time and attention on their daily business. This is a huge mistake because these investigations can ruin your business by stripping you of your license. If you are not careful, by focusing on your business now, you can lose it later.
From a practical standpoint, this means getting legal representation from a medical board defense lawyer or a professional license defense attorney as soon as possible and complying with any deadlines in the medical board complaint. It also means taking action: The complaint will not go away on its own, no matter how obvious you think it misrepresents the truth.
2. Do Not Forget That the Investigator is Not On Your Side
In many Medical Board investigations, the investigator is cordial or even friendly to you. He or she may seem sympathetic and willing to take your side.
It is almost always just a tactic used to get you to let your guard down and talk more freely about what happened and admit to something incriminating.
You should always remember that the investigator is going to take your statements in the worst possible light and will use anything that you say against you during the medical board investigation.
3. Invoke Your Right to a Hearing
When you have a property interest at stake like your medical license, you have a due process right to adequate notice and to a hearing before it can be suspended or revoked. However, just because you have the right does not mean that the hearing will automatically be scheduled for you. You have to invoke that right to get the opportunity to defend yourself against the allegations being put against you.