The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Could a discretionary surgery endanger a doctor's license?

A medical professional’s license might be challenged when surgical procedures or treatments go awry. For example, if a patient’s injury leads to a lawsuit, that filing might be made in conjunction with a complaint lodged with the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine or the State Board of Nursing. 

According to a recent article, a professional might also face tough questions from the applicable licensing board regarding the necessity of a surgery in the first place. For example, the article profiled spinal fusion surgery, which four clinical trials in 2000 concluded was not more effective than nonsurgical, alternative treatments. Yet the rates of this surgery increased steadily after 2000, slowing only when several insurance providers stopped covering the surgery in 2012.

Some commentators question whether doctors should even offer patients the option of a surgery that has not been shown in clinical trials to offer benefits beyond non-surgical alternatives. Are surgical procedures under-regulated? Officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require prescription drugs to go through trials that prove their safety and effectiveness. However, the FDA does not regulate surgical procedures. That decision seems to be left to the discretion of doctors and to the patients’ own choice.

Could an unnecessary surgery result in a medical doctor’s license suspension or revocation? If a patient made an informed choice, this outcome seems unlikely. However, our law firm recommends that anyone who holds an occupational or professional license consult with an attorney before answering any questions from an investigator. This is a best practice, and should be applied even when an individual believes that he or she did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide.

Source: The New York Times, “Why ‘Useless’ Surgery Is Still Popular,” Gina Kolata, Aug. 3, 2016

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