If Your Delaware Medical License is at Risk, the Lento Law Firm Can Help
Given the stringent requirements to become a licensed physician in Delaware, the simple fact that you have an "M.D." or "D.O." next to your name demonstrates your commitment to helping people get well. It means that you've devoted considerable time, financial resources, and personal effort to build your career. That's why it can be so disconcerting to receive notification that the Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline has received a complaint about you and is investigating possible misconduct.
If this has recently happened to you, you are no doubt highly concerned--and rightly so. In many cases, all it may take is a single complaint to derail everything you've worked for. The State of Delaware maintains stringent ethical and professional standards for its licensed physicians, and the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline is duty-bound to safeguard the public first and foremost. If the Board determines that you have violated the state standards of practice, they have the power to impose disciplinary action against you, including the potential revocation of your license to practice. The prospect of having your career effectively terminated may leave you uncertain about where to turn for help.
With so much at stake, you don't want to entrust such a serious issue to an unseasoned lawyer. You need a skilled professional license defense attorney to steer you through this process, someone with comprehensive experience in defending licensed physicians facing disciplinary proceedings. The good news is that with the right legal team in place, your odds of retaining your physician's license go up considerably--especially when you respond quickly at the first sign of trouble.
The Professional License Defense Team at Lento Law Firm is your most trustworthy option when your Delaware medical license is under threat. We will evaluate your case, counsel you on your available options, negotiate with the Board for leniency on your behalf, and strive to secure the most favorable outcome for you. Call our offices at 888-535-3686 now to schedule a consultation.
Regulation of Delaware Licensed Physicians
The Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, under the supervision of the Division of Professional Regulation (DPR), oversees the regulation and licensing of physicians in Delaware. The Board is responsible for administering licensing and enforcement of M.D.s and D.O.s throughout the state. It also sets the standards of medical practice within the state and ensures these standards are adhered to by all licensed practitioners.
The practice of medicine in Delaware is regulated by the Medical Practice Act, which details the rules and guidelines physicians must abide by in their practice, as well as authorized disciplinary actions for violations. The Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline is given the authority to grant licenses to practice medicine in the state, to investigate complaints and allegations of wrongdoing, and to administer disciplinary actions when necessary. If a physician is found to have violated the Medical Practice Act in any capacity, the Board is authorized to issue sanctions ranging from a formal reprimand of your behavior to suspension or revocation of your medical license.
It is also important to note that any action taken against your medical license will be publicly listed on the Board's website and reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). As such, if your license is suspended or revoked--or if you are otherwise disciplined in any way--these actions will be easily visible online and searchable by patients, employers, and other state medical boards. That is why it is so critical that you obtain the legal assistance of an experienced professional license defense attorney to protect your interests and help you avoid these outcomes whenever possible. The Lento Law Firm Team has extensive experience with these issues and stands ready to help.
Potential Allegations Threatening a Physician's License
Generally speaking, Delaware-licensed physicians may face the threat of losing their medical license due to various issues and offenses stemming from violations of the Medical Practice Act. Below are some of the more common allegations that can lead to the loss of your medical license:
Sexual misconduct. This includes unwanted sexual advances towards patients or colleagues, sexual harassment, etc. Also, forming a romantic relationship with a patient under your care is a significant ethical violation, potentially leading to license loss.
Fraud. Instances of medical fraud may include illegal "upcoding" insurance claims, overbilling patients or insurance, false patient diagnoses for insurance reasons, billing for services not rendered, or accepting referral kickbacks.
Poor record-keeping. It's crucial to maintain accurate patient medical records for safe healthcare delivery. Inaccurate or intentionally altered medical records can result in severe consequences for physicians.
Substance abuse/addiction. Substance abuse by physicians raises questions about their ability to make sound decisions concerning patients, particularly if reported to be under the influence while on duty.
Mismanagement of prescriptions. Unlawful prescribing practices such as failing to monitor medications properly, overprescribing certain medications like opioids, or issuing prescriptions without a valid medical reason can all lead to Board disciplinary action.
Patient abuse or neglect. Allegations of physical, mental, or verbal abuse of a patient can threaten a physician's license, as can any act or omission that exposes a patient to unnecessary risk.
Criminal convictions. Certain criminal offenses, especially felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can disqualify you from holding a physician's license. Similarly, failure to self-report any conviction to the Board can result in disciplinary action, even if the offense itself would not have endangered your license.
