How the Lento Law Firm Can Help You Protect Your Physician License
Are you a healing professional in Alaska worried about license revocation or suspension? If your professional license is in jeopardy, you are most likely concerned about what's to come and how you can protect your career. At the Lento Law Firm, we know you deserve the best possible defense. We know what it takes to protect professional licenses and reputations, and we can help you mitigate disciplinary action or have the allegations dismissed entirely.
If you're unsure where to turn when your physician's license is under threat, look no further than the Lento Law Firm. Our Professional License Defense Team represents physicians and other healthcare workers across the nation, and we can help you today. Call on 888.535.3686 or complete the online contact form to schedule a case evaluation.
Your Medical License Is Priceless
The importance of your medical license cannot be overstated. This license is proof that you have the skill, experience, and competency to practice medicine and the drive to keep the public healthy and safe. You are part of one of the world's most highly regarded professions – this is a membership you should fiercely protect.
When you chose a career in medicine, chances are you did not expect to ever face a formal complaint or allegation. However, the reality is that even the slightest miscommunication or misunderstanding can lead to Board action. With your license comes great responsibility, and undoubtedly, mistakes sometimes happen. No matter the circumstances, you deserve the opportunity to protect your license and your livelihood. Not everyone can become a physician – your license is not something to discard lightly. Remember this, and you will be capable of withstanding any Board investigation.
Alaska State Medical Board
In Alaska, the Alaska State Medical Board has jurisdiction over physician licensure matters. The Board exists to protect public health, enforce medical rules and regulations, and conduct disciplinary action against physicians deemed to have fallen short of what's required of them.
The Board derives its authority from Title 12 of Alaska's Administrative Code. It can take action against physicians who violate laws such as the Rules of Professional Conduct or any other applicable codes. Given its role in protecting public safety, the Board takes all accusations against physicians seriously, which means you must treat your defense strategy with equal respect and care.
Allegations Which Could Threaten Your Physician License in Alaska
Any allegation could jeopardize your physician's license. However, under the Alaska Code, physicians can be disciplined for “unprofessional conduct”. Conduct that may lead to license revocation or suspension includes, but is not limited to:
- Submitting false information to the Board in the knowledge that it's false or misleading.
- Drug or substance abuse.
- Failing to maintain accurate patient records or intentionally making incorrect entries.
- Breaching patient confidentiality without legal grounds to do so.
- Discriminating against a patient's characteristics, such as religion or gender, when treating them.
- Conviction of certain felony crimes such as rape or murder.
- Conviction of crimes with an element of moral turpitude, such as indecent exposure.
- Knowingly delegating tasks to individuals who are not qualified to perform them.
- Reckless prescribing of drugs, e.g., prescribing drugs with no consultation and it's not an emergency.
Your license may also be suspended or revoked on “professional incompetence” grounds, meaning conduct which falls below the standard of care generally expected of a licensed physician in the state.
Nature of Alaska State Medical Board Proceedings
Investigations into physician complaints are not civil or criminal matters. They are, instead, administrative matters. Administrative matters are usually handled by state or government agencies, and there's no judge or jury involved. They don't involve attendance at a civil or criminal court, and they don't mean you're facing criminal charges or a lawsuit.
However, just because license matters are administrative does not mean they're less serious. They can severely impact your livelihood and, in the worst cases, prevent you from working as a physician. Given how much is at stake, it's important to know what's involved in Board proceedings and what to expect.
What License Investigations Mean for You
If you're notified of a complaint against you, then you might suspect your license will automatically be suspended or revoked. Fortunately, this is not the case. If the Board deems that a complaint may be valid, they will begin formal investigations to decide whether disciplinary action is appropriate. These actions by the Board do not mean they think you are guilty of any wrongdoing or misconduct. They are simply gathering evidence to get a better understanding of what happened and whether disciplinary measures may be appropriate.
Do not assume that you will be disciplined just because someone makes a complaint or allegation. Complaints are often dismissed prior to any action taking place – sometimes at the very earliest inquiry stages. You should not panic or jump to any conclusion. Instead, you should take the following action.
- Be clear about what happened, and be prepared to tell your side of the story. Very often, informal negotiations, and further explanations, can be enough to close a case.
- Gather any evidence which may be helpful should the case proceed further. Evidence can include, for example, medical records, practice notes, recordings, photographs, and even witness details.
- Retain a license defense attorney. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team may be able to help you avoid formal disciplinary action, or alternatively, we may help mitigate the outcome.
Complaints Against Physicians
Board investigations typically start with a complaint made by a member of the public or another individual. Complaints should be submitted electronically or in writing, and they must include at least some evidence in support of the complainant's position.
