In theory, healthcare delivery should occur independently of politics. In practice, however, clinicians understand that controversial laws and regulations can sometimes get in the way of providing the best, evidence-based care to patients – and when they speak out about it, they can face repercussions.
Take the case of Indiana physician Dr. Caitlin Bernard. She made headlines in 2023 for speaking out about providing abortion care to a 10-year-old abuse victim. The state Attorney General accused Bernard of violating state law – and called for her medical license to be suspended. While the Indiana state medical board ultimately decided not to take away the doctor's license, they did reprimand her.
Freedom of Speech?
Certainly, abortion care is a contentious subject. But around the country, many doctors are speaking out about new state laws, which may not consider abortion as a part of women's healthcare, and the many ways they are hampering their ability to care for patients. Like Bernard, they feel compelled to speak because such political actions are threatening lives. But this issue isn't just about abortion. Doctors and nurses have spoken and continue to speak out about a wide range of other medical issues, too. Those issues range from medical misinformation spread by politicians to the cost of prescription drugs to other laws which may impede their ability to help patients lead longer, healthier lives.
Each and every clinician is an American citizen with the right to free speech. That includes speaking to reporters, conferences, or other medical care providers about issues that may impact care. But those clinicians are also holders of professional licenses issued by the very state whose laws they are publicly criticizing. It can be a fine line to walk.
Protect Your Rights
If you have spoken out about an unjust law or policy as a physician or nurse, you may face a variety of sanctions by the state's medical or nursing licensing board. If you have been notified that you have been put under investigation for comments you've made to a reporter or to the state itself, you are likely angry – and unsure of what to do next. As a physician or nurse, your professional license is integral to your ability to not only make a living but to help your patients. Being professionally reprimanded or having your license suspended could be a career killer.
But staying silent in the face of injustice can also bring negative consequences.
If you are facing sanctions by your state medical board for speaking out about an issue, you are not alone. But when you retain an experienced attorney-advisor who understands both Constitutional law, as well as the ins and outs of medical licensing board procedures, you are in a much better position to fight any potential censure or intimidation.