The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

I'm being sued for medical malpractice. Could I lose my license?

Generally, no. Medical malpractice litigation and actions against a physician's license are, for the most part, not related.

In a malpractice lawsuit, the court is asked to decide if the doctor was negligent, if his actions and treatment decisions fell below the accepted standard of care and resulted in harm to the patient. The court will then determine whether damages are appropriate; a damage award may include compensatory damages, non-economic damages, punitive damages or any combination of the three.

Even if the court decides the physician was negligent, though, the verdict will not automatically affect his license to practice. Licensure is not handled by the courts. The courts do not determine if a candidate has met the requirements to be licensed; the state medical board does that. And, what the courts do not give they cannot take away.

While complaints about a physician's skills go through the court system, complaints about a physician's conduct go through the Secretary of State's Professional Compliance Office and the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine. The investigator is looking for evidence of the physician's unprofessional and immoral conduct. If the scale tips toward a breach of a standard of professional conduct, the medical board will determine what kind of discipline is appropriate.

Discipline in this case, however, does not involve damages paid to the complainant. The discipline is against the doctor's license. If the violation is serious enough, the board may suspend or revoke the practitioner's license.

What kinds of things constitute unprofessional conduct? We'll explain that in our next post.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of State, Licensing, "How complaints are handled: Facts you should know when submitting a complaint," accessed online on Oct. 24, 2014

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