Posted by Bill Sandweg on 11 July 2022.
At least the Arizona Medical Board lets the public know what it has been doing. It publishes a running list of all of the disciplinary action it has taken over the past year. It makes for very interesting reading. Here is a link.
As the Board states, it has “legal authority to revoke, suspend, restrict, fine, reprimand or censure, require monitoring or additional education, or impose other remedial measures on the license of” physicians or physician assistants (P.A.) if the physician or physician assistant “has committed unprofessional conduct or is mentally or physically unable to safely engage in the practice of medicine.”
I have been practicing law for over 45 years. Over 40 of those years have been spent in the area of medical malpractice, first as a lawyer defending doctors and hospitals and the last 30 representing victims of medical malpractice. I know from that long experience how common malpractice is and how often patients are hurt by avoidable medical mistakes made by doctors. I know how often injured patients complain to the Arizona Medical Board. That is what makes it so frustrating to review the discipline handed down by the Arizona Medical Board.
During the last twelve months, the Arizona Medical Board has revoked the licenses of only three doctors. It has accepted the surrender of the licenses of another twelve doctors for disciplinary reasons. These disciplinary actions amount to a total of 15 cases. Last year there were nearly 10,000 doctors practicing in the state of Arizona. Out of the nearly 10,000 doctors .0015% either had their licenses taken away or surrendered them in the last twelve months. This is an almost criminally low number given the amount of malpractice in this state.
If you are a below average physician, the actions of the Arizona Medical Board should reassure you. Of the 15 licenses that were revoked or surrendered, only one was as the result of alleged negligent treatment. One and one only. If you malpractice on patients, the odds are greatly in your favor that the Arizona Medical Board is not going to take away your license. You may suffer some inconvenience and get a nasty letter from the Board but you will be free to keep on being a substandard doctor and injuring patients.
The surest way to lose your license is to develop a problem with alcohol or drugs. Eight of the revoked or suspended licenses involved alcohol or drug use by the physician. The Board is very aggressive in its treatment of impaired doctors and that is a good thing for the public.
Three doctors lost their licenses because they overprescribed opioids to their patients. The Feds and the pharmacies are watching prescription patterns and trying to catch the doctors who run pill mills.
Two doctors lost their licenses after they were convicted of health care fraud.
One doctor was accused of improperly touching two of his female patients and surrendered his license.
Finally, one doctor surrendered his license in the face of charges that he engaged in improper charting and treatment of patients in a telemedicine setting. It is not clear whether and to what extent the telemedicine played a role in the decision to discipline this doctor. This may represent a hostility on the part of the Board to the development of telemedicine as no one else in the state surrendered their licenses for allegations of poor charting or not properly examining their patients before ordering treatment.
If you ignore the low discipline rate of the Arizona Medical Board, you have no right to complain if you find yourself the victim of one of the doctors whom the Board allowed to keep on practicing despite complaints of malpractice. It is up to you if you do something or not.