Health Commissioner Could Order Physicians Charged with a Felony Who Present a Public Risk to Immediately Stop Practicing Medicine.
Albany, NY - February 14, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is advancing a 30-day budget amendment to crack down on physician misconduct. The legislation will authorize the Health Commissioner to order those charged with a felony related to their medical practice whose alleged conduct may present a public risk to immediately stop practicing medicine, and to obtain a warrant to search an accused physician's home, office and belongings. In addition, the legislation reduces the response time for supplying relevant documentation.
"This type of physician misconduct is a vile violation of trust, and recent revelations of abuse demonstrate that we must act to crack down on this appalling behavior, protect victims and hold those who commit these crimes fully accountable," Governor Cuomo said. "This legislation will help ensure thorough and expedient investigations of misconduct and help shield patients and their families from harm."
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Under the Hippocratic Oath, physicians have a sacred responsibility to do no harm. Current state law restricts the Department's ability to take decisive action when physicians violate the law and abuse the trust of their patients. Governor Cuomo's proposed amendments will expand the Department's authority to stop medical misconduct and protect New Yorkers from harm."
In the wake of recent revelations of sexual misconduct in the medical community, this legislation overhauls the state's process for investigating medical misconduct and helps crack down on physicians who violate their Hippocratic Oaths and present a serious harm to the public.
First, if a physician is charged with a felony and the alleged misconduct presents a public risk, the Health Commissioner can order them to immediately stop practicing medicine either entirely or in part. That order will remain in place until the conclusion of a hearing which will occur within 90 days of the suspension.
Second, the Health Commissioner will be authorized to obtain a warrant from a judicial officer after due process that would allow the Department to search physicians' apartment, vehicles, workplace and seize documents and computers as relevant.
Third, the legislation shortens the period of time allowed to respond to the Commissioner's request for relevant information from 30 days to 10 days.
Under current law, summary suspensions may occur for a variety of reasons, but relevant to crimes, a conviction is necessary. The Department of Health does currently have authority for the Board for Professional Medical Conduct to issue subpoenas, but those subpoenas are not so-ordered by a court.