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State Medical Boards' Questionable Behavior

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A family physician was sanctioned by the Idaho Board of Medicine for prescribing an antibiotic over the telephone in 2012. The incident occurred while Dr. Ann DeJong was working for a telemedicine company. At that time, Idaho law required that patients be seen in person before a prescription could be ordered.

The law has since been changed to allow telemedicine consultations, but the sanction’s impact on the physician continues, says an article in a Idaho newspaper.

Because of the sanction, the American Board of Family Medicine decided to review Dr. DeJong’s board certification. If her board certification is revoked, she will be unable to work as a locum tenens physician for the Veterans Administration or in other Western states where she is licensed.

The Idaho board demanded that she take an ethics course and pay its investigative costs and legal fees. In order to do so, she had to sell her house and is $200,000 in debt. She also has been barred from treating any Idaho patients via telemedicine, now legal in that state.

Contrast the above with a Jacksonville, Florida case. In 2013, a doctor had his license suspended for a year because of an alleged affair with a patient and recently agreed to pay $150,000 to the US Justice Department as a settlement in a fraud lawsuit.

The government had asked for more money, but the doctor’s assets were running low.

He was apparently deliberately telling patients they had multiple sclerosis in order to give them expensive, painful, and unnecessary treatments. According to NBC News, some patients, who were eventually found not to have MS, told stories of remodeling a house to install wheelchair access and treatments with drugs costing $37,000 per week. One patient even underwent removal of her breast implants.

Reviews of his cases found he misdiagnosed MS 65% of the time, and for some other diagnoses, he was wrong 90% of the time.

The doctor was chief of neurology at a hospital ,which also recently settled its part in the fraud suit for $2.5 million. His salary was $600,000 a year “depending on how many patients he saw” and was also being paid “consulting fees” by drug companies.

The federal government could prohibit him from treating Medicare patients, but the US attorney who handled the case said he could do nothing about the doctor’s license to practice medicine.

Criminal charges may be filed, and of course, malpractice suits are pending.

The doctor is no longer practicing in Jacksonville but recently set up shop across the state in Panama City.

The NBC News report said, “The Florida Health Department said it could not confirm if there is an open investigation into the alleged fraud.”

Could it be that no investigation is ongoing?

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.

1 Comment

  1. The lady physician was treated with great injustice.Her punishment by the “Spud Board” should have been a slap on the wrist,perhaps at most,a $5,000.00 fine,if that.And what were the costs of the Board’s investigation?Most State Board Docs do the work for free,without compensation.Many Physicians are asked to take these commercial Ethics courses,which are nothing but moneymaking rackets.Her punishment for this tiny infraction may well outlive her practice which is horrible.Boards such as The American Board of Family Medicine are only interested in collecting their fees.Doing things like even bothering to investigate such trivia as this are only attempts to justify their existence.Last I heard,there is not a long line of primary care Physicians just jumping at the chance to practice medicine in Idaho.I urge her Physician colleagues in Spudaho to jump up and eagerly support her.State Medical Boards have too much power to be so easily able to ruin a Doctor’s practice and her life.I have seen and heard about the many injustices of these State Boards over my many years in practice.While Doctors do have due process rights,the problems in defending oneself as a Physician are great.I think it would not be inappropriate to develop an organization to defend Docs against these menacing State boards who are by and large a bunch of stupid hypocrites.

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