All of the money, time, and energy you've invested into becoming a New Jersey licensed osteopathic physician or surgeon was worth it—because you have a rewarding career helping people get better. Even though you must abide by the high standards and regulations set by the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, knowing that you make a difference helps you get through each day. But at the same time, all it may take is a single allegation of misconduct to put all you've worked for into jeopardy.
If the Board of Medical Examiners begins a disciplinary investigation against your medical license due to a complaint, it can fill you with dread and uncertainty. What will happen to your career? Your livelihood? These are legitimate concerns because the Board takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and they have a low burden of proof to determine whether disciplinary action is in order.
Your best hope of coming through this crisis with your license intact is with the help of an experienced New Jersey license defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team are highly experienced and have a keen understanding of how the licensing boards work. They will work on your behalf to get you a more favorable outcome--one that could very well save your career as an osteopathic physician or surgeon. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
Allegations that Could Cause You to Lose Your License to Practice in New Jersey
Osteopathic physicians and surgeons practicing in New Jersey are held to high ethical and professional standards. Thus, most complaints that might necessitate disciplinary action against your license involve either an alleged violation of these standards or the public trust. These include, but are not limited to:
- Fraud. Examples of fraud include "upcoding" procedures on insurance to receive larger payouts, accepting kickbacks, billing patients for unnecessary services, etc.
- Inaccurate record-keeping. It is vital that doctors maintain accurate medical records as any inaccuracies could potentially endanger patients' health. Altering or falsifying information is a serious accusation that could result in losing your license.
- Substance abuse/addiction. When a physician abuses alcohol and/or drugs, it raises concerns about their ability to competently make decisions regarding their patients.
- Inappropriate handling of medication. Maintaining inaccurate inventories of medication, prescribing medicines without a legitimate reason, or pilfering medications for personal use--any of these practices could jeopardize your license.
- Sexual misconduct. Examples include sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances toward colleagues, employees, or patients. Likewise, engaging in a romantic/sexual relationship with a patient you're treating is considered highly unethical. Any of these behaviors could cost you your license to practice.
- Gross neglect or abuse. Examples include providing a low standard of care to patients, misdiagnosing illnesses, or verbally/physically abusing a patient.
- Criminal convictions. Certain criminal offenses (especially crimes of moral turpitude) could disqualify you from holding an osteopathic physician's license.
How Does License Discipline Work in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the majority of disciplinary actions against osteopathic physicians and surgeons begin with a complaint. Any member of the public may file a complaint against any physician with the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, but in most cases, complainants are patients, former patients, colleagues, medical facilities, insurance companies, etc.
Once a complaint has been received, the disciplinary process moves through a set of steps as follows.
Request for Response
The Board will notify you that a complaint has been submitted and request that you respond to the complaint in writing. This is your first opportunity to tell your side of the story, and if your explanation of events and supporting evidence are convincing, the Board may forego taking any further action against you. (A good attorney can help you draft a compelling response.)
The Board will send the complaint to the Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) for further evaluation. The PEC will then choose an investigator to look deeper into the allegations and look for supporting evidence. This investigation could include interviews with the complainant or other witnesses, document subpoenas, and more. You may also be asked by the PEC to appear and testify under oath.
The Board may give you the opportunity to sign a consent order instead of having a formal hearing. By signing this type of legally binding agreement, you are voluntarily submitting to any disciplinary actions recommended by the Board. This is not always the best solution because it effectively guarantees some level of discipline (including possibly surrendering your license). However, if disciplinary action is already likely due to compelling evidence, a consent order may be a viable option, especially if it includes a path to reinstating your license. A good attorney can advise you as to whether signing a consent order is the best resolution--and they can also negotiate for favorable terms, possibly even allowing you to keep your license.
In the absence of a consent order, you'll next be summoned to a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), where you will present your defense and show cause why you should be allowed to continue practicing as an osteopathic physician or surgeon. You can have an attorney present to represent you at this hearing. The Judge will then make a recommendation to the Board regarding disciplinary action based on the evidence presented, and the Board will make a final determination. Possible outcomes range from dismissing the complaint or a minor reprimand all the way up to full revocation of your license. An attorney's involvement greatly improves your chances for a favorable outcome in the formal hearing.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney?
If you are facing disciplinary action from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, you need to understand that you have no guarantee of presumed innocence. The Board's first mission is to protect the public, even if it means erring on the side of caution. They only have to determine your guilt or innocence based on a preponderance of the evidence, which puts you at a huge disadvantage. That's why it's important to have an experienced license defense attorney on your side. A good attorney can help you prepare a response to the initial complaint, navigate the investigation, negotiate directly for leniency with the Board, and present your defense to the ALJ at a formal hearing. A successful outcome could mean the difference between keeping your license and having it revoked potentially forever.
Without your license, you effectively have no career. If you're a New Jersey osteopathic physician or surgeon, you can't afford to take a license investigation lightly. Hiring an attorney now could save your career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team stand ready to help. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.