Some complaints can be dismissed from the outset; however, in most cases, the Board will conduct at least some preliminary investigations to determine if it's a false or exaggerated claim. These investigations do not mean you're under formal investigation. They're simply designed to help separate truly fabricated or exaggerated claims from those which may be worth considering.
Investigations by the Alaska State Medical Board
When the Alaska State Medical Board receives a complaint, it will consider its merits and either dismiss it outright or begin its investigations. As part of their investigations, the Board will gather evidence to either prove or disprove the allegations. They will interview the physician in question and, potentially, witnesses.
Should the Board believe there's sufficient evidence to proceed further, they will begin a more formal investigation into the complaint. They will determine “whether the allegations, supported by uncontested or sufficient evidence, would warrant proceeding with disciplinary action.” In other words, they will consider if the evidence available suggests that the allegations are founded or substantiated.
If the Board completes its investigations and decides that the allegations are true, it can:
- Negotiate an informal agreement with the physician to resolve the matter; or
- Refer the matter for an administrative hearing.
The consequences of informal agreements and more formal action can be severe. You need legal advice, no matter whether the accusations are unjustified, false, or exaggerated.
If the Board believes there is cause to discipline a physician, they may propose a Consent Agreement rather than a hearing. This is a means of resolving the matter without the formality of an administrative hearing or more complex processes.
To draw up the Consent Agreement, the Board will consider various factors, including:
- The nature of the violation.
- If the physician shows remorse or takes responsibility for their actions.
- The impact of the violation on patient safety and public interest.
- Whether there are mitigating circumstances.
- The intent behind the violation, e.g., whether the physician acted willfully or accidentally.
The Board will also consider what effect or impact the action may have on the physician's practice.
To be clear, Consent Agreements mean accepting disciplinary action. This means accepting the accusations of wrongdoing and the consequences flowing from such. It might be an informal agreement when we compare it to a court settlement, but it's still a disciplinary measure. You should not sign a Consent Agreement without taking legal advice first – it may be possible to have the allegations dismissed entirely rather than accepting a settlement.
Should informal resolutions fail, then the Board may refer the matter to the investigators' counsel. At this stage, the Assistant Attorney General may file charges against the physician. These charges entitle the physician to an administrative hearing held by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
Following the hearing, the OAH recommends what action the Board should take. This can include license suspension or revocation. The Board can choose to accept the recommendations or take its own course of action. In all cases, the Board will issue a formal decision and inform the physician (and their counsel) of the outcome.
In Alaska, administrative hearings against physicians are relatively uncommon. However, you must be prepared to appear at a hearing and present a compelling defense if required. Your license – and livelihood – may depend on it.
Believe in Your License Defense Strategy
Do not feel overwhelmed at the prospect of Board investigations. Although the Board can – and sometimes does – revoke or suspend licenses, they must approach every case with impartiality. They must not take such serious action without considering the facts and the evidence available. That's why your defense strategy matters and why you must have the belief that you can overcome these allegations.
It's often possible to have complaints dismissed before the case becomes a more formal investigation. And even if the Board launches an investigation, most cases can potentially settle informally. Sometimes all that's required is more context, additional evidence, or more information to clear up a simple misunderstanding before it becomes a more significant grievance. But even if the case proceeds to a hearing, having faith in your strategy is critical to getting through this time.
The Lento Law Firm is committed to helping you overcome license disciplinary action. We will ensure that you have complete confidence in your defense strategy at every stage. Retain our Professional License Defense Team today.
License Disciplinary Action Outcomes
The Alaska State Medical Board can impose various penalties on physicians who are subject to license investigations. The outcome will always depend on the facts of the case, but the Board has the power to recommend the following sanctions:
- Civil (financial) penalties
- License suspension
- License revocation
- Formal reprimand
- Restriction of practice
- Mandatory education
Before imposing a penalty, the Board must consider numerous factors, including whether the physician has been cooperative and whether they've been under investigation before. In every case, though, Board disciplinary action can be life-changing for the physician involved. Your best shot at mitigating the consequences is to retain a defense attorney at the earliest opportunity.
Consequences of License Suspension or Revocation
Losing your physician license, even temporarily, is devastating. There are many consequences to consider, and they're not all immediately apparent.
- Your colleagues may treat you differently after an investigation, even if you return to work after a license suspension. And if you return on a restricted license, you may feel alienated from your colleagues or clinical team.
- Relationships with family and friends may change, particularly if you lose your livelihood or because of the restrictions. You may suffer from financial hardship or even lose your home.
- Even if you can return to clinical duties, you may lack confidence in your own abilities. You may be indecisive or overly cautious. A change in the quality of your clinical practice could lead to further complaints.
