Maryland is just one of thirteen U.S. states that do not require that doctors undergo criminal background checks when they apply for a medical license to practice medicine in the state. The requirement that physicians undergo criminal background checks in Maryland has been considered by the Maryland Legislature in past years: in 2007, state legislative auditors recommended that the Maryland Board of Physicians be required by law to conduct criminal background checks on physicians applying for Maryland medical licenses, but the requirement was not made part of Maryland law.
The Maryland Legislature considered two bills in 2013 that would have provided the Maryland Board of Physicians (as well as other licensing boards) with the authority to conduct criminal background checks, but both bills were withdrawn from consideration after Maryland’s Attorney General noted that the word “may” in the proposed legislation was not sufficient to allow the Board of Physicians to access the FBI’s criminal records database because the FBI requires a statutory mandate for accessing its database of criminal records. The Maryland Legislature did not consider the issue during its 2014 session that ended in early April 2014.
Why is the issue of conducting criminal background checks on physicians before they are issued medical licenses in Maryland once again being considered necessary in Maryland?
Because of the recent revelations that a Maryland physician who had been practicing medicine in Maryland since 1996 had a 1987 rape conviction in Florida for which he served four years in prison on a ten-year sentence after he pleaded guilty. At the time the physician had applied for his Maryland medical license, he did not disclose the rape conviction that allegedly involved following a woman home after a night of drinking at a strip club, breaking into the woman’s home, and then raping her at gunpoint.
The physician reportedly only stated in his Maryland medical license application that he had “assaulted someone” while he was under the influence of alcohol. No one seems to know how the Maryland Board of Physicians responded to that disclosure or what, if any, investigation the Board undertook with regard to the disclosure. The physician’s serious criminal history only became publicly known after he was indicted in Maryland for allegedly sexually assaulting one of his patients in April 2014, for which he has pleaded not guilty. The Maryland Board of Physicians suspended the physician’s Maryland medical license on June 5, 2014.
Many groups in Maryland support criminal background checks for physicians applying for and holding medical licenses in Maryland, including Maryland’s medical society and the Maryland Hospital Association, with the key issues being the frequency of the criminal background checks and the thoroughness of those checks.
Let’s hope that the Maryland Legislature does the right thing during it next legislative session by passing bills that require the Maryland Board of Physicians to undertake timely, frequent, and thorough criminal background checks on physicians in order to protect Maryland citizens and improve patient safety, instead of relying on physicians’ voluntary disclosure of their criminal histories.
If you are a victim of medical malpractice in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical negligence case, if appropriate.
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