For healthcare professionals who are subject to SC Code § 40-47-110, the law may affect them in many ways. Running afoul of misconduct laws can severely damage or even end a medical career. Physicians and others who fall under the law need to know what the requirements are and how the law impacts them. The Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC Attorneys at Law explain how SC Code § 40-47-110 may affect you.
It clarifies expectations
Let’s begin on a positive note – SC Code § 40-47-110 is a list of expectations for physician conduct. Physicians have a written list of behaviors and activities that may result in discipline.
Having clear, written expectations is a good thing. The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners cannot make it up as they go. SC Code § 40-47-110 can affect you by helping you – to issue discipline against a physician, the physician must have done something that violates a written misconduct rule.
But it can be open to interpretation
Of course, the list of misconduct given in SC Code § 40-47-110 doesn’t cover every situation in detail. You may find yourself arguing what certain words mean or how they might apply in a particular context.
Note: Writing a prescription for a family member may or may not amount to misconduct. The misconduct rules do not expressly prohibit it – the Board of Medical Examiners says only that writing a prescription for a family member “may provide less than optimal care” (LRR-Board of Medical Examiners, Feb. 7-10, 1000 Board Meeting). However, failing to maintain adequate records and unethical conduct are grounds for discipline. An attorney can assist you in vigorously defending against allegations of impropriety in writing a prescription for a family member.
Misconduct can be grounds for discipline
Perhaps the biggest way that SC Code § 40-47-110 can impact a physician is through professional discipline. If a person is found responsible for misconduct, they may be subject to a range of actions, including:
- Suspension, revocation or canceling of the license to practice
- Public or private reprimand
- Restriction or limitation on practice
- Other reasonable action
Discipline is not uniform for every case and every situation. Offenses vary in their severity and harm to the public. They also reflect differently on a physician’s professional fitness. An experienced attorney for physician license defense can help you understand the possible and likely penalties in any given situation.
There are 27 specific types of misconduct
SC Code § 40-47-110 lists 27 different actions that constitute misconduct. They fall into several broad categories:
- False and fraudulent statements and actions, dishonorable fee practices
- A criminal conviction or conduct that is a felony, drug or alcohol related or immoral
- Violating medical practice laws
- Substance abuse problems
- Physical or mental impairment impacting practice
- Illegal/unauthorized practice, dishonesty in licensure
- Disrupting practice of medicine
- Inappropriate behaviors including using medical practice for sexual exploitation
- Failing to appear or cooperate in an investigation or proceeding regarding enforcement of misconduct rules, giving false testimony
It protects you from allegations alone
SC Code § 40-47-110 requires a finding of preponderance of the evidence for the Board of Medical Examiners to issue discipline. The decision to revoke, suspend, restrict or discipline someone must be made by a majority vote of the board.
While a temporary suspension may be possible, rest assured that you are not subject to discipline just because someone files a complaint or makes allegations against you. You have a right to contest the allegations, with the help of legal counsel.
There may be emergency proceedings against your license
The law authorizes emergency actions. The chairman or vice chairman may issue a temporary suspension without a hearing. To do so, they must find that public safety requires it.
The person subject to the temporary order may ask for an administrative hearing – this request is important, because then, the temporary suspension order is not made public. The suspension is still in place, but it is not a matter of public record. If the temporary suspension is not upheld, it remains confidential.
Some criminal convictions are misconduct
Felony convictions, offenses that involve drugs (including prescription medication) and crimes involving moral turpitude may be considered misconduct and grounds for discipline simply because of a criminal conviction. If a physician faces criminal charges, they may find that the South Carolina physician misconduct law follows to also impose consequences on their professional license. That makes it critical that the person aggressively fights any criminal charges that they are facing.
It may apply even when you are found not guilty
The South Carolina physician misconduct law may affect you even if you are found not guilty of the crime. Hearing the words “not guilty” or “case dismissed” can bring welcome relief, but for physicians, it may not be the end of the story.
The burden of proof for misconduct proceedings is only a preponderance of the evidence – it is a lower standard than what is used in criminal cases. In addition, the board may make an independent finding of fact.
It is critical to fight criminal charges aggressively. But understand that there are differences between criminal charges and licensing disciplinary procedures. An attorney can help you understand how to defend against misconduct allegations comprehensively.
There may be an investigation
Allegations of a violation of SC Code § 40-47-110 may affect you by resulting in an investigation and a proceeding. There is a process when there is an allegation against a physician. You can expect an investigator to examine the allegations and ask for a response. Then, they may bring a formal complaint. If you don’t respond, there may be a default finding against you.
Your professional reputation can be affected
When the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners issues an order of discipline, it should include findings of fact, conclusions of law and orders. These orders are public, and they may impact your professional reputation.
However, you have the right to have an attorney represent you throughout the proceedings. In fact, it’s important to work with an attorney as soon as possible – as soon as you’re aware of allegations. They can help you avoid incriminating statements and other missteps that may unintentionally hurt you. A final decision can be reviewed by an Administrative Law Court, and your attorney can represent you.
South Carolina Attorneys for SC Code § 40-47-110 Defense
If you are facing allegations of a violation of SC Code § 40-47-110, contact our attorneys for physician license defense today to evaluate all the ways that it may affect you. We can help you aggressively respond to protect your license, your reputation and your future.