- License suspension or revocation goes on your professional record. This is a long-term consequence that could jeopardize your career progression opportunities.
Every situation is unique, and there are many other possible consequences to consider. So, even if you can appeal a decision, it's best to avoid the Board revoking or suspending your professional license. This is the most effective way to mitigate the long-term repercussions of a complaint against your practice.
Why Your Side of the Story Matters
Although the Board exists to discipline physicians and enforce conduct standards, the Board members understand that there are two sides to every story. Just because a person makes a complaint against you does not mean the Board agrees with them. They will listen to your side of the story and consider the evidence presented without bias. So, although it can feel as though you're facing an uphill battle, it's crucial to remember that your defense matters.
The Board understands that mistakes happen. They also know that physicians can be unfairly accused and that claims can be exaggerated or even malicious. Be assured that you can challenge these accusations and that a complaint does not mean you'll lose your license. Have faith in your ability to overcome these allegations and return to doing what you love.
Appeals Against License Suspension or Revocation
It's always preferable to secure a favorable outcome in the first instance. After all, even if the Board reinstates your license, this does not make up for the emotional, financial, and psychological hardship you've suffered up to this point. However, you have the right to appeal Alaska State Medical Board decisions if your license is revoked or suspended.
When the Board issues a decision, the physician can appeal to the Superior Court. The Superior Court will review the decision and either affirm it, which means the Board's decision stands, or they'll overturn it, meaning your appeal is successful.
As in any other state, the appeals process in Alaska can be complicated. You may be required to request a review within a certain amount of time, or your right to an appeal may be lost. To ensure that you have a fair chance to appeal a Board decision and to maximize your prospects of reinstating your license, you need urgent legal advice.
Do You Need an Attorney to Defend Your Medical License in Alaska?
You are not obliged to seek legal counsel before responding to allegations or attending any board hearings regarding your license. However, it's highly recommended that you retain a lawyer when your professional license is at stake.
The simplest reason why you need an attorney is that the Board members are highly experienced at disciplining physicians. They have significant resources at their disposal. They understand the intricacies of the applicable laws, and they know what's required to prove a case against a doctor under investigation. You can even the playing field by hiring your own experienced counsel to represent you throughout the process.
Furthermore, although you can appeal a license suspension or revocation, it's often harder to prove your case on appeal than at a hearing. You can improve your chances of securing a favorable outcome the first time around by retaining a license defense attorney.
And finally, remember, the Alaska State Medical Board has the power to suspend your license or revoke it entirely. Given how high the stakes are, it makes sense to ensure that you present the strongest possible defense to the allegations.
How the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help
There are various reasons why you should hire an experienced attorney to represent you during license disciplinary action. Specifically, here is how the Lento Law Firm can help if you retain our Professional License Defense Team.
- We will, where appropriate, take an informal approach to resolving the matter. We want to help you return to work as quickly as possible, and we will endeavor to have the allegations dismissed through effective negotiations.
- We will determine the best way to defend your case and help you gather the evidence which could exonerate you or mitigate the sanctions.
- As experienced attorneys, we understand the rules and court processes that apply in disciplinary cases. We can represent you at Board hearings and ensure the members comply with due process.
- If you wish to appeal a licensing decision, we will defend your best interests and help you determine the right way forward.
At every turn, we will be at your side to help you through this stressful time. Do not delay in seeking the quality legal representation you deserve. Contact the Lento Law Firm now.
We Help Physicians Across Alaska Defend Their Professional License
Wherever you're located in Alaska, our Professional License Team is here for you. We defend medical professionals across Alaska in areas including:
- North Lakes
We represent physicians from all healthcare facilities, including Alaska Regional Hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center, and Alaska Native Medical Center. Whichever specialty you work in and however long you've been a physician, we can guide you through the license disciplinary process.
Contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team
No matter the allegations against you, it's important to remember that you deserve a chance to defend yourself. Whether you're fighting to have false accusations dismissed or you're hoping to reach a favorable settlement, you need a professional license defense strategy tailored to your situation. That's where the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can help.
Our Professional License Defense Team helps physicians across the nation defend their right to practice medicine. We understand how to negotiate with state licensing boards and present a compelling case in our client's favor. We're experienced in handling medical board hearings, and we know how to guide you through the administrative process. And if an appeal is necessary, know that we'll be at your side to help you petition for the best possible outcome.
You have skills, commitment, and experience which should not be lost in the medical profession. You deserve every opportunity to defend your license, livelihood, and reputation. If you're notified of a complaint or your license is in jeopardy, don't hesitate to call us at 888.535.3686 or leave us a message to schedule a consultation.