Medical Licensing Boards exist, in theory and by statute, to protect the public from unscrupulous and dangerous licensees. The Boards are charged with removing such licensees from the public arena. In the case of a doctor, they are charged with removing dangerous doctors from the practice of medicine, by removing their licenses. Disciplining a license is just another way of saying publicly “you are a bad doctor and should not be treating patients”.
I have a friend and colleague who was forbidden to diagnose or treat Lyme disease in the state where he practices, because the “expert witness” whose specialty is infectious diseases stated in his report to the Board “There is no Lyme disease in this state” despite the fact that the map of Lyme cases put out by the Centers for Disease Control clearly shows a growing number of cases every year in that particular state.
I myself had an experience where a child died in my office several hours after I had administered a treatment that I was quite sure would be safe. A complaint was made to the Medical Board, and I lived that nightmare for the next three years.
First, the child had died. That was a tragedy. The child had a cancer of the eye which had spread beyond the eye (called a metastatic retinoblastoma) and in all likelihood would have died of her disease. Her parents chose not to subject her to conventional chemotherapy, and came to Arizona looking for alternative treatments. Nobody else would see the child because of the age. I agreed to see the child because I took an oath when I went into the practice of medicine that I would see those who presented themselves to me for treatment, and would treat them to the best of my ability. The oath did not say anything about treating people only if it was convenient or politically correct.
Second, no explanation was ever given for the child’s death by the medical examiner, even after an autopsy and extensive toxicology testing. Those results were not shared with me for almost 18 months – 18 months which I spent anguishing about whether it was my treatment that caused the child’s death. As it turns out, their theory that the child died of poisoning due to the treatment I administered was not demonstrated. The levels of the toxic substance which might have affected the child were below even a toxic level, much less a lethal level. And still the medical board expert witness stated that the child died of cyanide poisoning – even though the medical examiner’s report stated: “cause of death undetermined”.
Third, the state medical board chose to discipline my license, saying that I did not ensure the child’s safety, and that I did not try all possible conventional therapies first – despite the fact that the parents had signed a consent form explicitly stating that they refused conventional therapies.
Another licensing medical board in the same state, on the other hand, chose to dismiss the case, on the grounds that there was no evidence that the treatment caused the child’s death, and therefore I should not be punished for following my oath of medicine.
Once a licensee is disciplined in one state, that information is sent to all the other states where a licensee has (or has ever had) a license. Typically each state will in turn also discipline the license, simply based on the original state’s findings, without opening an investigation on their own.
One state in which I used to have a medical license seems to have a different philosophy. Despite having patient choice laws, that state’s allopathic Medical Board is extremely adverse to non-conventional therapy. I experienced that negativity first hand. I was accused of being a dangerous doctor who should be stripped of her license. This accusation has been reported online in multiple places – again without any apparent effort on the part of the accusers or reporters to confirm or disprove the accusations.
I know that my career, which has spanned decades since I first started practice in 1971, has been stuttering since the child’s death. Not only was I in anguish for 18 months, until the toxicology report was released, but many potential patients since that time have seen the online articles and have chosen not to ask me about the experience, but simply to go elsewhere for treatment.
A national organization to which I had just been elected President chose to request my resignation, not because I had done anything wrong, but simply because my license had been disciplined .
I was not reappointed to a medical board because the pending investigation might have been an embarrassment to the governor of the state.
It feels like McCarthyism at its worst. All someone has to do is make an accusation. It does not seem to matter whether the truth is served. The accusation appears to be sufficient to create repercussions against which there is no real defense.
An article entitled “The Black Cloud of a Medical Board Investigation” appeared on MedScape in December 2015. “The fact is that all boards have a great deal of potential power over physicians, and their actions can ruin careers.” And, like Josef K in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, simply “having to wait for the decision is punishment in and of itself – slowly wearing him down and making it hard to focus on work.”
My heart has always gone out to the parents of the child – our children are supposed to live longer that we do, not predecease us. But the Internet has not done me any big favors. Everything is instantly available online, and there does not seem to be any way for me to tell my side of the story without seeming self-serving.
I’m not whining. What happened did in fact happen. And the truth of the matter has not been demonstrated in this lifetime – it is very hard to prove a negative. All we can say is that the child died of something, and that cyanide was present in the blood, as it should have been because of the treatment, but not at sufficiently high levels to show that the treatment caused the child’s death. Perhaps we will all find out the truth in the next life, since we do not appear to have been given all the answers in this life.
In the meantime, I continue to do what I have been called to do, which is to provide a listening ear, and my best recommendations for how to remedy an illness and restore health to those who seek me out.
In the end, I can only follow the path which has been laid out for me. The Light will illumine our steps, clean out the dark corners, and show us the way. And if that path includes having insults hurled at me by people I have never met, then that’s just the way it is. I have no control over their behavior, only over my own. I am called to practice medicine in the best way I know how, using the tools at my disposal. So be it.