Defending a Complaint before the North Carolina Medical Board

If you have been contacted by an investigator or received a letter from the North Carolina Medical Board about a complaint, you may be uncertain about what to do next, what the procedures are, and what the results may be.  You may also be trying to decide whether you need to retain an attorney.  Our firm represents physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners (hereafter, “licensees”) in responding to the Medical Board and defending against allegations of misconduct.

In the sections below, we attempt to address some of the questions you may have and explain the general process, procedures, and possible results.

North Carolina Medical Board

As background, the North Carolina Medical Board was established by the General Assembly to regulate the practice of medicine.  The Board consists of 12 members appointed by the Governor: eight are licensed physicians; one is a licensed physician assistant or approved nurse practitioner; and three are public members.  The Board meets monthly and holds disciplinary and licensing hearings on even-numbered months.

Possible Outcomes of a Complaint against a Licensee

In general, complaints are most often resolved in one of three ways:

(1)  No formal action. Typically, this is the result when no violation of the Medical Practice Act has occurred. However, the licensee is notified and the information is kept on file.

(2)  Private action is taken. There may be no violation of the Medical Practice Act that warrants public action, but the Board is nonetheless concerned about some aspect of the licensee’s conduct or performance. In such cases, the Board takes private action, such as a confidential letter of concern to the licensee that cautions against repeating similar conduct.  Alternatively, licensees may be brought before the Board for a private interview. The contents of both the letter and interview are confidential.

(3)  Public action is taken. In these cases, the Board determines there was a violation of the Medical Practice Act and takes formal public action. For example, this may be in the form of a public letter of concern, a reprimand, an order imposing conditions or restrictions on the license, a suspension or revocation of the licensee’s authority to practice, or some other type of action.

Disciplinary Authority of the Board

The Board has the authority to impose discipline against any person who has been found by the Board to have committed the following acts or conduct, or for any of the following reasons, among others:

  1. Immoral or dishonorable conduct;
  2. Producing or attempting to produce an abortion contrary to law;
  3. Making false statements or representations to the Board, or willfully concealing material information from the Board;
  4. Being unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of illness, drunkenness, excessive use of alcohol, drugs, chemicals, or any other type of material or by reason of any physical or mental abnormality;
  5. Committing unprofessional conduct, including the departure from or the failure to conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice or the ethics of the medical profession;
  6. Being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, a crime involving the practice of medicine, or a felony;
  7. Making false representations to obtain  money or anything of value;
  8. Advertising or publicly professing to treat human ailments under a system or school of treatment or practice other than that for which the physician has been educated;
  9. Being adjudicated of mental incompetency, which shall automatically suspend a license unless the Board orders otherwise;
  10. Lacking professional competence to practice medicine with a reasonable degree of skill and safety for patients or failing to maintain acceptable standards of one or more areas of professional physician practice;
  11. Promoting the sale of drugs, devices, appliances or goods for a patient, or providing services to a patient, in such a manner as to exploit the patient;
  12. Having a license to practice medicine or the authority to practice medicine revoked, suspended, restricted, or  denied by the licensing authority of any jurisdiction;
  13. Failing to respond, within a reasonable period of time and in a reasonable manner as determined by the Board, to inquiries from the Board concerning any matter affecting the license to practice medicine;
  14. Failure to complete required continuing medical education during any three consecutive calendar years pursuant to rules adopted by the Board.

Informal Procedures