WASHINGTON – The number of Maryland doctors disciplined by the state medical board roughly tripled from 1991 to 1995, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federation of State Medical Boards.
“Right now, we’re where we should be. We’re disciplining between 110 and 130 doctors a year,” said J. Michael Compton, executive director of the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance.
Nationally, 3,375 physicians were sanctioned in 1995 for misbehaving. In Maryland, 112 actions were taken against 100 of Maryland’s 20,855 licensed physicians.
That’s up from 43 actions against 37 of Maryland’s 21,067 licensed doctors in 1991.
The 1995 figure represents a slight drop from the 109 actions taken against 94 Maryland doctors in 1994.
Compton said the long-range increase in board actions can be attributed to special funds approved by the legislature in 1991. The money allowed the board to expand and double its staff.
“Double the staff tripled the actions,” Compton said.
But a consumer advocate said last week that many state medical boards are not disciplining doctors often enough, or harshly enough.
Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said sexual misconduct is the most rapidly growing category of serious problems. Yet, he said, “many states did not regularly take the most serious kind of disciplinary actions against these doctors.”
Dr. Robert E. Porter, federation president, said not all misconduct requires serious action.
“There are egregious activities in which there is no question of whether a license should be revoked,” he said. In other cases, he said, lesser actions may be appropriate.
In Maryland in the last decade, about 73 percent of cases of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct with a patient were met with serious actions by the state medical board, according to Public Citizen. Serious actions include probation, suspension and license revocation.
Compton said there are different types and degrees of sexual misconduct, and that everything is considered on a case-by-case basis.
He said the most serious sexual offenses are by psychiatrists and obstetrician-gynecologists, because “it’s very common for patients to fall in love with their psychiatrists” and because of “the nature of the exam for OB-GYN.”
Offenses for which Maryland doctors were sanctioned between January 1986 and January 1995 were: criminal convictions; sexual abuse or misconduct with a patient; poor standards of care; misprescribing or oversubscribing drugs and drug or alcohol abuse, according to Public Citizen.
The nonprofit group ranked Maryland 29th in the nation in 1995 for serious disciplinary actions taken. The best state medical boards have the highest rankings, Wolfe said in a telephone interview.
But Compton said it is erroneous to rank the states, because they vary so much in licensing procedures and funding and organization of their medical boards. “We’re very fortunate in Maryland because we are so adequately funded. Some states have many more doctors and half our staff,” Compton said. -30-