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Analysis

Maryland Bill Expunging Physician Disciplinary History Draws Ire of Regulators

By John Commins  
   February 11, 2019

The legislation's supporters say the bill scrubs only minor disciplinary scrapes that result in reprimands or probation.

The Federation of State Medical Boards has offered "strong opposition" to a provision in a Maryland Senate bill that expunges physicians' disciplinary records after three years.

"Maryland Senate Bill 372 proposes putting a three-year time limit on what patients in Maryland are allowed to know about the disciplinary history of their physician," FSMB President and CEO, Humayun Chaudhry, DO, said in a media release.

Chaudhry said the legislation would decrease transparency in the licensing process, potentially endangering patients, and would create a dangerous precedent that will have a national impact on patient safety.

"Instituting a mandatory time-limit to expunge a physician's disciplinary history is unprecedented," he said. "If passed, Maryland will become the first state in the nation to allow physicians to wipe their disciplinary records clean after a certain period of time, regardless of the severity of the offense or the danger to the public."

The bill would "severely limit" for state medical boards the availability of records detailing physician disciplinary actions, Chaudhry said, and it would deny patients' right to know the disciplinary history of their physicians.

While noting that physicians have a right to due process with their medical boards, Chaudhry said SB 372 "tips that power to the detriment of public safety."

"Not only would this bill hide this information from the residents of Maryland, but it would make it easier for previously disciplined doctors to leave the state and begin practicing in another jurisdiction undetected," he said.

Gene M. Ransom, III, CEO of The Maryland State Medical Society, says FSMB is overstating the effects of the legislation.

"The bill only refers to minor written reprimands and probation," Ransom says. "If you actually read the language and Bill we're not talking about major offenses. We're not talking about consent orders we're not talking about people have been disciplined. We're talking about these minor things that end up creating all kinds of problems for physicians."

Ransom says the legislation provides "reasonable changes to try to improve the process."

"When a doctor gets punished by the board, even something as minor as a written reprimand because they failed to complete all their continuing medical education or they made a mistake filling out their paperwork or they had a procedural problem, it goes into the national practitioner data bank and it becomes for some of them a major problem for the rest of their career," he says.

"The question is that once you're punished, are you punished forever, or is there an opportunity if you only got probation or if you only got a written reprimand to have that come off your record," he says.

Ransom says MedChi open to suggestions for improving the process.

"If the Federation of State Medical Boards has a suggestion on how expungement should be done, we'll listen. We think expungement is a tool that should be used so people aren't stuck forever with these problems."

“Instituting a mandatory time-limit to expunge a physician's disciplinary history is unprecedented.”

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

If passed, Maryland will become the first state in the nation to allow physicians to wipe their disciplinary records clean after a certain period of time.

Opponents of the bill say it will set a bad precedent that limits transparency, potentially harms patients, and could be copied in other states.

Supporters say the bill provides physicians with an opportunity to wipe relatively minor administrative disciplinary actions of their records.


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