Facing Charges Of Malpractice? What Will You Need To Do To Keep Your Medical License?

If you're a physician, you likely split most of your days between examining patients or performing medical procedures and catching up on paperwork. This high level of contact with patients can sometimes leave you vulnerable to charges of medical malpractice. While your malpractice insurer should be able to handle your legal defense against any potential claims, especially if you live in a state with statutory limits on the amount that can be awarded under a malpractice judgment, the suspension or loss of your medical license is another matter altogether. What are your options if you're being threatened with license suspension while an investigation or malpractice claim is pending? Read on to learn more about some scenarios in which your medical license could be in danger following accusations of malpractice, as well as the options that can allow you to keep practicing medicine.

When may you be vulnerable to revocation of your license to practice medicine? 

Like other professional licenses, a medical license is subject to suspension or revocation if the license holder commits certain legal or ethical violations. And because physicians are literally dealing with matters of life and death on a daily basis, the threshold for license revocation may be somewhat lower than for other professions. Doctors have been stripped of their licenses to practice medicine for sanctioning or participating in physician-assisted suicides, prescribing inappropriate medications (particularly heavy narcotics or prescription painkillers), operating or working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even impersonating another doctor.

Doctors who are deemed to have committed "gross malpractice" (generally far outside the bounds of what could be considered a mistake or oversight) can also have their medical licenses suspended or revoked. However, in some cases, even more minor charges of malpractice could put your license at risk, particularly if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time you committed malpractice. For example, an emergency room physician who is "on call" for an evening but has several drinks while at home, then comes in to work and commits a dosing mistake while treating a patient, could be called before the state licensing board to defend his or her medical license. 

What should you do if you're concerned about your medical license following a malpractice claim? 

Even if you already have your insurance company's attorney to defend you against a malpractice charge, if you're concerned your license may be at risk, you may still want to consult with an attorney experienced in defending against license suspensions. Unless your personal malpractice liability is deemed to exceed the limits of your insurance policy (or void your policy entirely), it's unlikely you'll face any out of pocket costs even if you are determined to have committed malpractice. However, having your medical license suspended or revoked could deprive you of a means of earning income for the rest of your life. As a result, it's important to mount a strong defense against any charges that could put your license in jeopardy.

Because each state is vested with the authority to confer licenses to practice medicine, being stripped of this license simply means you won't be able to practice in your current state. If you don't see any way out of having your state license revoked, you may want to negotiate (through your attorney) with the state medical board to decline to object to your seeking a medical license in other states. This can allow you to move on (both figuratively and literally) and start a new practice elsewhere, without the taint of your malpractice action and license suspension or revocation hanging over your head. 

Contact a professional license attorney for more information and advice.