We are back to our discussion of the difference between unprofessional conduct and Unprofessional Conduct. As we said in our Nov. 11 post, the first is loosely defined as, "You probably shouldn't have done that." The second is defined by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine.
Specifically, the board has a list of infractions that qualify as unprofessional conduct by physicians. Should the board find that a practitioner has acted in such a manner, the physician could lose his license for a while or forever. The list is not exhaustive. Our goal is to highlight some of the less obvious ways doctors and surgeons can risk losing their licenses.
For example, it is not just a pattern of negligence or "reckless indifference to the interests of a patient" that can put a license at risk. There may be multiple instances, but there could also be just one, and that would be enough for the board.
The board is not contemplating medical mistakes here. Someone acts with reckless indifference if he knows what he should be doing but chooses another avenue, fully aware that what he is doing is not in the best interest of the patient. A surgeon, for example, could skip a bit of protocol -- say, not count sponges to make sure nothing was left in the patient -- if he were in a hurry to get to a party.
Another rule: Doctors should not use or offer to use "a secret method" to treat a disease. It is a violation to use any method of treatment -- be it an invasive or noninvasive procedure or even pharmaceutical -- that the physician refuses to tell the board about, should the board ask. The idea is more than "Don't ask; don't tell." This rule is a response to snake oil merchants.
We'll share an example in our next post.
Source: Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, Medical Disciplinary Process and Procedures, § 16.61. Unprofessional and immoral conduct, accessed Nov. 6, 2014