Hi, my name is Sarah Stark, and I’m an attorney at Chelle Law in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our firm regularly represents physicians and physician assistants under investigation with the Arizona Medical Board. Or the Arizona Regulatory Board of Physician Assistants. I thought it might be helpful to provide a brief overview of what to expect should a complaint be filed against your license.
The initial process involves the board staff members informing you that a complaint has been filed. And notifying you in writing that they will determine whether the allegations warrant a further investigation. Upon determination that the allegations warrant further investigation, you will receive an additional letter stating the nature of the allegations. Indicating that you, as the licensee, have an opportunity to respond in writing to the allegations by a certain date.
In addition to your written response. The board staff member assigned to your investigation may also subpoena patient charts and other relevant documentation. Or obtain statements from third-party witnesses or opinions from outside medical consultants. Once the investigation process has been completed, the board staff member in charge of your investigation will notify you. Stating that the investigation has been closed. And that the complaint has been forwarded to the staff investigative review committee to determine further action.
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- How Long Does an Arizona Medical Board Investigation Take?
Can You Sue Someone for Filing a False Complaint With the Arizona Medical Board?
Hi, my name is Robert Chelle with Chelle Law. My firm represents physicians before the Arizona medical board and the osteopathic board. We’ve been representing healthcare providers in Arizona for over a decade now. And one thing that comes up semi-frequently is the question. Can you sue someone for filing a false board complaint in Arizona? Pretty simple question. The answer is yes, but there are some caveats we will go over right now. Every board has a statute. They’re in the Arizona revised statutes, which lay the groundwork for what the board can and can’t do. In the statute for the Arizona medical board, there’s a section. I’m going to read it, which says any person or entity that reports or provides information to the board in good faith. That person is not subject to an action for civil damages.
Arizona Medical Board
In summary, anyone who files a board complaint in good faith can’t be sued for civil damages. The most important part of that section is good faith. What is good faith? This means if someone honestly believes that the physician committed misconduct, did something illegal, or violated the statute. They’re immune from civil damages. The only way that a physician could sue someone for filing a board complaint is if it was false and in bad faith. People can file a good faith complaint with bad intentions. You could have a patient who wants to stick it to the doctor, a competitor physician who’s doing the same, or an employer who is somehow upset about their relationship terminating.
Licensing Board Complaint
If any of those people filed a good faith argument, they believed that whatever the physician did could violate the statute. They’d be immune from a civil lawsuit. If you sue the person, you must prove they acted in bad faith. They knew that what they were alleging was false. Potentially they made up falsehoods and used that as a basis for a complaint. There was a case in the mid-two thousand. That kind of worked its way up to the court of appeals in Arizona. And basically, it was one physician who filed a board complaint against a competitor physician. They’re in the same specialty, fighting for patients in the same area, and alleged some things. And the physician who had the complaint. Filed against him and filed a lawsuit against the other doctor. They stated that the other party did not submit the complaint in good faith.
Are There Any Mistakes Physicians Make?
And therefore, he suffered some damage. I’m just going to read what the counts of that lawsuit are. Right? Some counts for the lawsuit are:
- The alleged defamation
- False light invasion of privacy
- Wrongful institution
- Maintenance of an administrative proceeding
- Intentional interference with prospective contractual to business relationships
- Injurious falsehood
What the court held, though, was the first count. Was the complaint filed in good faith or not? And the court said, yes, it was. They’re saying even if some of the things alleged by the person who filed the complaint were untrue. They believed they were true. They made at least a minimum amount of verification of the facts. And therefore, the other party filed the complaint in good faith. And so the physician who filed the complaint against him couldn’t recover any damages.
We have a case currently with the Arizona medical board. We’re representing a client. I won’t get into the details of it. However, I can give broad strokes. In this case, a patient alleged that our client gave them on a certain date, a specific procedure. Then, there was a negative outcome during the procedure, after a review of the medical records. Our client never saw the patient on the alleged date. Never even provided the procedure alleged by the patient. And then, obviously, the bad outcome didn’t occur either. So, did that person file a complaint in bad faith? Well, we believe, yes. As I stated before, when looking at whether a complaint is filed in good or bad faith. Do you need to look at whether the person who filed the complaint attempted to verify any of the information?
Medical Board Complaints
In this case, obviously, no. What could someone do to verify the information? They could call the office and verify when they saw the physician. Request the medical records, review those, and talk to the people involved. A minimum base amount of effort needs to be given to verify allegations. And if the complainant, the person who files a complaint, doesn’t do any of that. Then that certainly allows whoever had the complaint filed against them to argue that it was filed in bad faith.
This is a fairly nuanced topic. In summary, can you sue someone for filing a false board complaint in Arizona? The answer is yes, you can, under certain circumstances. But it’s an interesting topic to discuss. As I stated, my firm Chelle Law represents physicians before the Arizona medical board and osteopath boards. If you have any questions, we’re certainly happy to answer them. Just give us a call, the number is listed below in the description, or you can visit us on our website, Chelle law.com, C H E L L E law.com. Hopefully, this is informative. Please comment if you have suggestions for other topics you want me to discuss. I’ll be happy to do that. So anyway, thanks for listening, and take care.