Not Every Allegation Will Result in Loss of License
While you should never rule out the possibility of losing your license if you're accused of wrongdoing, the Board takes into consideration numerous elements when determining the appropriate disciplinary actions. Many of these measures may allow you to retain your physician's license. Some possible outcomes include:
- License suspension: A temporary ban on your ability to practice medicine.
- Practice restrictions: Imposing limitations on your work scope or prohibiting certain activities. Monetary penalties: The Board holds the authority to impose fines against you.
- Supervised probation: The Board might necessitate stringent monitoring of your practice. Formal reprimand: For less severe infractions, the Board could issue an official reproof, which appears on your record but does not restrict your license.
It's crucial to note that even if your medical license remains intact, these lesser punishments can still cast a negative shadow on your career since they become part of the public record—accessible to potential patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states. Such penalties could potentially influence people's willingness to work with you and restrict your career prospects. The Professional License Team at Lento Law Firm can often intervene during the early stages of your investigation to minimize these risks and possibly prevent sanctions from appearing on your record.
Issues Arising from Multistate Licensure
Delaware is among 39 states that are part of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, a voluntary agreement among participating states and territories aimed at facilitating medical licensure across multiple states. At present, there is no provision for a "multistate license" offered by the compact (all states issue their own licenses). Instead, it creates a pathway for a single application to be utilized for licensure in any other participating states where the physician intends to practice.
While the compact provides a relatively uncomplicated method to extend healthcare services to underserved areas (and offers physicians greater flexibility in their practice), it can also introduce additional challenges for physicians facing accusations of misconduct. If the Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline imposes disciplinary action on your Delaware license, it can easily affect your licensure in other states—and vice versa.
In a situation where potential disciplinary action spans multiple states, it's advantageous to engage a professional license defense law firm with a nationwide scope. The Lento Law Firm assists licensed physicians throughout the country who are grappling with disciplinary actions. Our Team can help you navigate the intricacies and regulatory procedures not only in Delaware but in any state where you are licensed to practice.
Areas We Serve in Delaware
While the State of Delaware is the second smallest state in the Union area-wise (only Rhode Island is smaller), with a population of more than 1 million, it is the sixth most densely populated. As a result, healthcare is a major industry in this state, with many prospects for physicians to find gainful employment to serve the medical needs of the state's residents.
While The Lento Law Firm can assist physicians in any city or municipality within Delaware, many of our clients understandably live and work in the main population centers of the state. These areas include:
Wilmington, Delaware, is a city known for its rich history, diverse culture, and significant economic contributions. Although it's the largest city in Delaware (population 71,000), Wilmington anchors a larger metro area that is home to more than 720,000 (more than 70 percent of the state's total population). Delaware serves as the state's economic hub, home to several Fortune 500 companies and a vibrant financial sector, largely thanks to its business-friendly laws and policies. Wilmington's cultural scene is also notable, with numerous museums, art galleries, and performance venues such as the Grand Opera House adding charm to the cityscape. Nestled on the banks of the Christina River, Wilmington's riverfront area boasts a scenic walking path and a host of restaurants, shops, and parks, offering locals and visitors alike a blend of leisure and recreational activities. The area's primary healthcare system, Christiana Care, is also the second-largest employer in Wilmington. Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic also administers numerous facilities in this area.
Dover is Delaware's capital city and the seat of Kent County. Although Dover has a population of around 38,000, its metropolitan area contains about 200,000 residents, making it the second-largest urban center in the state. Dover has an extremely diverse economic base, with industries ranging from agricultural to retail to financial services. Dover Air Force Base, a major employer in the area, houses Air Mobility Command's largest airlift wing. Bayhealth is the largest healthcare employer serving the population of Dover, administering Bayhealth Hospital Kent and numerous outpatient and specialty facilities.
The Disciplinary Procedure for Physicians in Delaware
The DPR has established a process to investigate and discipline misconduct among licensees in all the professions it regulates, including the medical profession. If you're a Delaware-based physician and you find yourself accused of professional misconduct, you can expect to undergo the following steps.
Almost all disciplinary actions begin with the filing of a formal complaint against you with the DPR. Any member of the public can file a complaint, but for physicians, it's usually lodged by patients, their relatives, colleagues, other medical professionals, insurance firms, and so forth. In addition, under state law, healthcare professionals in Delaware have a mandatory duty to report their colleagues for suspected violations of the Medical Practice Act. This means anyone in the healthcare profession who observes questionable behavior or practices from you must report you to the DPR.
