This month, June 2013, we received the decision from the Department of Education that our client is entitled to have his medical license restored after it was revoked 5 years ago due to addiction to narcotics. The client had a history of relapsing with regard to narcotic use and had gone to rehab several times until finally his license was revoked in 2008 by the Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct, (OPMC).
Our mission was to prove that the doctor had overcome the addiction and was now fit to practice medicine again. This was, obviously, a difficult task as physicians with a history of repeated relapses into drug use are by definition difficult to trust to make important medical decisions for patients. In order to give our client any chance of practicing again we had to prove that he was remorseful, re-educated, and, most importantly, rehabilitated, the three R’s which are necessary for license restoration in New York.
To prove rehabilitation from drug use is truly difficult because you have to convince the Hearing Panel that they can recommend the license be restored with a certainty that the doctor will not relapse into drug use. We started off the Hearing by showing that the doctor had been religiously attending therapy sessions through the Committee for Physician Health, (CPH). We proved this by having his psychiatrist testify that he had been treating the doctor for several years and that in his opinion the doctor was fit to return to the practice of medicine. Next we had a representative from CPH testify that the doctor had never failed a random drug test in years and that, again, in his professional opinion the doctor was fit to practice medicine. Lastly, our client testified that if his license was restored he would remain in the CPH program, with therapy and random urine testing, for the balance of his professional life. All of this evidence gave the Panel the confidence that was required to recommend that the medical license be restored.
In addition to the above, our client presented himself in such a way that the Panel recognized that he was truly remorseful for his past behavior and that he understood the gravity of what he had done and the fact that his drug addiction had put patients in danger. He was a convincing witness.
The doctor’s license will be restored with some years of probation and the need for him to continue with his therapy and drug testing, but this is something that is not a problem for the client. What he has gotten in return for this monitoring is the right to use his medical education to practice as a physician and that is easily worth the price.
The lesson learned here is that with careful preparation and an understanding of what is required, a physician can have his/her license restored by the State. The key is to understand what the Panel is looking for which will allow them to confidently state that the doctor is no longer a danger to patients and can practice safely. The presentation we gave to the Panel in this case was able to carry the day.
If you find yourself in the position of having lost your license for any reason, take a careful look at the reasons your license was revoked and then work to do things that will give a Panel the confidence to say you are safe to practice again. This is not always easy, but you want to put yourself in the best possible position to have a successful end to your story.