Arizona Medical Board Criminal Reporting
A.R.S. 32-3208 requires that physician licensees and applicants for a physician license must report misdemeanor criminal charges involving conduct that may affect patient safety or a felony to the Arizona Medical Board within 10 working days after the charge is filed. A working day would be considered Monday through Friday.
Failure to report a reportable criminal charge within 10 business days is a violation of the Arizona Medical Practice Act and could result in Arizona Medical Board Probation.
What Current and Past Crimes Must Be Reported?
A felony must be reported within 10 days of being charged. The following types of a misdemeanor or other criminal histories are crimes that have been determined by the Board to be reportable pursuant to A.RS § 32-3208:
- Assault and Related Offenses
- Theft and Related Offenses
- Fraud, Deceit and Related Offenses
- Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation of a Child or Vulnerable Adult and Related Offenses
- Sexual and Related Offenses
- Drug and/or Alcohol Related Offenses
- Arson and Related Offenses
- Animal Abuse, Cruelty and Related Offenses
Failure to report a reportable criminal charge within 10 business days is a violation of the Arizona Medical Practice Act and could result in disciplinary action which could result in Arizona Medical Board Probation.
DUI Criminal History
Physicians who contact our office frequently ask our attorney’s if state law allows a physician professional with a DUI crime or conviction to get a license with the Arizona State Medical Board? The short answer is yes. An Arizona Physician DUI will not necessarily prevent a nurse from obtaining a license or a career in the health field. However, the Board (which handles all complaints) has a public policy (updated as of September 2020) on their website which covers the details of what circumstances physician professionals with a case that resulted in a felony DUI criminal conviction can get a license.
Disclosing a Criminal Record for an Arizona Applicant
If a medical license applicant is not required to disclose a legal misdemeanor DUI, the AZ Board can still initiate an investigation based upon the results of a health care fingerprint background check. The Board will then contact the medical professional and initiate an investigation in their practice utilizing the law of the Arizona Medical Practice Act (current as of October 2020). This license investigation determines whether the physician is a danger to the public, has any medical or mental health problems and whether the physician has rehabilitated in the time since the criminal misdemeanor DUI or DUI charges occurred. Simply, the Board wants to know whether the applicant can provide safe medical care with a past criminal case involving alcohol or substance abuse.
State Criminal Record and Convictions
One question our attorneys are frequently asked is whether state law allows a medical professional with a felony criminal background to get a license with the Arizona Medical Board? The short answer is, yes. An Arizona Felony for physicians will not necessarily prevent a physician from obtaining a license or a career in the medical field. However, the Board has a public policy on their website which covers the details of under what circumstances a physician with a case that resulted in a criminal sentence can get a license.
Criminal Charges for Doctors with the Arizona Board
When a professional applies to the Arizona Medical Board, they must disclose a felony criminal court sentence (and other similar offenses) on their application. A physician must self report a felony no matter how much time or how many years have passed since the conviction. After self-reporting occurs, the Board contacts the physician and initiates an investigation utilizing the law of the AZ Medical Practice Act. The investigation helps to determine whether the medical professional is a danger to the public, has any medical or mental health problems and whether the physician has rehabilitated in the time since the criminal incident occurred. Simply put, the Medical Board wants to know whether the physician applicant can provide safe medical care.
Medical Board Probation Information
When a physician faces Arizona Medical Board Probation, the probation is offered through a Consent Agreement. The Consent Agreement requires the physician to do certain things (drug testing, work supervision, counseling, continuing education). Or alternatively, refrain from doing things (using alcohol, prescribing schedule drugs, seeing certain patients, etc.). The Arizona Medical Board can place physicians on probation through:
- Stipulated Rehabilitation Agreement
- Interim Practice Restriction
- Decree of Censure with Probation
- Letter of Reprimand with Probation
- Practice Limitation
Physicians who hold a license in Arizona can face disciplinary actions by the Arizona Medical Board for many different reasons. If the Medical Board determines formal licensing action is necessary, it will happen after the completion of an investigation. It’s the job of the Board to review any complaint alleging a violation of the Arizona Medical Practice Act and Arizona law. Thus, at an Arizona Medical Board Meeting, the Board will vote to determine the outcome of each investigation. Thus, a defense attorney may be needed. The Board can vote on a non-disciplinary outcome or vote to offer the formal physician discipline.
Arizona Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’re interested in learning more about our Arizona Medical Board Attorney services and how to protect your license, set up a consultation with Chelle Law today.
Can you be a Physician with a Felony?
Can doctors become a physician with a past felony on record? This is not going to be a state-specific discussion. Every medical board in every different state has different rules. I would suggest specifically reaching out and trying to find what the rules are as far as felony bars for physicians. This is going to be kind of a general discussion of what you need to think about if you have a felony in your past. You’re either maybe in medical school, in residency, or fellowship. Then you’re ultimately going to have to apply potentially to a new licensing board and kind of how they’ll think about that.
