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What physicians should know about allegations of misconduct -- II

In our previous post, we started discussing how complaints alleging misconduct by licensed physicians are managed by the New York State Health Department's Office of Professional Medical Conduct and the Board of Professional Medical Conduct.

Our reason in doing this was to help physicians, who have invested so much time, money and energy into not just building their careers, but helping others, understand a process that can seem both arcane and altogether frightening.   

We'll continue these efforts in today's post, examining what happens when the investigation committee recommends summary suspension, dismissal or a hearing.

Summary suspension

As we stated last time, it's entirely possible that the investigation committee will determine that the physician poses an imminent risk to the health and safety of the public, and recommend immediate license suspension by the state health commissioner.  

If this happens, charges (non-criminal in nature) will be filed against the physician and a hearing scheduled to determine what penalties should be taken.

Dismissal

Should the investigation committee determine that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of misconduct, the investigation will end and the case will be closed. However, the OPMC will maintain a record of the investigation for reference in the event of another complaint.

Hearing

If the investigation committee refers the matter to a hearing, it will be presided over by a different committee of the medical board comprised again of two physicians and a layperson.

Here, the state and the physician, both of whom are typically represented by counsel, will be given an opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence for the committee to consider. It should be noted, however, that not only do the physicians named in the complaint typically testify at these hearings, but that an adverse inference can be drawn if they decline to do so.

Once the hearing is completed, the committee will make its decision and determine what disciplinary action should be taken.

Should the decision be contrary to the interests of the physician, they have the option of appealing to an Administrative Review Board whose members include three physicians and two laypeople.

What all of this serves to underscore is that physicians who are named in written complaints alleging misconduct must seriously consider meeting with a skilled legal professional who can answer their questions, explain the law, outline their options and protect their livelihood as soon as possible. 

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