For physicians, coming under investigation for negligence, misconduct or violation of ethical duties can be a scary experience. A lot can ride on these investigations, and depending on the allegations, the results of the investigation, and the discretion of the medical board, a physician’s ability to continue working in the profession can be threatened.
Like other states, Minnesota has a medical board which regulates physicians, handles licensing matters and takes care of disciplinary matters when appropriate. The medical board follows an established process to investigate complaints that are filed, and it is important for physicians to have an understanding of the process and to work with an experienced attorney to ensure their rights are protected.
First of all, the medical board can receive complaints and reports from anybody, including other physicians, patients, their families, etc. These reports are supposed to be confidential and only shared with the individual who filed the complaint and the physician involved in the complaint, except in cases involving sexual misconduct when the alleged victim must be informed of the actions the board takes in the matter. The medical board is required to investigate all complaints which involve violations of the Minnesota Medical Practice Act. The medical board doesn’t have authority to investigate claims that fall outside the scope of that law.
By law, medical board proceedings against a physician must begin within seven years of the date the board receives the complaint, though proceedings involving sexual misconduct may be brought anytime. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office handles investigations involving sexual misconduct.
Once a complaint is received and reviewed, the physician is supposed to have the opportunity to respond to the allegations, providing any necessary documentation. Further along in the process, conferences may be held with a licensed physician assigned to the case to further investigate the matter. The aim of these conferences is to determine whether the physician met the minimum standard of care under the circumstances alleged in the complaint. Physician consultants may be used to make this determination.
In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the process, beginning with some of the circumstances under which complaints may be closed and how an experienced attorney can help protect a physician’s rights and interests.