What Was the Degree of Felony Did the Doctor Have on Criminal Record?
The first thing is what type of felony it was. There are degrees of felonies, obviously. What you specifically did, is going to impact whether a board feels like they should give you a license or not. Any kind of violent crime is difficult. If it’s kind of drug or substance abuse related, that’s usually much easier to deal with. Think about this from the board’s perspective.
Let’s just assume there are no laws on the books that say a physician who applies for a license in this state is just absolutely barred if they have a past felony. It’s very unlikely that the board that you’re going to be applying to has a rule like that. Most medical boards will look at each case on a case-by-case basis. There may be rules that state if the physician is currently licensed. Then gets a felony, then it might be an automatic revocation. But most of them don’t just simply bar any kind of applications for past felonies.
How will the Medical Board Look at Doctor During Medical License Defense?
As I said before, they’re going to look at, alright, well, what was the felony? And then, how long ago did it happen? How many different criminal incidents were there? And then certainly, as I said before, the type. Any kind of felony-related incident or conviction that the physician rehabilitates from is going to be something that the board will be willing to work with. And as I said before, if it’s substance abuse or drug-related, well, that’s easy to rehabilitate from. You go to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous), you go to therapy or group counseling. You take random drug screens. And you stop doing drugs or drinking alcohol. And you can show a prolonged period of sobriety.
All these things are the things that the board is going to care about. And they’re going to check into certainly. If you did have a drug-related felony and then had to go to rehab or an intensive outpatient treatment program, or something like that, they’re going to want to see proof that you did all of those things. So, you want to certainly keep all the records associated with any kind of rehab that you have.
Now, what if it’s something different that you can’t rehabilitate from? Like I said before, a violent crime, assault, domestic violence, something like that. Well, you need to show that things have changed in your life from what happened at the time until the time that you apply. So the board can see you’ve at least learned from the incident. And have grown from it, and they may have incorporated positive changes into your life. That show that you have, I guess, made positive steps since the felony occurred.
What Does The Medical Board Want To See?
The board wants to see that a physician is regulatable. Then ultimately, they’re able to provide safe patient care in the medical field. That’s the stated mission of every medical licensing board, to protect the public. They’re not there to protect the doctor. If their mission is to protect the public, you need to make certain that the board understands and feels comfortable issuing the license. So that public safety is not going to be an issue.
Now, how to handle this? Obviously, many people go into medical school, and then they might go into a residency in a different state. And then they plan on going into a different state when they ultimately finish training. Think about the state that you’re going to have to get a physician’s medical license if you’re going into training. That’s going to be the first hurdle on the road to becoming a professional. So, you probably need to reach out to an attorney in the state where you’re going into training. Then just see, is the past felony going to be an impediment to me getting my license?
What if I Can Get Licensed in One State?
If you can get a license in one state, it’s more likely than not that it won’t be an issue in another state. It’s just kind of common sense. That if one state feels comfortable issuing a license to a doctor that the other state will likely feel comfortable as well. Now, they’re not beholden to any other state. Just because you got a license in one state doesn’t mean you’re going to get it in every state that you apply to. But in my experience handling these kinds of medical board cases, it is likely that if board members see. Alright, well, they already have a license.
They got through training with value problems, it’s been three or four years. So it probably means this person is safe to practice. And then they’re more likely to issue the license or not. As I said before, reach out to an attorney who handles medical board issues in the state where you’re going to get your training permit originally.
Now, some medical boards have stricter scrutiny when you’re applying for a full license. Once you’re done with training versus just issuing a training permit or whatever kind of provisional license they have in that state to complete your residency. It just makes sense to reach out to a medical board attorney in the near state. And just walk through all these things. If they have experience with the board, they should know the answers to those questions. Like, for people that have had this in their past, this is kind of what the board has done.
The Advice of a Lawyer to a Future Doctor
No attorney is going to be able to give you a 100% guarantee that you’re going to get a license. If you’ve had something in your past, such as a felony. They cannot do that. So, you just need to kind of assess all the information you have available to you. Then make an informed decision.
If you’re reading this blog, and you’re thinking, alright, I don’t even know if I should go to medical school because of a past felony. Well, once again, reach out to a board attorney in the state that maybe you’re going to school in. Then they can walk you through the scenario.
Being a felon is not a complete bar to having a medical license and being a physician. But obviously, it does have some major roadblocks associated with it. Not only with getting a medical license. But when you start applying for jobs in the medical field as a physician as well.
And when they do a criminal background check, they’re going to see that you have a felony conviction. And you’re going to have to have a good explanation about what happened. For all the things you had to show the board about your rehabilitation, it’ll likely be the same scenario with an employer walking through. Most employers are more understanding than the medical licensing board. But it’s going to be something you’re most likely going to have to deal with for the rest of your career.
Let Us Help You
Anyway, if you have any questions about employment contracts or medical board issues, we’re in Arizona. So, keep that in mind. Hopefully, my information was kind of a good general primer on what to do if you have a felony in your past. And you’re thinking of becoming a physician, maybe you’re in training and then get a felony. Or maybe you are a doctor with a criminal record.
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