When the news media pay attention to medical patients’ complaints, they usually look on the subject with a focus on medical malpractice lawsuits. These legal actions are a major concern for medical providers, but the associated costs are often covered by insurance. In some ways a more serious problem for medical professionals is a formal complaint with a licensing board.
When a patient in California feels they have been mistreated by a medical professional, they can file a complaint with the Medical Board of California, a state agency tasked with licensing and upholding standards within the profession. This is more than just a self-governing body within the profession. Covered care providers include medical doctors, midwives, polysomnographic technicians and research psychologists. For covered professionals, the MBC investigates accusations of:
- Substandard care
- Prescription issues
- Sexual misconduct
- Unlicensed practice
- Unprofessional conduct
- Improper office practice
Hearings and prosecution
If the MBC determines that discipline is warranted, it forwards the matter to a state district office. There are two paths the district might take. For minor violations of law, it may pursue an administrative route which can result in a citation and a fine. The professional can defend against these at an administrative hearing.
For more serious violations, the district office can refer the matter to a local district attorney or the state Attorney General’s office for criminal prosecution. Again, there are typically chances along the way for the medical professional to defend their position at hearings.
Administrative hearings and pre-trial hearings are not the same as a criminal trial, but they require careful work. The help of an attorney with experience in professional defense can be absolutely essential for medical professionals who are fighting to keep their licenses.