The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Can a negligence claim jeopardize your medical license?

A recent story illustrates just how much is at stake when an individual has to defend against a negligence claim, and possibly his or her professional license. 

The article profiled a former doctor who lost his medical license after he was charged for seven counts of involuntary manslaugther. The charges related to alleged prescription medication errors that left several of the doctor’s patients dead. Prosecutors claimed the doctor had recklessly prescribed the medication.  

Ultimately, the jury in the criminal case acquitted the former doctor. Yet that win in the courtroom did not carry over into the world of medical licensing. Surviving family members of the victims have filed civil lawsuits seeking compensation from the former doctor, and he can no longer practice medicine.

The death of a patient is a tragic event, but is a jury adequately equipped to determine if a doctor’s level of care fell below a professional standard? In this particular instance, one of the former doctor’s patients overdosed on heroin and another drug, neither of which the former doctor had prescribed to him. Yet prosecutors claimed the doctor should have seen signs that the patient was abusing other drugs, and/or taken standard precautions for that possibility.

Fortunately, there is generally an administrative step in a professional license investigation. In Pennsylvania, a complaint filed with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs starts the process. However, even administrative proceedings should be handled with care. Although an investigator’s questions may seem casual, the stakes are too high to answer without first consulting with an attorney. It is a professional’s right to decline to answer an investigator’s questions outside the presence of his or her attorney. 

Source: The Des Moines Register, “How shop full of used bicycles saved disgraced doctor,” Mike Kilen, March 4 2016

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