If a doctor in Indiana has his or her license taken away as a result of a court case or some other disciplinary action, it should prevent the doctor from practicing medicine ever again. One might think the same would hold true if the doctor voluntarily surrenders his or her license, but this is not necessarily the case.
In fact, doctors who know they are under investigation for suspected malpractice sometimes give up their licenses in order to avoid litigation or some other penalty. Though surrendering a license in one state prevents a doctor from practicing medicine in that state anymore, some doctors simply relocate to a new state and continuing practicing under a different license. There is little, if any, legislation in place preventing one state’s medical board from licensing a physician who surrendered a license in another state.
In 1986, Congress started the National Practitioner Data Bank to keep tabs on physicians who have had troubling events in their past, such as restrictions on their practice or disciplinary action. Unfortunately, research indicates that many medical boards do not take advantage of it despite the fact that it contains over one million records relating to adverse actions by health care providers. Furthermore, the information is not available to the general public at all.
Some states are particularly secretive about the circumstances under which a physician surrenders a medical license. The public file of a physician who surrendered a license in Maryland goes no further than to say that he engaged in conduct that was unprofessional. It was only by filing a series of open records requests that reporters discovered a romantic relationship between the doctor and a former patient.
Until there is a revision of the system that tends to shield negligent doctors from consequences, medical malpractice will likely continue to occur. Patients who have suffered unnecessarily at the hands of a physician may wish to consult an attorney.