The truth..the whole truth and nothing but the truth

In order for your attorney to provide you with the best possible counsel, you have to tell them the truth .. the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This seems obvious, however, I find clients (or often potential clients) either don’t tell me the truth or fail to tell me the “entire story.”   The only way to effectively work with an attorney is if you tell them the entire story. It is the attorney’s job to work their way through all the information and determine what is important and what is not important information in your case.

Most of my clients are medical professionals. They have been trained to take a patient’s history and physical. They know the importance of getting the entire story from the patient. The approach the physician takes when treating a patient is largely determined by the information obtained directly from the patient.  This is exactly the same scenario in working with an attorney. If you don’t tell the attorney the truth and the ENTIRE story … their ability to help you is limited.

In addition, you should be readily forthcoming with the information for your attorney. You can’t expect your attorney to cross-examine you to get the story out or to make assumptions based on the limited information that you have provided to them.

If you are not comfortable telling your own attorney the entire story, then you need to find another attorney who you are comfortable telling the entire story. In addition, if you fail to tell your attorney your entire story, you run the risk of the information coming out in a deposition or on cross-examination, which could leave your attorney blindsided and unable to assist you.

The truth is always the best policy, especially when working with your own attorney.

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

Do you have balance in your life?

Doctors …. do you have balance in your life?

In the past, I have written about the three main areas where the State Medical Board in Ohio takes disciplinary actions against physicians: (1) for submitting false information to the Board, (2) for violating a professional boundary with a patient and (3) for issues related to drugs or alcohol (see previous post entitled, “What the Medical Board Really Cares About – Sex, Drugs and Lies”).  Recently, I looked at many of the cases before the Medical Board to determine if there are similar warning signs or red flags that may have been present before a complaint is filed with the Board. What I found is that in many instances the physician had been living a life that is out of balance.

Physicians are trained to look for signs of health (or disease) in their patients, however, too often they do not look for those warning signs in themselves. I often see that the complaint with the Medical Board is just the “final straw” in a year (or years) of a physician living an unbalanced life.  I find that, in many cases, physicians are overworked, overweight, stressed out, and living meaningless and angst filled lives. Many are taking medications to help them sleep and then other medications to help them get through their work days. Many eat out too often, haven’t seen the inside of a gym in ages (or ever), and are living meaningless, spiritless lives.

In terms of boundary violations, they rarely happen  to physicians who are in loving, supportive marriages or relationships. Many times, a physician will find themselves immersed in a Medical Board investigation when they are also in the middle of an ugly divorce or professional partnership that has taken a turn for the worst.

As physicians, you worked hard in school to put yourself in a position where you would have choices. Choices about where you work and what type of work you would like to engage in on a daily basis. Now is the time to exercise those choices and put yourself in a work environment that you find interesting, fulfilling and enjoyable.

I recently read that in tough financial times many people start to step back from their jobs (or job searches) and consider what they can do to make their overall lives better. Many have found that by spending more time with family and friends, exercising more often, and taking “control” of their lives they have found the energy and spirit to be more successful in work or in their job searches. Despite the tough economy, gym memberships were up in 2011 and many more people participated in Weight Watchers and other programs to improve the overall quality of their lives.

Doctors … look at your lives. Are you healthy, happy and fulfilled? If not, now if the time to reclaim your life and the direction of your professional career.

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

What the Medical Board really cares about – sex, drugs & lies

Today is the State Medical Board of Ohio’s monthly Board meeting. It is always scheduled for the second Wednesday of the month. Decisions on disciplinary actions are always scheduled on the 1pm docket. It is a  cattle call. All disciplinary actions are deliberated and final decisions are voted on in open session. Members of the public, including medical students, and the press are welcome to and do attend.

The first question I am always asked by physicians is “What will get me in trouble with the Medical Board”.  While the Medical Board can discipline a licensee for a wide range of things, there are three areas that seem to be of their highest concern: Sex, Drugs and Lies.

