The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Are doctors held to ethical standards even when off duty?

A recent consent agreement executed by a neighboring state’s medical board has resulted in the suspension of a family medicine doctor’s license. The agreement was based, in part, on the doctor’s admission that he had entered into sexual relations with a female patient.

The doctor also admitted to violating certain state laws regarding how he prescribed controlled medications. Specifically, the doctor failed to track the prescriptions of two patients over a three year period with the state’s Automated RX Reporting System.

Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, the doctor’s suspension will be for two years. At the end of that period, the doctor must reapply for his license. The reapplication is contingent upon the doctor’s successful completion of two ethics courses on prescribing controlled substances and physician-patient boundaries.

There are certain procedural avenues the doctor could still pursue, including requesting an administrative hearing with the medical board and appealing the license suspension in court. However, the doctor’s admissions may indicate that he opted for the consent agreement as a tactical move, possibly to avoid more severe consequences.

In this case, the investigation into the doctor’s conduct apparently began a year earlier. The extent of evidence that may have been uncovered by the investigation is unclear, although it presumably included the prescription drug database.

The story is an important reminder of two realities in modern health care. First, electronic records might be used against a health care professional. Second, an ethical investigation launched by a medical board might begin months in advance, perhaps without the professional’s knowledge. Before chatting with an investigator, our law firm recommends consulting with an attorney that has experience in professional license defense.

Source: WHIO, “YEAR-LONG INVESTIGATION: Local doctor suspended for sexual misconduct,” Randy Tucker, Dec. 30, 2016

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