The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Is a physician’s license analogous to a property right?

Physicians must be licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania. Licensure reflects the successful culmination of years of schooling, training and compliance with state laws and regulations governing licensure. Physicians have an understandable investment in their medical license.

Given that investment of time and effort, it’s not surprising that courts characterize a medical license as a property right. Like other types of property, a medical license cannot be suspended or revoked without due process, which usually means notice and a hearing. In Pennsylvania, the Department of State's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) administratively oversees the State Board of Medicine, which is the licensing board for medical doctors and physician assistants.

Although medical malpractice lawsuits seem to be a common media topic, it is important to remember that not every type of negative allegation or unfavorable review might place a physician’s license in jeopardy. According to the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website, the authority to investigate alleged complaints against physicians is statutorily defined.

There are specific offenses for which a licensing board may discipline a licensed physician. Allegations that don’t fit within that statutory enumeration of offenses are generally considered outside of the licensing board’s jurisdiction. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of State will receive complaints regarding allegations that a physician’s services fell below the acceptable standard of care. However, the Department will not get involved in disputes over billing or money.

If the Department chooses to prosecute a case, the individual that filed the complaint may have to attend the formal hearing and testify. The outcome of that hearing may result in a license suspension or revocation. A disciplinary action against a physician is also generally reported to a national clearinghouse. However, the Department is not a court of law, so its authority is limited to licensing matters. Criminal sentences or monetary restitution are remedies that only a court of law can order.

Source: “File a Complaint,” copyright 2016, Pennsylvania Department of State

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