Ohio Physicians considering retirement should make the decision voluntarily and prior to being compelled to retire by the State Medical Board of Ohio

Questions often arise as to when it is appropriate to retire from the practice of medicine.  In many instances, physicians who are happy and healthy do not want to consider retirement.  Many physicians have told me that they have devoted their entire life to their medical practice and that, because they do not have any other hobbies, skills, or interests, they desire to continue to practice medicine. Additionally, physicians have told me that they are concerned that they may not have the financial means to stop working. Finally, many physicians are concerned that they will miss the daily interaction with their staff and their patients.

The State Medical Board of Ohio (“Medical Board”) does not have a specific retirement age.  A Physician with a valid license to practice medicine in Ohio may continue to do so for so as long as they are mentally and physically fit to practice and comply with Medical Board laws and rules.  However, if the Medical Board has reason to believe that a physician is unfit to practice medicine, the Medical Board has the legal authority to order a physician to a medical or mental health evaluation.

Ohio Revised Code Section 4731.22(B)(19) provides:

“(B) The board, by an affirmative vote of not fewer than six members, shall, to the extent permitted by law, limit, revoke, or suspend an individual’s certificate to practice or certificate to recommend, refuse to issue a certificate to an individual, refuse to renew a certificate, refuse to reinstate a certificate, or reprimand or place on probation the holder of a certificate for one or more of the following reasons:

(19) Inability to practice according to acceptable and prevailing standards of care by reason of mental illness or physical illness, including, but not limited to, physical deterioration that adversely affects cognitive, motor, or perceptive skills.

In enforcing this division, the board, upon a showing of a possible violation, may compel any individual authorized to practice by this chapter or who has submitted an application pursuant to this chapter to submit to a mental examination, physical examination, including an HIV test, or both a mental and a physical examination. The expense of the examination is the responsibility of the individual compelled to be examined. Failure to submit to a mental or physical examination or consent to an HIV test ordered by the board constitutes an admission of the allegations against the individual unless the failure is due to circumstances beyond the individual’s control, and a default and final order may be entered without the taking of testimony or presentation of evidence.

For the purpose of this division, any individual who applies for or receives a certificate to practice under this chapter accepts the privilege of practicing in this state and, by so doing, shall be deemed to have given consent to submit to a mental or physical examination when directed to do so in writing by the board, and to have waived all objections to the admissibility of testimony or examination reports that constitute a privileged communication. (emphasis added)

If the Medical Board has reason to believe that a physician is unable to practice according to acceptable and prevailing standards of care by reason of mental illness or physical illness, a formal disciplinary action may be commenced.  This action may include (but is not limited to) ordering the physician to undergo a mental and/or physical examination.  Failure to submit to a mental and/or physical examination as ordered by the board constitutes an admission of the allegations against the physician, unless the failure is due to circumstances beyond the physician’s control.

On the basis of the mental and/or physical examination, the Medical Board can require the physician to submit to care, counseling, or treatment by physicians approved or designated by the Medical Board as a condition for reinstatement to practice.  The physician will receive an opportunity to demonstrate to the Medical Board their ability to resume practice in compliance with acceptable and prevailing standards under the provisions of the individual’s certificate.

In order to suspend a physician’s medical license, or to recommend retirement, the Medical Board must find that the physician’s continued practice, “presents a danger of immediate and serious harm to the public.”

In the past few years, we have seen the Medical Board order certain physicians to submit to a mental and/or physical examination. Based on the result of those examinations, the Medical Board has either suspended the physician’s license or requested that they enter into a “voluntary” permanent retirement of their medical license.

As always, if you have questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

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