If you are a licensed physician or surgeon in the State of California, you fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Board of California (MBC). The MBC has the authority to initiate investigations into medical professionals alleged to have violated criminal laws or other laws and regulations and pursue appropriate discipline of these individuals.
This discipline can include revocation of your license to practice medicine in the state. As a medical professional, protecting your license is vital to the continued success of your career. Here is what you need to know about this powerful board.
The Mission of California’s Medical Board
Patients place significant faith and trust in their doctors’ and surgeons’ knowledge and skill. In doing so, patients place themselves in a position where they can quickly be taken advantage of or hurt by a negligent or nefarious medical professional.
Moreover, patients or others hurt by a doctor’s actions may not have the time, resources, or knowledge to protect their rights.
The Medical Board of California’s mission is to protect the public from physicians and surgeons who cannot provide reasonable and competent care or take advantage of their patients through their position of power.
It accomplishes this protective mission by enforcing the provisions of the Medical Practice Act and developing and implementing licensing requirements for physicians, surgeons, and allied healthcare professionals.
The Members of the MBC
Presently, the Medical Board of California is made up of 15 members, all of whom are appointed. Eight of these members are physicians, and the remaining seven are members of the public.
Thirteen of the members are appointed by the governor, including all of the physician members. The House chooses one of the remaining public members, and the Senate Rules Committee chooses the remaining public member.
California’s Medical Practice Act
California’s Medical Practice Act is part of the Business and Professions Code section of California’s statutes, beginning in section 2052. This crucial piece of legislation defines what it means to practice medicine in the state and regulates who can become licensed to practice medicine.
The Medical Practice Act also creates and empowers the Medical Board of California.
The MBC’s Enforcement Powers
Some of the most significant powers the MBC wields pertain to its ability to investigate complaints of unethical, fraudulent, or negligent practices. Members of the public and others who have concerns about a physician’s practice can submit a complaint to the MBC identifying a physician or surgeon that should be investigated.
From there, the MBC can:
Decide Whether to Open a Formal Investigation
First, the MBC will review the complaint and determine whether it alleges any behavior that the Board could investigate and that could subject the physician to discipline or other liability. Some of the most common types of complaints the MBC receives that lead to an investigation include:
- Allegations of sexual misconduct
- Malpractice or unreasonably deficient care, such as a grossly erroneous misdiagnosis
- Individuals practicing medicine without a valid license to do so
- Physicians or surgeons who are impaired by some substance or mental or physical condition that keeps them from rendering competent care
- Medical billing and coding errors or submitting fraudulent claims
If the Board decides not to investigate a claim because it does not pass this initial screening stage, the complaining individual will be notified of that decision.
Assign the Complaint to the CCU for Investigation
If MBC believes a claim to be credible and that discipline is possible, the next step is assigning the complaint to the Central Claims Unit (CCU) to investigate the complaint further. At this stage, the Board digs deeper into whether the allegations are true.
To make this determination, the investigator with the MBC or CCU can speak with individuals about the complaint. The investigator will most likely speak to the initial complaining party to receive as much information as possible and to identify other potential witnesses.
These additional witnesses could include other injured or defrauded patients, individuals who know the doctor being complained about either professionally or personally, and members of the physician’s office staff.
It is common for the investigator to want to speak with the doctor or surgeon complained about and get their side of the story. If an investigator requests to speak to you, consult with a medical licensing defense lawyer beforehand to avoid negatively impacting the result.
Close the Investigation
If, at the conclusion of the investigation, it does not appear there is enough evidence to suggest a violation of the Act or some other regulation, the complaint will be dismissed. The initial complainant will also be notified of the MBC’s decision not to move forward with any discipline.
Refer to Outside Agencies
On the other hand, suppose that the evidence gathered during the investigation shows that a law or regulation violation occurred and that the violation should be penalized or have some consequence. The MBC can then refer the case for further proceedings.
The case would proceed to the Office of the Attorney General for civil or regulatory violations to determine what discipline is warranted. Discipline can range from a reprimand to a suspension or revocation of your license to practice law.
If criminal activity is suspected to have taken place, a referral will be made to the local district attorney’s office to pursue whatever criminal charges that the district attorney deems appropriate.
What a Medical License Defense Lawyer Can Do for You
Being notified that an ethics or other violation investigation is taking place can be unnerving. How you respond to this investigation can determine whether you keep your license or whether you cannot practice medicine for a period of time — if at all.
S J Harris Law is an experienced licensed defense firm in California intimately familiar with the MBC and CCU. We know how these boards conduct their investigations and disciplinary proceedings, and we can fight aggressively to protect your rights and your reputation on your behalf. To safeguard your future, contact us today.