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Report: Physicians surrender licenses, keep practicing anyhow

Is your doctor keeping a secret?

Your doctor may have surrendered his or her medical license in another state — rather than waiting for that state’s medical board to revoke it — and you’d never know.

When doctors commit outrageous acts of medical malpractice or cross ethical boundaries, the medical licensing board of each state has the power to revoke their licenses — but only on a state-by-state basis. There’s no national system of oversight.

There’s also very little in the way of accessible databases that consumers or other medical review boards in other states can use to find out if a doctor has surrendered a license to avoid the stigma of having it revoked. Surrendering a license before facing official charges and a hearing in front of a state review board typically leaves the doctor in question with the option to simply move their practice to another state.

A recent investigation by USA TODAY, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today identified more than 250 physicians who had done just that. An Ohio doctor working in a Cincinnati clinic, for example, surrendered his medical license twice — once in California and once in Louisiana. He’d made mistakes that included removing a kidney during a colon surgery and removing a woman’s fallopian tube because he mistook it for her already-removed appendix.

The real number of doctors practicing after surrendering a license in another state is hard to tally. Without any national controls or databases, investigators have a tough time piecing together information and tracing a physician’s record.

For the average American patient, this is troubling news indeed. It’s impossible to fully evaluate a physician’s qualifications before selecting your doctor when you don’t have access to all the information you need to make that evaluation.

If you’ve been injured due to substandard medical care by your physician or surgeon, an attorney can help you better understand what goes into a claim for medical malpractice.