Elizabeth Pendo, Tristan McIntosh, Heidi A. Walsh, Kari Baldwin, and James M. DuBois, Protecting Patients from Physicians Who Inflict Harm: New Legal Resources for State Medical Boards, 15 St. Louis U. J. Health L. & Pol'y 7 (2021), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/953
State medical boards (SMBs) protect the public by ensuring that physicians uphold appropriate standards of care and ethical practice. Despite this clear purpose, egregious types of wrongdoing by physicians are alarmingly frequent, harmful, and under-reported. Even when egregious wrongdoing is reported to SMBs, it is unclear why SMBs sometimes fail to promptly remove seriously offending physicians from practice. Legal and policy tools that are targeted, well-informed, and actionable are urgently needed to help SMBs more effectively protect patients from egregious wrongdoing by physicians.
Past reviews of SMB performance have identified features of SMBs associated with higher rates of severe disciplinary actions against physicians, including political and professional independence and adequate funding and staffing. However, there has been little attention paid to elements of the state-level legal framework that governs SMB licensing and disciplinary function, or what legal or policy tools would make SMBs more effective at protecting patients in serious cases.
This Article offers solutions in the form of model language with commentary for five high-impact statutory provisions that address board composition and function, reporting to the board, and adjudication of disciplinary matters. It brings together consensus recommendations from an expert panel, the results of legal mapping of relevant state laws, and original legal and policy analysis. The model provisions and commentary are intended to serve as a new resource for SMBs, state legislatures, and other policymakers to encourage and support examination of existing medical practice acts to improve SMB function and better protect patients from harmful physicians.