A Physician Sues His Former Hospital for Libel

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

As a physician, your job is already stressful enough. If you get accused of misconduct or run into professional issues that may jeopardize your employment or license, it can be downright overwhelming. If your medical license is threatened, you should act right away.

A Physician Is Suing His Hospital for Libel

A gynecologic oncologist, Dr. David John Hetzel, filed a lawsuit against his former hospital for libel, arguing that a report produced by the hospital has prevented him from obtaining other employment opportunities. Dr. Hetzel performed surgery on March 2, 2020, that had complications and forced him to involve another surgeon in the operation. The patient ended up having to have their colon and small bowel removed and had high blood loss.

Dr. Hetzel's hospital, Mission Hospital, put him on precautionary suspension and cited this surgery and two others as the reason. Mission Hospital did a formal investigation and also submitted a report about Dr. Hetzel to the National Practitioner's Databank operated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The databank is used for hiring, licensing, and credentialing.

The Mission Hospital investigation concluded that Dr. Hetzel did nothing wrong—but his name wasn't exactly cleared. The National Practitioner's Databank report is still out there. Dr. Hetzel argues that because of it, he's been unable to find another job. He says that it's libel, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, interference with prospective economic advantage, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

What to Do If Your Hospital Reports You

Although Dr. Hetzel didn't lose his medical license and his former hospital found no wrongdoing on his part, he's still faced significant consequences. Due to the report, his hospital filed in a national database; potential employers aren't giving him a second look. All they need to see is his name in the National Practitioner's Databank, and they rule him out for a position. There's no easy way to have the report removed from the databank, either.

If your hospital or employer puts you in a similar situation, you have options. You don't have to just sit back and take it—but you may not necessarily have to file a lawsuit as Dr. Hetzel did. You may be able to negotiate with hospital administrators or find another solution that doesn't involve going to court. As soon as you learn about a report or complaint filed against you for any reason, with any database or licensure board, you should take action:

  • Ask for as much information as possible as soon as you can so you know what you're dealing with.
  • Start gathering documents and evidence relevant to the complaint. Try to write down as much as you can remember about the relevant incident.
  • Contact the team of Professional License Defense attorneys at the LLF Law Firm.

Our Firm Can Help

The LLF Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has helped medical professionals all over the country with licensing issues, libel, and other professional problems. If you are involved in a similar incident as Dr. Hetzel, we can help. Call 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience fighting for the futures of his professional clients nationwide. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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