Maryland Considers Background Checks for Doctors

By Michael Klazema on 11/3/2014

According to a recent report from the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland Board of Physicians is in talks to propose new legislation for doctor background checks in the state. Interestingly, such a law is not already on the books in Maryland.

The legislative proposal that the Maryland Board of Physicians is considering has been in development since this summer, and would require all doctors working in the state to undergo criminal background checks. All physicians would have to pass a background check in order to earn a license to practice within Maryland, while the legislation would also stipulate periodic repeat checks for already-licensed doctors.

The inspiration for the legislation came earlier this year, when a Maryland doctor was accused of sexually assaulting an urgent care patient. The doctor had been practicing medicine in Maryland for the better part of two decades, and had even been a family practice physician in Catonsville.

After he was accused of assault, it came to light that the doctor had a serious criminal conviction on his record, from a 1987 case in which he raped a woman at gunpoint. The man was sentences to 10 years in prison for the crime, a sentence for which he only served four years before being released for good behavior. By 1996, he was in Maryland working as a doctor.

The man has since surrendered his license to practice medicine, a concession for which criminal investigators have agreed to drop charges in the recent sexual assault case. However, while this particular predator of a doctor may be out of the medical practice picture, at least in Maryland,he root of the problem still exists: a lack of background checks for doctors in the state.

The Baltimore Sun says that Maryland is one of 13 states that still do not require background checks for practicing doctors. Strangely, many other workers in the healthcare sphere, including nurses, therapists, and others, are required to go through background checks in Maryland. Those rules just don't apply to doctors.

And while the state board does ask physicians to disclose arrests or criminal convictions on their applications for licenses to practice, that doesn't necessarily mean that all doctors are honest about their pasts. The aforementioned doctor, for instance, only disclosed that he had assaulted someone; he didn't admit that the assault in question was rape with threat of a deadly weapon, and it's difficult to believe that the state would have licensed him with knowledge of such a crime.

As a result of all of this, the Maryland Board of Physicians is pushing for legislation that would make background checks a licensing requirement in the state. The measure is expected to garner a lot of support, and will likely ultimately end up being law.

The question, then, is why it took so long for something like this to become law. Why aren't we making sure that the people most trusted with our healthcare are trustworthy individuals? Why is there a double standard where nurses have to go through background checks to be licensed, but doctors to not? Why aren't hospitals and clinics doing their own background checks to make sure that no dangerous individuals are working within their walls? The thought that there is even one state without background checks for doctors is frightening; the fact that there are 13 states without that requirement is simply inexcusable.


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