Due to Inconsistent Board Licensing Procedures, Some Doctors Have Criminal Pasts

By Michael Klazema on 4/6/2012

Although some medical boards do require potential doctors to pass background checks before being licensed, these boards make up only 46 of the total 70 medical boards. Doctors with criminal pasts need only to apply for licensure through boards that do not have this requirement in order to get their license. This is disturbing hospitals and patients alike.  An investigation of non-background checked doctors turned up crimes on the records of current doctors in one of five searches in North Carolina alone.  These crimes included, among other things, fraud, battery, and even sexual assault.   In the 1990s, one doctor who had never been subjected to a criminal background check had fatally poisoned about 50 of his coworkers in Illinois.  Sidney Wolfe, a doctor with the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, reminded reporters that “doctors are not immune to criminal behavior,” nor should they be immune to having their history checked before practicing medicine.

There are currently 14 states in which doctors with criminal histories can get their license without a background check, but many are calling for legislation to change this.  Boards that have received pressure from hospitals, state legislatures, and the public, have started changing their licensing requirements in recent years.  Because of this, the practice is spreading.  In 2001 only 7 states required fingerprinting of doctors, and medical schools are getting on the bandwagon too by requiring their medical students to go through extensive background checks.  This could act as a safety net for states that aren’t yet setting higher standards.

Because their positions are so sensitive in terms of access to people and drugs, it’s likely it won’t be long before all states and all medical boards make background checks mandatory.  In order to do this, they will need to partner with organizations like in order to tap into national databases like US OneSEARCH and US AliasSEARCH.  Hospitals may want to run their own checks in the case of fraudulent licenses by using Professional License Verification and Education Verification.   When it comes to the safety of patients, doctors should be the last thing the public needs to worry about.  If patients know that every doctor has undergone a background check and maybe even ongoing criminal monitoring, they may feel more comfortable to place trust in their doctors.

About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services.  Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit


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