The Black Cloud of a Medical Board Investigation

Leigh Page

Disclosures

December 23, 2015

In This Article

Still Pressure on Medical Boards

In 2012, the FSMB stopped reporting state actions and the Public Citizen rankings came to a halt, but public pressure on medical boards hasn't let up. This became clear in 2013, when the Michigan board stripped the license of oncologist Farid Fata, MD, after it was shown that he had been giving chemotherapy to healthy patients so that he could bill them more. A Medscape article[6] on Dr Fata's sentencing received more than 300 comments from readers.

However, it wasn’t the board that exposed Dr Fata. He was charged by federal authorities on a tip from a whistleblower. In fact, the board had received a complaint about Dr Fata in 2010 that never led to any actions against him. The Detroit News reported[7] that the nurse who filed the complaint said she had never even been interviewed by the board, though state officials claimed otherwise. In any case, Fata was allowed to operate for more than 2 more years after the complaint was filed.

Chapman thinks the board has gotten tougher since the Fata debacle. "There is less benefit of the doubt than before," he says. Considering that the board was left with a considerable amount of egg on its face from the Fata case, "I don't fault the board for looking more thoroughly into complaints, but what happens is that more doctors get caught up in this increased scrutiny," he says.

That isn't the only possible fallout from the Fata case. Last year, the Michigan department that oversees the board instituted rules that allow it to overrule a disciplinary decision by the board. Basically, the department can overrule the board if it obtains agreement from the board chairman, who serves at the pleasure of the governor, that the public health and welfare would be in jeopardy if the decision was allowed to stand.

David Rogers, an attorney in Farmington Hills, Michigan, knows of no cases where this new right has been exercised yet, but thinks it's a setback for physicians. Physicians would clear themselves in a full-blown hearing, and the board would officially exonerate them, only to see the decision overruled by the department. This is not only a very Kafkaesque scenario, but Rogers says it would also violate a physician's right to due process.

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