Becoming a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) in New York is an achievement all its own. It comes after years of intensive education, gaining field experience, sitting for the grueling 3-part USMLE, and qualifying for a license to practice in New York. That's why it can be so traumatic to find out that you have been accused of misconduct and that your license is under investigation.
The New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously because it is dedicated to public health and safety. If the OPMC finds evidence that you have violated one or more of its rules, it has sweeping authority to invoke serious penalties against you, possibly even revoking your license to practice. This could mean the end of your career and all you've worked for.
You need an experienced New York professional license defense attorney on your side to protect your rights and ensure that you have a fair chance to tell your side of the story. The OPMC will have investigators, lawyers, and other professionals working against you - you need someone in your corner who knows the system and how to level the playing field. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience representing licensed professionals through the disciplinary process, and he can greatly increase your chances for a favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Accusations Can Put a Physician's License at Risk?
Physicians in New York can be sanctioned for a wide range of misconducts, the majority of which are related to violations of state policies, ethical/professional standards, or public trust. Among the most common allegations include the following:
- Sexual misconduct (whether with patients or staff). This includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances, or unethical romantic relationships with patients
- Inappropriate handling of prescriptions/medications
- Gross negligence or incompetence in treating patients
- Healthcare fraud (e.g., "upcoding" procedures to insurance for higher payouts or submitting claims on services not provided)
- Unethical/fraudulent dealings with patients (e.g., performing procedures the patient didn't authorize, discriminating against patients on the basis of race, creed, religion, etc.)
- Substance abuse (drug/alcohol abuse casts doubt on your ability to provide proper patient care)
- Criminal convictions
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Physicians in New York?
New York has a standardized method of filing complaints and administering disciplinary action against licensed physicians. Any member of the public can file a formal complaint against a New York physician through the New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). For physicians practicing in NY, complainants are typically patients, coworkers, other practitioners, and in some cases, insurance companies. Once a complaint is filed with the OPMC, the disciplinary process typically moves forward as follows.
The OPMC will investigate a complaint to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support it. The investigation generally includes interviewing the complainant and any witnesses, document reviews, and other fact-finding activities. If the investigation doesn't uncover enough evidence to support the complaint, the OPMC will drop the matter at that point. If evidence is found, the matter is referred to an investigation committee for further review. The committee will then make a recommendation to the OPMC as to whether to call a formal hearing, dismiss the complaint, investigate further, or issue non-disciplinary warnings to the physician.
At any point during the disciplinary process, a consent order may be negotiated with the OPMC as an alternative to a formal hearing. A consent order is a legally binding agreement in which you admit to wrongdoing and submit to any recommendations for disciplinary action. A consent order isn't always the best option, but if disciplinary action is inevitable due to the evidence gathered, a consent order could be a good choice, especially if it allows you to keep your license or provides a path to reinstatement.
Once the investigation is complete, if no consent agreement is signed, you will be summoned to appear at a formal hearing before the Board for Professional Medical Conduct. During this hearing, you will need to show cause why your license should not be revoked. You may have an attorney represent you. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board will make a finding of guilt or innocence and make a Determination and Order as to what disciplinary action to impose—up to and including revoking your license to practice.
If you believe you were not given a fair hearing or that mistakes were made in the disciplinary process, you have the right to appeal the Board's decision to an Administrative Review Board.
How a New York Physician License Defense Attorney Can Help
In New York, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct has broad authority to impose discipline and a low burden of proof to decide whether you are guilty. There is no automatic presumption of innocence if you are a physician accused of wrongdoing, and anything you say or do on your own in response to a complaint could ultimately be used as evidence against you. In other words, you must assume you are at a disadvantage from the moment the complaint is filed. Hiring a skilled professional license attorney helps level the playing field and gives you a much better chance of prevailing against the complaint. A good attorney can:
- Act as your legal representative in all interactions with the OPMC and the Board
- Review the complaint against you to ascertain the best strategy for your defense
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your side
- Negotiate directly with the OPMC to have them dismiss the complaint or agree to lesser penalties
- Negotiate favorable terms in a consent order
- Defend you vigorously at a formal hearing
- Appeal an adverse decision
- Assist with the process of reinstatement of your license if it has already been revoked
If you're a doctor in New York who has been alerted to a potential problem with your license, you may be able to preserve your career by hiring an experienced attorney right away. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.