The Medical Staff
Most doctors must carry medical staff privileges in one or more facilities in order to practice. The medical staff is self-policing and independent of the hospital. Its functions include reviewing the care provided by its physician members to patients and acting as a liaison between the hospital administration and individual physicians. As a peer review body, the medical staff is responsible for shielding patients from incompetent or unstable physicians; at the same time, by controlling physicians' access to both the patients and the facilities, the medical staff wields the power to destroy a physician's professional career.
Physicians' Legal Rights
As a physician, you have legal rights which protect your medical staff privileges. In government-owned hospitals, these rights may be protected under the U.S. constitution. In privately operated hospitals, constitutional rights may not apply, but California statutes also guarantee a fair procedure. Since the 1950s, California law has increasingly upheld the physician's fundamental right to fully practice his or her profession. This right mandates fair procedures in medical staff disciplinary actions. Fair procedure includes, at a minimum, adequate notice of the charges upon which the action is based and the opportunity to present evidence on your own behalf to an unbiased decision maker. The law also provides for the right to challenge any decision restricting or terminating privileges in the California courts. While many other states have begun to address these issues, there is wide variance from state to state in the extent to which physicians' rights to practice in the hospital are able to be protected under the law.
Death Knell for the Physician's Career
A negative outcome for the physician in a medical staff peer review is a death knell. By law in most states (including California), disciplinary actions must be reported by the hospital to both the state Medical Board and the National Practitioner Data Bank, a nationwide database accessible to hospitals and managed care organizations. The state Medical Board may commence its own investigation, finding the physician an easy target because damning evidence has already been compiled in the medical staff hearing. Although the Medical Board may decide not to prosecute, it will do nothing to aid the physician to clear his or her name, regain staff privileges or obtain redress for the economic, professional and emotional injuries which have been sustained. The physician's reputation and career may be ruined.
How Our Firm Can Help
Our team at The Law Firm of Marvin Firestone, MD•JD, & Associates, LLP have been helping doctors, nurses, psychologists, and others defend their professional licenses and staff privileges for over 40 years. Our medical-legal experience can mean the difference in your professional career. By getting involved immediately after the you know of an investigation by a medical staff peer review committee, we can help to control the investigative and formal hearing process, develop the evidence needed to defend the action, and uncover the true facts.
If you are the target of an investigation by a medical staff peer review committee, do not delay seeking the advice and counsel of an experienced healthcare attorney. Fill out our online form or call 1-800-LAW-MDJD (1-800-529-6353) for a free phone consultation to speak to an attorney about your options.