Sex. The Board typically takes disciplinary action against a licensee who has sex with a patient. However, the Board is also concerned with boundary violations with patients. Have you employed a patient in your office or loaned money to a patient or signed a car note or credit card application for a client? The line in the sand between a doctor and a patient should be clear. There should be no overlapping of a doctor/patient relationship and a personal relationship.

Drugs. Nearly half of all disciplinary actions handled by the Medical Board each year involve impaired physicians. Physicians who have been diagnosed with drug or alcohol problems. The Medical Board is also very concerned about the prescribing habits of physicians. Has the physician prescribed to the mother of a patient as opposed to the patient because only the mother has insurance? Has the physician prescribed a controlled substance to a family member?  Has the physician prescribed a drug to a patient for other than legitimate medical purposes?

Lies. The Medical Board does not like to be lied to. If you complete an application and fail to give clear, concise and accurate information to the Board, you will likely face a disciplinary action. Similarly, if you are the subject of discipline by another state and fail to tell the Ohio Board, you will likely be subject to discipline in Ohio not just for the “sister state discipline” but also for failing to disclose the action to the Ohio Board.

At the Board meeting today, the Board will consider final discipline in four cases. One involves practicing below the standard of care in the prescribing of medications to four patients that also resulted in felony and misdemeanor convictions; two cases relate to alcohol abuse or addiction and relapse and one involves an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient. http://www.med.ohio.gov/pdf/Agenda/Agenda%20-2012/03-12agenda.pdf

Off to the meeting….

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the State Medical Board of Ohio, feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909. I look forward to your questions.

Medical Board actions are public and posted on Board’s website!

I am often asked by physicians, if a disciplinary action taken by the Medical Board against their license will be available to the public. The answer is Yes.  Under the Ohio Public Records law, R.C. 149.43, any official action taken by a governmental agency is a public record. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43

What does this mean? Prior to the internet, to obtain a public record from a governmental agency, a written request was required for the document. You can still do that today.  Now, however, all Medical Board disciplinary actions are posted on the Medical Board’s website.  Interested persons can go to the link on the Medical Board’s website to obtain information about a particular licensee, enter their name and they will be presented with a summary list of any discipline against that physician. A person can click on the “view documents” box (which is in bright yellow) and download the entire disciplinary record (copies of Citation letters, Consent Agreements, Adjudication Orders or any Court appeals documents).  To find information about your medical license or to look up another physician, go to: https://license.ohio.gov/lookup/default.asp?division=78

Information about a medical diagnosis or medical condition that might have formed the basis of a disciplinary action is not redacted and is included in the public record.  All the information, including any medical diagnosis, criminal conviction, boundary violation, the factual and legal basis for the action and the disciplinary action taken against the licensee is all included in the public record on the Medical Board’s website.

As a follow-up question, I am often asked whether the disciplinary action is taken off the website and out of the public record once the licensee completes any suspension or probation period. Unfortunately no. Once a disciplinary action is taken, it is on the professionals’ “permanent record” and will not be sealed, removed or redacted. Even in cases where the basis for the disciplinary action is a criminal action that has been sealed or expunged, the Medical Board is not required to seal or expunge any information available to the public.

The argument given for including all disciplinary actions of the Medical Board in the public record is that consumers should be able to know if their medical professional has been the subject of discipline by the Medical Board.

However, only proposed disciplinary actions and final actions (be it a Consent Agreement or Adjudication Order) are made public. Complaints submitted to the Medical Board and any Board investigations are confidential. Under R.C. 4731.22(F)(5), investigations of the Medical Board are confidential and are not open for public disclosure. However, this restriction  also pertains to the licensee and their legal counsel. When a complaint is filed with the Medical Board, the licensee may be notified of the general nature of the complaint, but they will not be provided with a copy of the complaint or even given the name of the person who filed the complaint. This rule however does not prevent the Medical Board from sharing any part of its investigation with other governmental agencies such as a police department or another Board.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or would like me address a particular question, feel free to email me at Beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.