We like to think that we’re in good hands when we go to the doctor, from our family doctors who we see for general health problems to surgeons that we trust with our lives on the operating table. But what happens when a doctor surrenders his medical license instead of having it revoked? Can he still practice medicine elsewhere? The short answer is “probably.”
For example, one doctor, Larry Isaacs, gave up his license to practice medicine in Louisiana when he was facing disciplinary action for removing a healthy kidney during a surgical procedure on a colon. He went on to practice in California, where he accidentally removed a woman’s fallopian tube, claiming that he thought it was the woman’s appendix (which was already removed in a previous surgery, by the way). In an additional surgery on the woman, he purportedly failed to reconnect her intestines. Isaacs then surrendered his license in California and went on to work in New York. Regulators there were making a move to take action based on the problems he was fleeing in California, so he again, gave up his license—and went to Ohio, where he is working at an urgent care clinic with an “unblemished” medical license.
The surrender of a medical license generally comes with a doctor faces overwhelming evidence of negligence and unprofessional conduct. Sometimes it involves repeat mishaps during surgery, and other times surrender may come on the heels of a doctor being singled out for writing improper prescriptions for opioid medication. Surrendering a medical license saves the doctor for the expense, time, and harm to his reputation that usually follows formal charges and state medical board hearings. With surrender, there is generally no restriction on the doctor practicing medicine in another state. A USA Today investigation found that in around one-third of the cases of surrendered licenses it looked at, one-third of the doctors in question went on to practice somewhere else without any limits—and without any sort of public disclosure for patients—all with a simple address change. And in some cases, though the doctors faced disciplinary actions, patients were not able to find out about it.
It’s hard not to relate what appears to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for bad doctors to statistics on medical malpractice. In the U.S. medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. A study by Johns Hopkins claims that more than 250,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of medical error, while other reports hold that that figure is as many as 440,000.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of the recklessness, carelessness, or gross negligence of a medical professional, contact us right away. Schedule your free consultation with our California medical malpractice attorney now to discuss your case details and determine the best course of action to hold the responsible person accountable for your damages.