Once the complaint is received and reviewed by the DPR, it is forwarded to the Investigative Unit, where an investigator is appointed to fact-find and look for evidence to substantiate the accusations. This phase could extend over several months and may include steps such as interviewing the complainant and any witnesses, obtaining a written response from you, document subpoenas, site inspections, etc. The investigator then submits their findings to the Board. If the investigation fails to provide adequate evidence of wrongdoing, the Board might dismiss the case at this juncture. (At this stage, the Lento Law Firm Team can frequently negotiate for an early dismissal without further action.)
Should the investigation establish plausible evidence that you violated the Medical Practice Act, the case will then be forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General for review. If the Attorney General's Office concurs that the evidence warrants further action, they will file a formal complaint against you pending a hearing.
Negotiation of Consent Agreement
Before the formal hearing convenes, the Board may offer to negotiate a consent agreement with you. This is a binding agreement in which you admit to wrongdoing and voluntarily submit to the Board's disciplinary recommendations. This isn't the best solution for everyone, and any sanctions may still become public record--but if the evidence is compelling, it gives you and your attorney an opportunity to negotiate for leniency and a favorable resolution--preferably one that either allows you to keep your license to practice or at least provides a pathway toward reinstatement. The Lento Law Firm Team can negotiate for the most favorable terms of a consent agreement, provided this is the best option for you.
If no consent agreement is reached, the case progresses to a formal hearing in front of a hearing officer, where both sides present evidence and arguments. It's strongly advised to have legal representation for this hearing. Once both sides have made their case, the hearing officer presents their findings and recommendations to the Board.
After receiving the recommendations, the Board makes a final decision and sends you personal notification about its decided disciplinary actions against you. These actions can vary from a formal reprimand to license restrictions to a complete revocation of your license to practice.
You have the right to appeal any unfavorable Board decision to the Superior Court in your jurisdiction within 30 days of the decision. Generally, the court will only sustain an appeal if there are procedural errors or factual mistakes that deny you due process. The decision becomes final after the appeal.
Keep in mind that the Board retains the power to resolve or dismiss the complaint against you at any stage in this process. The License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can engage in strategic negotiations throughout the disciplinary process, often assisting clients in resolving complaints before they advance to the hearing phase.
The Indispensable Role of Legal Representation in Safeguarding Your Medical License
While you certainly have the right to represent yourself in license disciplinary proceedings, it's not likely to work in your favor. The Board's primary goal is to protect public health and safety, and because they only need to prove you are culpable based on a preponderance of the evidence, they are more likely to err on the side of caution in revoking your license. You're not assured a presumption of innocence, nor is the Board obligated to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Having an experienced license defense attorney on your side can help level the playing field and make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you in the following ways:
- Evaluate the complaint and evidence against you, and develop a strategic plan to counter it;
- Advise you on your options and the best way to resolve your case;
- Gather evidence and witnesses in your defense;
- Negotiate with the Board at multiple points to get the complaint dismissed or for lenient penalties;
- Negotiate favorable terms in a consent agreement; and
- Defend you vigorously at the hearing, if necessary.
Choosing the Best Legal Counsel for Your Medical License Defense
While any licensed attorney is authorized to represent you in a license defense case, that doesn't mean just any attorney will be the right fit when your medical license is under threat. For instance, an attorney specializing in family law may be legally proficient but may lack the necessary experience in administrative law that is crucial during a disciplinary proceeding. To maximize your chances of a favorable outcome, it's advisable to engage an attorney with specialized experience in professional license defense. Such an attorney will possess comprehensive knowledge about licensing boards, their procedures, and the intricacies of administrative hearings.
Lento Law Firm: Your Trusted Partner When Your Delaware Medical License is at Stake
If you're a Delaware-based physician facing allegations of professional misconduct, enlisting a professional license defense attorney at the earliest signs of trouble can significantly enhance your likelihood of a favorable outcome. Some physicians delay seeking legal representation until a formal hearing is looming, not realizing that they may have already compromised their chances for a more lenient resolution. The earlier you involve an attorney, the more opportunities you have to negotiate a beneficial outcome, potentially even avoiding a formal hearing completely.
Whether the complaint against you is due to a misunderstanding, a genuine misstep, a personal vendetta, or a full-on false accusation, the stakes for your career are incredibly high. Each step you take in this process without legal counsel essentially amounts to a risky gamble on your future. On the other hand, the sooner you enlist the Lento Law Firm to assist you, the better your chances of avoiding the worst sanctions and protecting your livelihood and career.
The Lento Law Firm Team helps medical professionals nationwide who are facing disciplinary proceedings against their license. Take action now to protect your future. To discuss your case and explore your options, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or reach out via our online form.