The path to becoming a licensed physician in New Jersey (MD or DO) is a long one indeed. By the time you are licensed, you have spent at least eight years in school, sat through the grueling three-part USMLE, and spent countless hours completing your field experience. Now, your career effectively hinges on that license, and the last thing you want is to have your license put in jeopardy.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what can happen if you are accused of any type of negligence or misconduct. All it may take to end your hard-won career is one complaint lodged with the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners (BME).
If you are a medical doctor in this situation, it is important to get help right away from an experienced New Jersey professional license defense attorney. Joseph D. Lento can work on your behalf to protect your career as a licensed M.D. or D.O. Your chances of keeping your license go up considerably with a good attorney in your corner. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Can Put a Physician's License in Jeopardy?
Doctors can face disciplinary actions against their license over a wide range of issues. Some of the most common allegations include the following:
- Sexual misconduct. Examples may include unwanted sexual advances from doctor to patient or between colleagues, sexual harassment, or a romantic relationship with a patient you are treating (which is considered highly unethical).
- Fraud. Some examples of fraud include "upcoding" insurance claims to get more money for procedures, overbilling the patient or insurer, falsifying patient diagnoses, billing for services not provided, accepting kickbacks, etc.
- Poor record-keeping. Maintaining precise patient medical records is key to providing safe health care. If there are inaccuracies, discrepancies, or gross disorganization in your record-keeping, your license could be at risk.
- Substance abuse. Doctors who abuse alcohol or drugs are at risk of removal because it casts doubt on their ability to treat patients with safety or sound judgment.
- Patient abuse or neglect. Allegations of physical, sexual, mental, or verbal abuse can definitely put a doctor's license at risk. So can accusations of gross neglect or incompetence.
- Criminal convictions. The BME may disqualify you from practice over certain criminal convictions, especially those involving crimes of moral turpitude.
- Inappropriate dispensation of medicine. Examples include prescribing medications without a valid condition, pilfering medications for personal use or street sales, overprescribing opioids, etc.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Physicians in New Jersey?
In most cases, disciplinary actions against New Jersey physicians begin with a formal complaint filed with the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners (BME). Complaints may be filed by patients, colleagues, insurance companies, or any member of the public. From there, the disciplinary process typically moves forward as follows:
Request for Response
After a complaint is filed, the BME will notify you of the complaint and ask you to submit a written response. This response is important because if you can provide a convincing explanation of what happened, accompanied by supporting evidence, the BME may dismiss the complaint with no further action. An experienced license defense attorney can assist you in drafting a compelling written response.
During the investigative phase, the BME will forward the complaint to the Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC), which will, in turn, assign an investigator to fact-find and gather evidence to support the complaint. Fact-finding in a PEC investigation may include interviews with the complainant and witnesses, requests for documents, and other activities. The PEC may also ask you to appear and testify under oath.
The BME may offer to negotiate a consent order with you to avoid a formal hearing. A consent order is an enforceable agreement in which you effectively acknowledge your misconduct and agree to comply with the board's penalties. A consent order isn't the best resolution in every case, but it may be a good option if the evidence against you is compelling, especially if it includes a path to reinstatement of your license to practice medicine. A good license defense attorney can negotiate with the board to make sure the terms of a consent order are in your best interests before you sign it.
If the BME decides to move forward without a consent agreement, you will be summoned to a formal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to show cause why the BME should not suspend or revoke your license. You can have an attorney represent you, and both sides will present evidence at the hearing. The judge will make a recommendation to the board after the hearing based on the evidence presented. Based on those recommendations, the BME will decide what disciplinary action to take against you--up to and including revoking your license.
How a New Jersey Physician License Defense Attorney Can Help
If your medical license is under threat because of a complaint, the important thing to remember is that the State Board of Medical Examiners has a sworn duty to protect public safety, even at the expense of its licensees. When it comes to violations of ethics, codes of conduct, etc., "innocent until proven guilty" does not necessarily apply because the board is not prosecuting a crime. Rather, the BME considers your guilt based on a "preponderance of the evidence" standard. If they believe you are at least 51 percent likely to have committed wrongdoing, they may err on the side of caution to protect the public and revoke your license. This means you are at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed.
A skilled New Jersey license defense attorney understands how the disciplinary process works. They can help you navigate the system, ensure your side is heard, and ensure your rights are protected, giving you the best chance possible of keeping your medical license. Specifically, your attorney can:
- Act as your official legal representative in all dealings with the BME.
- Evaluate the complaint against you and advise you on the best strategy to defend against it.
- Collect evidence and find witnesses to support your position.
- Negotiate directly with the BME for dismissal of the complaint, more lenient penalties, or best terms for a consent order.
- Defend you vigorously at a formal hearing.
- In some cases, coordinate the process of reinstatement if your license is already suspended or revoked.
You've worked hard to establish your career; don't let an unfair accusation against your license derail your future. Act now to get proper legal representation. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.