We’ve been looking in recent posts at the relationship, or at least the potential relationship, between medical malpractice litigation and physician discipline. As we noted, a physician’s failure to abide by minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice can serve as grounds for both malpractice liability and discipline, depending on the circumstances.
One interesting point to note is that, unlike medical malpractice cases involving unprofessional conduct, no actual injury to a patient needs to be established in the disciplinary process when unprofessional conduct is involved. It would be enough to establish the breach of medical practice standards.
Other examples of the types of actions that can give rise to disciplinary action for a physician include: inability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety because of illness, drunkenness, or use of drugs, narcotics or chemicals; failing to supervise a physician assistant; and improper management of medical records. The specific circumstances that give rise to malpractice liability and grounds for discipline do vary, though, and it isn’t always going to be that a valid case for both, or either, exists. The evidence must be sufficient to prove it in either process.
Depending on the circumstances of the case and the professional history of the provider involved, medical malpractice litigation can result in investigation by the state Board of Medical Practice, or vice versa. In whatever order these processes are set off, it is important for the accused physician to work with an experienced legal advocate to ensure his or her due process and other rights in the disciplinary process are protected.