What NOT TO DO — Medical Board Investigations
A variety of situations can result in an investigation by the Medical Board of California. Most of the time, the physician under investigation will be cleared of any wrongdoing and/or misconduct. Based on my professional experience in representing California physicians under investigation by the medical board, here is my list of what NOT TO DO if you are being investigated:
1: DO NOT treat an investigation by a medical board as if it is unimportant. You went through years of school and residency, along with passing numerous tests, in order to obtain your license and now practice. Your career and reputation are at stake when an investigation is initiated. Your license is at stake, as it can be suspended or revoked and your income eliminated.
2: DO NOT dismiss a medical board investigation. There are strict guidelines detailing how long you have to respond to an inquiry, and ignoring an investigation may mean missing a deadline to provide information. As such, it is to your benefit to review any documents you have received and respond in a timely manner.
3: DO NOT presume that you will be recognized as innocent. Never assume that the complaint lacks merit, the accuser is not believable, or that as soon as you explain to the board, the matter will be dismissed or forgotten. The board has a very complex and detailed protocol to follow in order to fulfill their mandate to protect the public.
4: DO NOT talk to anyone about the investigation until you have consulted with an experienced attorney. Do not provide any information, answer the complaint or letter, or discuss the case with the investigator or a member of the board until your lawyer can help you compose a response.
5: DO NOT surrender any materials to the medical board without speaking to an attorney first. Do not sign any authorizations for the release of personal records or information without speaking to an attorney first. The board may have a right to obtain and review the case material related to an investigation. Your attorney can advise you about what to turn over to the board. Providing documents and records to the board may lead to added charges or charges that are more severe than the initially-sought charges.
6: DO NOT attend a meeting with the investigator without having your lawyer present. Meeting or discussing the case with the board investigator without your legal counsel can be an extremely professionally damaging error. This is the easiest way in which to lose your license, as you may make an error in speaking that cannot be undone or explained away. Your lawyer can also answer for you or recommend when to answer or not answer a question, in order to protect your rights.
7: DO NOT speak with or discuss the case with the medical board investigator. Sometimes, the investigator will show up at your office, unexpectedly, asking to talk. They may attempt to disarm you with their affable, relaxed approach. However, this is a tactic to simply put you at ease and allow the investigator to more easily obtain your statement, information and records. Never speak with the investigator, no matter how friendly and understanding they may seem, without your lawyer present.
8: DO NOT that a medical board investigation will end just because a patient or client suffered no harm. You must understand that boards often focus on whether you operated below the standard of care or not rather than on harm to the patient. The board is focused on determining if and/or how the state laws were broken or professional guidelines, rather than injuries or harm to the patient. That aspect is an essential part of a lawsuit alleging malpractice, though it is not a factor in a medical board-assessed disciplinary action.
What To Do When You Are Contacted By The Board:
1: Once you have been notified by the medical board that an investigation has been initiated, you should get in touch with your malpractice insurance company. Many policies require you to contact the insurer as soon as an investigation is undertaken.
2: Retain legal counsel immediately who has insight into and thorough knowledge of the state administrative code as well as general administrative law issues. It is advisable to contact a lawyer who has faced your medical board before. When it comes to your medical license and livelihood, not just any attorney will do. Beware of lawyers who “indulge” in medical board investigations and administrative law cases.
3: Work with your attorney and provide information on professionals you know who have extensive experience with and knowledge of the issues you are facing. You can also advise your lawyer on which experts may not be the best to aid in your defense. Be an active participant in your own case, and assist your attorney in understanding all of the aspects of the case.