Doctors can practice medicine only if they have a license. Just as the doctor must meet certain standards and expectations to receive a license, if he does not continue to meet these standards and expectations his medical license can be suspended or revoked by his state's board of medicine. The purpose is not to punish the physician, but to protect the public. The state grants the board the authority based on its responsibility to maintain public health.
Each state has a medical board that has the authority to grant or refuse to grant medical licenses to applicants. When problems are reported about licensed physicians, the board will review the case and decide whether action needs to be taken against the physician, such as a warning, suspension of the license or revocation of the license.
In general, doctors can lose their license for professional incompetence, conviction of criminal offenses, gross negligence, bad character, immorality or misconduct. If a doctor abuses the authority granted through his license or practices medicine beyond the authority of his license, he lose his license. Reasons for suspension or revocation are set in state law.
The actual reasons for suspension are specific to each state. The reasons for suspension or revocation must be specific. Courts have ruled that vague or general reasons are not enough to take action against a doctor unless the vague reasons are further supported by more-specific reasons. The medical board then has leeway to make rulings on a case-by-case basis.
Defense Against Charges
Doctors tend to use denial of due process, violation of equal protection clause, self-incrimination and similar reasons to defend themselves against charges. However, courts have found that in cases of negligence or incompetence, the board’s responsibility to protect the public health is a stronger reason. As long as the doctor is given notice and opportunity to defend himself against the charges, courts tend to support the board’s decision.