A medical license is necessary for doctors to practice medicine in any country, and they risk losing it if they knowingly engage in malpractice. In Kentucky, the state medical board issues and regulates medical licenses, ensuring that doctors are qualified to provide competent and safe patient care. So, what happens when a doctor is accused of malpractice, and how does it affect their license?

A doctor can lose his license for malpractice, but it’s highly unlikely as regular medical negligence only warrants compensation. Doctors don’t lose their licenses until proven to be a danger to their patients. The state medical board would have to show recklessness, prove malicious conduct, or flag a harmful pattern.

At Professional Insurance Plans, we care about your professional reputation and your patient’s safety. This post will guide you through what happens if you are accused of medical malpractice and how to avoid losing your license.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice refers to negligence or the substandard care that a healthcare professional provides. It occurs when doctors, nurses, therapists, or other medical personnel fail to meet their expected duty of care. You can argue for medical malpractice if the hospital and doctors deviate from standard medical practices, causing harm to patients.

Please note that medical malpractice is subjective, and in many instances, patients or the state medical board may have different opinions from healthcare providers. So, it’s essential to seek legal representation as soon as you are accused of civil malpractice. 

On the other hand, criminal negligence refers to a medical provider’s reckless or intentional behavior that harms patients. It goes beyond incompetent care and is considered a criminal offense.

Examples of Malpractice Scenarios

Malpractice takes numerous forms, from misdiagnosis to surgical errors. Here are a few examples:

  • Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis: It occurs when a healthcare professional fails to identify a patient’s condition correctly.
  • Medication errors: These can occur during prescription, administration, or monitoring of drugs and may result in severe harm or death.
  • Surgical mistakes: This includes operating on the wrong body part, leaving instruments inside the patient’s body, or performing unnecessary surgeries.
  • Birthing injuries: Negligent care during child delivery that causes birth injuries to the mother or child.
  • Failing to secure informed consent: Medical providers must seek permission after adequately informing patients about any treatment’s risks, benefits, and alternatives before proceeding. Failure to do so constitutes malpractice.

The Consequences of Medical Malpractice

The consequences of medical malpractice directly impact the patient who was harmed. Such harm may include:

  • Physical and emotional pain.
  • Financial burden from medical bills.
  • Lost wages.
  • Disability or disfigurement.
  • Death in extreme cases.

What Happens to a Doctor Who Commits Malpractice?

The repercussions of malpractice also extend to healthcare professionals. It starts with reputation damage and the stress of a lawsuit but can also result in disciplinary actions against the doctor by their state’s medical board.

Disciplinary Actions for Malpractice

Each state has unique laws and regulations for handling medical malpractice cases. However, most medical boards follow a similar process in addressing complaints and investigating allegations against doctors.

 This process typically involves:

  • Receiving and reviewing the complaint.
  • Gathering evidence through interviews, medical records, and expert opinions.
  • Holding a disciplinary hearing to determine if the doctor’s actions constitute malpractice.
  • Imposing sanctions or penalties on the doctor if found guilty.
  • Reporting to the police or other authorities if there’s evidence of criminal misconduct.

The Role of Medical Boards in Determining Sanctions

Medical boards have the authority to impose various sanctions on doctors found guilty of malpractice, including:

  • Reprimands and warnings.
  • Probation.
  • Fines and restitution for victims.

The sanction’s severity depends on the malpractice’s severity and any prior disciplinary actions against the doctor.

Do Doctors Lose Their License for Malpractice?

Doctors only lose their license for malpractice in extreme cases. License revocation is a possible outcome, but it usually only happens when:

  • The doctor has a history of multiple complaints and sanctions.
  • Reckless or deliberate actions resulted in severe harm or death to a patient.
  • The doctor fails to comply with probation terms or continues to exhibit unethical behavior.

The chances of a lawsuit triggering license revocation are slim, but it’s not impossible. The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits settle out of court, and doctors rarely lose their licenses because of them. 

Honest mistakes, while potentially devastating for patients, are not usually enough to warrant license revocation. However, gross negligence or intentional harm is a different story. Most often, your peers or the medical board will be the ones to determine if your actions constitute those more serious charges.

Can Doctors Go to Jail for Malpractice?

Civil and criminal cases for medical malpractice are separate matters. Civil cases differ from criminal cases in determining whether an individual is guilty of wrongdoing. 

To prove a medical malpractice case, you must show that the doctor’s actions fell below the accepted standard of care and harmed the patient. The threshold for prosecution is much lower in civil cases, and judges may find part of the blame for malpractice lies with several parties, not just one.

Criminal cases require that the prosecution prove the accused guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The threshold for prosecution is much higher in criminal cases, and judges are less likely to spread the blame across multiple parties.

Doctors can go to jail for malpractice in rare cases where their actions were grossly negligent or intentional. Prosecutors must prove that the doctor intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused harm to a patient or acted recklessly, disregarding their safety. 

For example, a doctor who intentionally prescribes harmful medication or performs unnecessary surgery on a patient could face criminal charges. Additionally, if a doctor is found guilty of gross negligence resulting in death, they may also face prosecution in a criminal court.

Final Thoughts on Doctors Losing Their License for Malpractice

Every healthcare professional must provide the best possible care for their patients. When this duty is breached, there can be severe consequences, including losing your license and facing criminal charges.

Unfortunately, doctors often face false accusations of malpractice, damaging their reputations and careers. Sometimes, honest mistakes get twisted into malpractice claims, and doctors need a strong defense when facing these allegations.

Malpractice liability insurance can provide financial protection and legal support for doctors facing malpractice claims. We urge you to get physician liability insurance and have peace of mind, knowing you’re covered in case of any false or legitimate claims.