It takes a lot for a Medical Review Board to revoke a doctor’s license. That is why, when it does happen, you can be sure that the doctor who lost his or her license must have either done something truly egregious, or have had a number of complaints lodged against him/her.
In order to help protect patients, the states keep a running list of licensed doctors, accessible online. You can find out whether or not your doctor is licensed to practice, whether or not her or she has ever had a complaint or malpractice case filed against him/her, or whether or not his or her license has ever been suspended or revoked. What you cannot always find out is whether or not a doctor has been reprimanded in another state… which is why a “doctor” like Larry Mitchell Isaacs has managed to keep practicing medicine at an urgent care clinic here in Cincinnati, despite having had to surrender his license and/or faced sanctions in Louisiana, California and New York.
USA TODAY, in conjunction with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, reports “More than 250 doctors who surrendered a medical license were able to practice in another state,” and that “In a third of the 250 cases, doctors who surrendered their licenses were able to practice elsewhere without any limitations or public disclosure, simply by changing their addresses.”
License revocation vs. surrendering a license
In the end, whether a doctor surrenders his/her license, or has it revoked, the end game is the same: that doctor is no longer allowed to practice medicine in that state. The difference between the two, however, is accountability. If a State Board revokes a doctor’s license, that Board is sending a clear message that the doctor has done something wrong. This information is made public and searchable. In most cases, if a doctor’s license has been revoked in one state, the chances are good that it will be revoked in another.
When a person surrenders a professional license, however, all of that information may not be available – and it won’t stop another state from allowing a doctor to practice. This is because surrendering a license is a voluntary act; it is up to the doctor to surrender in every state, not the Licensing Board.
And it appears that most doctors simply won’t do that.
This is an ongoing problem
Bad behavior is not just limited to doctors refusing to surrender their licenses in all states. We have discussed a similar problem with surgical centers, where a doctor who has been banned from one facility can just open up a new one somewhere else. We have also looked into doctors who have been cited or censured for impropriety or inadequate care, yet still get paid millions by the pharmaceutical industry as consultants. Per USA TODAY:
“Earlier, the Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today used data from the firm to identify more than 500 doctors who had been disciplined in one state yet still were able to practice elsewhere with a clean license.
The news organizations also found 73 cases where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to doctors alleging serious patient safety concerns, though only one had been disciplined by a state board.
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.”
Getting the information you need to make an informed decision
Checking out the State Medical Board of Ohio or the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure is a good start, but you may not be able to find all the information you need when it comes to acts of negligence or malpractice. The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a Congressionally-established, “web-based repository of reports containing information on medical malpractice payments and certain adverse actions related to health care practitioners, providers, and suppliers…. that prevents practitioners from moving state to state without disclosure or discovery of previous damaging performance.” Ideally, the NPDB exists so that licensing boards can find (and potentially punish) repeat offenders.
In other words, if your doctor has surrendered a license in another state, the NPDB will know. As a member of the general public, you only have access to a limited amount of information – and as your attorneys, we can only access information under a very specific set of circumstances.
At Crandall & Pera Law, we believe that healthcare consumers deserve better than what they get. Congress has acted once before; it might be time to do so again, to ensure that more people won’t get hurt simply because a bad doctor wants to keep practicing medicine. Until that happens, however, we will be here to fight on behalf of malpractice victims throughout Ohio and Kentucky. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced trial attorney, please call 877.686.8879 or fill out our contact form.