Bad Medicine: On Disciplining Physician Felons
The Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 501-548, Fall 2009
48 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2010 Last revised: 19 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 12, 2010
This article provides the first-ever examination of the collateral consequences of felony convictions for physicians in the state of New York. We collected data from 4,739 records of disciplinary actions from 1990 2007 and coded them according to the infraction and the punishment given by the Board of Physician Medical Conduct, or BPMC. We also conducted extensive interviews with elites involved in all facets – and on both sides –of the disciplinary process. Four major findings flow from this research: (1) Of all the disciplinary records in New York, 50% of infractions were felonies and 50% were non-felonies, generally professional infractions; (2) Physicians who commit felonies in New York had a 50% chance of losing their license permanently and a 50% chance of receiving a punishment from the menu of other options.
This “menu of options” was commonly known to attorneys familiar with the physician-discipline process on both sides, and was used for purposes of plea bargaining when licenses were being (re)evaluated; (3) Physicians recidivated at a rate of 8.0%, surprisingly high for this professional group; and, (4) What we refer to as a “Handbook for Lawyers” emerged from our interviews, representing the essence of counsel’s arguments when pleading for mitigation in the licensing stage for felony infractions. Following our presentation of data and discussion, we conclude with speculations on the fairness of the physician discipline system and recommendations for further research.
Keywords: collateral consequences, professions, discipline, licensing
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