Be Careful How You Answer The Questions On The Form For Your Registration Renewal Of Your New York State Medical License

When you fill out your Registration Renewal form for your New York State medical license, read the questions very carefully. I have numerous cases where the physician answered some of the questions incorrectly. If that incorrect answer is discovered by The New York State Department of Health, the Office of Professional Conduct (OPMC), the office will come after the physician and accuse him/her of lying. That is never a pleasant situation.

The question that often causes a problem is whether there are criminal charges “pending” in any court. Now, it seems obvious that anyone would know the answer to that question and answer it correctly, because for a physician to be under investigation with any criminal charge pending this is truly a very important issue. But, I have seen that question answered “no” when the answer should have been “yes”. The rationale used by the doctor is often that the “crime” had nothing to do with the practice of medicine and therefore those “pending” criminal charges did not count and the question could truthfully be answered “no”. This has happened, for instance, when the issue is a pending drunk driving charge. Some doctors delude themselves into thinking that drunk driving, perhaps while on vacation, has nothing to do with their medical practice and therefore they can answer in the negative. Believe me, this type of thinking is unacceptable to OPMC and you will be accused of lying if this answer comes under scrutiny.

I have also heard the explanation that the physician was told by his/her criminal attorney that the worst that might happen would be a plea to a violation, which is not a crime as defined by New York State. But the question is not what the physician or the lawyer thinks the outcome will be, the issue is whether a charge is “pending”. So, the truthful answer to the question is absolutely “yes” and any other answer will be deemed a lie by OPMC and nothing good will come of that situation.

There is also a question as to whether any licensing or disciplinary authority revoked, accepted the surrender of or refused to renew, etc, your professional license or certification. If you have had any issues with the licensing authority in any state or country then you must read this question carefully to be sure that it does or does not apply to you. Note that there is no time limitation on the question so if you were, for example, placed on probation for a period of one month twenty five years ago in another state you must answer “yes” to this question. It is far better to get the answer correct and write a short note of explanation than to answer falsely and hope it will fly under the radar.

Please note that questions of this ilk also appear on many other types of documents and you must answer all of them truthfully or OPMC will accuse you of lying if the false answer comes to light. These documents include, but are not limited to, the renewal of your hospital privileges, an application to an HMO, an application for medical malpractice insurance coverage, an application to join a medical group, etc.

The long and short of this issue is that you have to be very careful when answering these questions because you do not want an untrue answer coming back to do you severe damage in the future. If you are at all in doubt as to how to answer a particular question, ask someone who is disinterested in the issue and who can therefore give you an unbiased opinion. This could be another physician, a hospital administrator or an attorney. Be safe rather than sorry.