The Maryland Board of Physicians Puts All Marylanders At Risk (Except Bad Doctors, They Seem to be OK)

Today is October 14. Each month the Maryland Board of Physicians posts on its website a report of sanction proceedings against the physicians and other medical professionals it regulates. The sanctions for September, 2009 were just posted today.

This is a big deal. That list of sanction proceedings is pretty much the only way for Marylanders to know if there has been a proceeding against their doctor’s license. Here is a great example to show why this is important, and why the Board of Physicians gives mere lip service to the safety of Maryland patients.

I have a client who was injured in an accident on January 1, 2007. She did what most people would do. She had a visit at the ER, and then followed up for treatment with her regular doctor. She was treated by her primary care doctor from January 20, 2007 to December 12, 2007. The doctor prescribed medications, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. That all sounds great, right? Perfectly appropriate.

Until I tell you that this doctor had her license suspended effective September 30, 2006 for failing to resolve a state tax lien. On January 22, 2008, the Board finally realized that the doctor had been practicing without a license since October 1, 2006. They only found out because someone made a complaint. In February, 2009, the Board finally got around to sanctioning the doctor, with a $25,000 fine and imposing conditions for reinstatement.
So, all of the treatment my client got was done by a doctor with no license.

Somehow, prescriptions were written and filled despite this. Now there is nobody qualified to give medical testimony for my client’s case. Her insurer paid for treatment by an unlicensed doctor. I can’t recover damages for treatment by an unlicensed doctor. Even if I find another doctor to testify, they likely will not be able to rely on the treatment notes of an unlicensed doctor.

Until the Board issued its Order in February, 2009, there was no practical way for patients to find out this doctor had no license, unless they looked at her Practitioner Profile and noticed that the renewal date had passed. It’s possible that consumers might do this before seeing a new doctor. It is extremely unlikely that patients do this before each visit with a regular provider.

How many people did this doctor treat without a license during the 16 months between when the Board notified the doctor of her suspension, and when the Board notified the public? I bet a lot.
So the list of sanction proceedings that the Board can’t post promptly might be really important, for a lot of people.

Let’s say the doctor is negligent in treating a patient during this time period. The negligence results in a paralyzed 12 year old child. The patient’s family sues, only to find out that there is no insurance coverage because the doctor was unlicensed. There are no assets, so the injured patient is left out in the cold, with no way to get the money to pay for medical equipment, nursing services, or future medical treatment.

So yeah, this stuff matters. And it’s obvious that the Maryland Board of Physicians can’t, or won’t, act promptly to protect consumers.