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New law could make it harder for doctors to continue to practice

Doctors practicing in California now have another reason to be on their best behavior. A new piece of legislation supported by the California Medical Association would prevent physicians from seeking probation through the state's administrative disciplinary process if their actions have harmed patients. Instead, they would have to face a judge.

Physicians who have engaged in misconduct by abusing drugs or alcohol, participating in sexual exploitation or committed other felony-level offenses have traditionally been granted the opportunity to seek probation from the state's medical board so that they may eventually continue to practice medicine. This new law would prevent these "most egregious offenders" from taking advantage of that probationary option.

Though it is still a rare occurrence for a doctor to be placed on probation, last year's budget report showed that 87 doctors voluntarily surrendered their licenses out of 140,000 licensed physicians statewide. An additional 49 doctor licenses were revoked. The reason for most? Gross negligence.

The new bill would still require passage by the full state legislature and then be signed by the governor. It is not certain what would happen to doctors currently undergoing due process for negligence. House bill 505 can be tracked here for ongoing updates and discussion.

In the meantime, California doctors who are concerned about their ability to continue to practice medicine due to disciplinary measures would be advised to contact an administrative law attorney. Because administrative law requires a lawyer experienced in working with the agency you are dealing with, it's important to choose one carefully.

The law is continually being reviewed by state legislators and your practice may be affected in more serious ways than you might have imagined. If you are or hope to be practicing medicine in California and may have a few flaws in your record, make sure you discuss your licensing with an attorney who can help you through it.

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