An Ohio physician had his license suspended in February and is facing possible civil and criminal charges over allegations that he conducted genital exams of five of his patients in multiple instances inside his apartment rather than in a medical facility. According to reports, the doctor not only violated the rules by seeing the patients in his apartment, but he also allegedly touched the genitalia bare-handed, conducted ultrasounds without patient consent in the apartment "with no legitimate medical purpose," and even videotaped some of the exams without patient permission.
No charges have yet been filed, but the physician appealed his suspension in March, claiming through his attorney that the purpose of the in-home visits was for "honing his skills with an ultrasound machine" and therefore did not qualify as the practice of medicine since the doctor was not diagnosing or treating illnesses.
The Importance of the Clinical Setting for Treating Patients
Setting aside some of the more obviously severe implications of this doctor's alleged actions, let's focus on the violation on which this case seems to hinge: treating patients in his apartment.
Among the safeguards set in place to protect the doctor-patient relationship, one of the most important is always to practice medicine in an established clinical setting (such as a doctor's office, hospital, or another healthcare facility). The Ohio Board of Medicine, like most or all medical licensing boards, requires doctors to see patients in a board-certified setting under proper supervision. So much so, in fact, that the state considers treating patients outside this setting as "practicing medicine without a license," which is a felony offense in Ohio.
In the case of the physician in question, he asserts that he requested the patients be examined in his apartment so he could practice with an ultrasound, and therefore he wasn't seeing the patients in an official capacity. However, that assertion currently seems to be carrying little weight with the Board.
Possible Dangers to Your Career
As a licensed physician, you may be tempted at times to dispense with formalities if you are treating family, friends or simply trying to "hone your skills." But even in these cases, insisting that the patient come to your office or clinic is essential for protecting your license and your career. Here's what can happen if you flirt with this boundary:
- Risk of legal action. When you treat patients outside a traditional medical setting, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to establish a doctor-patient relationship that meets the standard of "informed consent." Without this legal agreement in place, any treatment or advice that you give may not be covered under your malpractice insurance and could leave you vulnerable to criminal or civil lawsuits. Additionally, if the patient suffers any type of injury as a result of your actions, they may be able to sue for damages.
- Risks to your license. Your state's medical licensing Board may take action against you if they believe that your behavior does not meet their standards for professional conduct (such as seeing a patient outside of a clinic. Even if nothing inappropriate happens, the Board cannot guarantee public safety outside the clinical setting, nor do you have backing evidence to show impropriety did not occur. All it takes is a complaint, and you could face fines, license suspension/revocation, or other disciplinary action.
Regardless of the sincerity of your intentions, practicing medicine outside the accepted setting can jeopardize all you've worked for. If you've made a mistake in this area and are facing possible license suspension, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have extensive nationwide experience helping healthcare professionals in your situation. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today to discuss your case.
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