The Texas Medical Board (TMB) receives over 7,000 complaints each year against the medical professionals they regulate. These complaints come from patients, the family members of patients, other health professionals, and other sources. The most common complaints relate to allegations of substandard care, professional incompetence, unprofessional conduct that poses a danger to the public, and mental or physical impairments that impact the ability to practice medicine.
The TMB Investigation Phase
Receiving a complaint notice from the TMB is the earliest stage in the TMB’s investigative process. At this point, the TMB is trying to determine whether a complaint against you has any merit or whether you have violated the Texas Medical Practices Act (“the Act”). Therefore, the initial complaint notice likely contains vague allegations that you have violated the Act. The notice also contains a request for you to answer questions concerning the complaint within a specific amount of time.
Even though the initial complaint notice is merely an allegation and is not a formal finding that you have violated the law in some way, you still should take it seriously. As a result, how you respond to the complaint can be crucial to the outcome of your case. You may think you will be better off if you just tell your side of the story or openly explain what happened. You assume that telling the truth will be enough for the TMB to close out the complaint and realize that you have done nothing wrong.
However, suppose you do not receive legal advice at this stage of the process and draft your responses carefully. In that case, you may inadvertently provide the TMB with evidence against you or, even worse, admit to wrongdoing when you did not have to. Admitting to a violation and hoping for leniency is also a risky way to handle the situation. Allowing an experienced medical license defense attorney to help you present your responses and evidence to support those responses is more likely to benefit you and your defense to the allegations against you.
TMB Disciplinary Sanctions May Be Significant
When considering handling a complaint notice from the TMB, you must also weigh the possibility of losing your license to practice medicine in Texas. Even if you don’t plan to practice in Texas any longer, the loss of your license in a state is typically a public record that can follow you across the country. It may make subsequent employment much more challenging for you, even if you never intend to return to the state of Texas.
Even if you receive a sanction short of losing your medical license, the repercussions can be harsh. You still might lose your job if the TMB finds that you violated the law. In addition, you could find difficulty in obtaining future employment. Disciplinary actions can also become a permanent part of your licensing records, leading to harsher sanctions in future disciplinary actions.
If your complaint notice contains allegations of minor violations that did not result in harm to any patients, you must still take the complaint seriously and respond to it appropriately. Although minor individual violations may not seem to carry the potential for substantial sanctions, multiple violations may raise the potential penalty to a higher level. Furthermore, although the TMB Rules provide guidelines for penalties based on the types of violations involved, they are merely guidelines. Therefore, the TMB has the discretion to impose harsher penalties if warranted.
Other Things to Understand about TMB Disciplinary Proceedings
First, even if you are not currently practicing medicine, some rules govern the actions of doctors in their personal as well as their professional lives. As a result, if you have an active medical license and you violate one of these rules, you still can face disciplinary action by the TMB, even if the incident has nothing at all to do with your practicing medicine. TMB Rules are designed to protect the integrity of the medical profession in general, so you must observe them in all aspects of your life.
Under Texas law, you do not have a right to know who filed the complaint against you or notified the TMB of a possible violation of the law. TMB Rules permit the complaining party to remain anonymous to encourage people to complain about medical professionals without fearing negative repercussions. Although this may seem unfair, the constitutional right to confront your accuser does not extend administrative disciplinary proceedings before the TMB; that right applies only in the context of criminal cases.
Finally, you should not expect these proceedings to be over quickly. The TMB thoroughly investigates all complaints to determine their merits. If the evidence supports the allegations, the TMB will pursue sanctions against you, which can last months or even years. Therefore, you should never assume that these proceedings will end within a specific timeframe.
Click to contact our professional license defense lawyers today
We Will Stand Up for Your Rights Before the Texas Medical Board
You can count on the experienced medical license defense lawyers at Bertolino, LLP, to defend you when you receive a complaint from the TMB. We will investigate the circumstances that led to the complaint and devise the best defense strategy for your case. Together, we will work to clear your name and protect your license. You can call us today at (512) 476-5757 or contact us online.