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Report: Doctors who surrender a medical license in one state may practice in another

MILWAUKEE (December 3, 2018) – The surrender of a medical license is often done in the face of overwhelming evidence of unprofessional conduct, such as repeated surgical mishaps. But a recent report by the USA Today Network revealed a license surrender often comes with no restrictions in practicing medicine in other states.

A license surrender can spare a doctor the time, expense and reputational harm that might come with formal charges and a hearing before a state medical board. But, voluntary license surrenders can mean the public does not have access to information about what happened in a potential medical malpractice situation. Additionally, some some states keep their license surrenders particularly secretive, leaving patients completely in the dark about what may have happened.

“In theory, a surrendered license in one state should tip a second state to the fact there are problems. Instead, for many doctors it amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card,” the article states.

An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today and MedPage Today found more than 250 doctors who surrendered a medical license were able to practice in another state.

The group of researchers analyzed data provided by a private company that compiles information on doctors from thousands of sources, such as state medical boards and local courts. The analysis was limited to doctors who had action by a state board recorded since 2013, so the true number of doctors who have surrendered their licenses yet continue to practice in another state is most likely much higher.

In a third of the 250 cases, physicians who surrendered their licenses were able to practice elsewhere without any limitations or public disclosure. In the other cases, they faced disciplinary action that patients might not be able find out about. In addition, the investigation found 216 doctors who collected a total of $26 million from federal taxpayers through Medicare despite losing a license or being excluded from state-paid health care rolls.

However, there are some tools to help medical boards stay in the know on the actions of the doctors they license. The National Practitioner Data Bank was started by Congress in 1986 as an archive for medical malpractice payments, state disciplinary actions, restrictions from health plans or hospitals and other limits on any healthcare professional.

Today, the database has more than 1.3 million records of “adverse actions” going back to 1990. The system is open to hospitals, insurers and state medical boards, but it is not yet available to the public. And shockingly, medical boards often don’t even use it. Last year, 30 medical boards performed fewer than 100 searches and 13 boards didn’t perform any at all.

If you believe you or a loved one was the victim of medical malpractice due to a doctor’s error, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. Contact our office today to learn more about your legal rights.

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