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.

Physicians’ Legal Obligation to Report to the State Medical Board of Ohio

Last week, the State Medical Board of Ohio issued a landmark decision in which the Medical Board permanently revoked the license of a physician for failing to report to the Medical Board allegations of sexual misconduct concerning the physician’s colleague.

Pursuant to ORC 4732.224(B), an individual licensed by the Medical Board who has reason to believe that a violation of any provision of the Medical Board’s statutes or rules has occurred shall report to the Medical Board. Although this law has been in effect for many years, this was the first time we are aware that the Medical Board has disciplined a licensee for failing to report a licensee under this law. It was also remarkable that the sanction imposed was a permanent revocation, which is the most serious sanction that can be imposed by the Medical Board.

An interesting factor of this case also rests in the subjective wording of the reporting statute, which provides that a licensee who “has reason to believe” that a violation of Medical Board law or rule has occurred shall report to the Medical Board. This subjective wording can make it difficult for a physician to know when they must report to the Medical Board allegations made against a colleague.  However, OAC 4731-15-01(D) provides guidance by indicating that “reason to believe” or “a belief” does not require absolute certainty or complete unquestioning acceptance, but only an opinion that a violation has occurred based upon firsthand knowledge or reliable information.

In this case, the Board’s attorneys argued that the physician’s failure to report to the Medical Board allegations of sexual misconduct concerning the physician’s medical partner with patients in the practice was a violation of the reporting statute. Despite the fact that the physician who allegedly engaged in misconduct was terminated from employment at the medical practice, the physician who failed to report to the Medical Board the alleged misconduct permanently lost his medical license.

Although there are certain exceptions to the reporting requirement in OAC 4731-15-01(B), those exceptions are limited and require a fact specific analysis in each individual case.

Under OAC 4731-15-01(E), a report required to be made must be made to the Medical Board within 48 hours. Under OAC 4731-15-01(G), each report must include (i) the name of the practitioner or other individual in violation, (ii) the violation which is believed to have occurred, and (iii) the date(s) of and place(s) of occurrence(s), if known.

This case is a cautionary tale to Ohio physicians. If you have reason to believe that another licensed professional is violating any of the provisions of the Ohio Medical Practice Act (ORC 4731 et seq and OAC 4731 et seq), you are required to report to the Medical Board.

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

 

 

Ohio Physicians .. Stop prescribing to self and family members!

Although I have blogged in the past about physicians prescribing medications to themselves and family members, the word is not getting out! (See my previous blog post from March 5, 2012)  Therefore, I thought it best to address the issue again.

In the past month, I have handled several cases where physicians have been investigated by the State Medical Board of Ohio for prescribing to family members.

I also recently had the opportunity to lecture to a group of medical students where the question about prescribing to family members was raised.  During my lecture, I warned the medical students to be aware that as soon as they are awarded their medical license, they will be inundated with requests from family members to refill prescriptions or, in some cases, to take over their medical care.  One student asked me if she could prescribe medications to her child.  In response, I urged the medical student to find her child a pediatrician in order to avoid compromising the physician’s professional livelihood.

The Medical Board recently updated its Position Statement to address the parameters of Ohio physicians prescribing to themselves and family members.  The Medical Board’s updated Position Statement case be found at: http://med.ohio.gov/Portals/0/DNN/PDF-FOLDERS/Laws-Rules/Position-Statements/Statement-on-Prescribing-Controlled-Substances-to-Oneself-or-a-Family-Member.pdf.

Although there are certain very limited exceptions when a physician in Ohio may prescribe to a family member, it is always BEST to seek qualified independent medical care for yourself and/or your family members.  Do not risk a Medical Board investigation into your prescribing practices to yourself or a family member.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Medical Board in general, please feel free to contact Beth Collis at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.