How Bad Does It Have to Get Before a Doctor Loses Their License?

In recent news, a Los Angeles plastic surgeon lost his license over the death of celebrity Kanye West's mother and a Sacramento dermatologist merely received probation after multiple infractions over the course of several years for using fake Botox on patients, although he had many other surgery-related incidents in his public record.

These news stories abound, yet one doctor told us if the board gets involved, there have been many other incidents that led up to that point. How bad does it have to get before a state medical board intervenes and revokes a medical license?

Doctor Answers 2

Most Doctors on Your Side

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The vast majority of physicians I know and have known practice a high level and ethical brand of medicine. However, there certainly are some rotten apples out there. Most physicians would appreciate these physicans be drummed out of our profession post haste.

Unfotunately, it is much more difficult to do so now than it was forty-fifty years ago. One of my patients was a long time head of the Virginia Board of Medicine. He said tht getting rid of dishonest or incompetant doctors was much easier in the 50's and 60's. He would have a meeting with them, stare and them, make them feel uncomfortable for a few minutes, tell them what they ahd done and why he was tkaing away their licensse and basically tell them to get out of town.

Now, you can bet the crooked or erring doctors in our midst will come with a lawyer or two and demand their "rights". It has become much more difficult.

I always thought it is made too difficult for honest physicians to report this unsavory broth. I have done so, on three occasions. Occasions where I was one hundred per cent positive that the practioners were either a physical or financial danger to the public. One couple was sent back to South America ( medicaid mill), one MD was not sterilizing his instruments besides being a total crook ( I could go on for three pages relating this miscreant's foul but clever deeds....later had license pulled in two states but not the state I indirectly reported him to) and the third was investigated but got a clean bill of health.

As Dr. Moelleken mentions in his excellent treatise, you can protect yourself by checking out your State Board of Medicine's website. It also helps if the physician is on the staff of a local hospital, since they do perform their own investigations. Similarly, it may be of value if they are members of the lcoal medical society since they check credentials before being allowed to join. However, this is not as reliable in my field of dermatology as it once was. Many excellent dermatologists no longer are on the staff of hospitals, and some have dropped out of their local medical societies.

We dermatologists are also facing the same problem now that Dr. Moelleken finds irksome. Non-dermatolologists are passing themselves off as dermatologists. For instance, a local family physician, running a so-called medi-spa, advertises himself as a cosmetic dermatologist. Another ER physician has placed ads in the dermatology section of our yellow pages.

I fear the situation can only get worse.

I thank you for posing this question. I would encourage you to become active if you feel strongly on this issue. Many state medical boards due have non-physicians on them. Believe me you will have a number of doctors pulling for you.

Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Many patients may get hurt before a medical license is revoked

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Unfortunately, by the time a doctor typically loses their license, they leave many damaged patients in their wake. And typically, only the worst of the worst ever lose their license completely, or if they have an adverse result in a very high profile case.

Patients find comfort in checking the Medical Board websites for violations, probation, letters of reprimand, etc. It is certainly bad when a doctor is on probation, has committed acts of negligence, or has many malpractice suits. However, a clean Medical Board record does not mean a surgeon is a fine surgeon; it could just mean they have not been caught yet, or have not committed sufficiently bad deeds to register on the Medical Board website. On the flip side, I know of fine doctors who have an ominous sounding violation, publicly posted, because they did not register their change of address in time!

Patients also think they are “covered” if they are having surgery with an uncredentialed, non board-certified doctor because “they can sue if the doctor screws up”. Unfortunately, this is also a difficult burden to prove. Just because a doctor has a bad outcome does not mean he or she committed malpractice. Likewise, if a doctor has a lifetime of below average outcomes, none of which fall “below the standard of care”, they will continue to deliver bad care, or in the case of plastic surgery, subpar plastic surgery, indefinitely.

Patients might be shocked at which doctors never became board certified in Plastic Surgery, yet hold themselves to be plastic surgeons. Some have no hospital credentials, shady training, and waiting rooms full of patients.

One physician in particular comes to mind who had a busy liposuction practice. His advertisements were so good, I might have been tempted to go to him myself. His prices were very low. However he was not board certified. His surgeries were so terrible that eventually he had many malpractice suits and lost his license to practice medicine in the state of California. His damaged patients got nothing except a lifetime of revisional surgery since all his assets were hidden or gone.

There is no one single source where patients can go to guarantee that a plastic surgeon is a good surgeon, but looking at these will all help:

  • Board certification
  • Hospital credentials
  • Academic credentials (i.e. Professor at a teaching university)
  • Publications
  • Before-after pictures,
  • The consultation itself
  • Internet searches
  • Examination of the doctor’s website and curriculum vitae (his resume—look at a few and you will soon see what is important and what is fluff)
  • Asking your local doctor

Please do your research and minimize the chance you are a statistic or have a poor outcome.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 188 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.