By Richard V. Aghababian, MD
The Board of Registration in Medicine, the state agency that oversees the licensure of physicians, is undergoing some major changes. With the departure of Dr. Stancel Riley as executive director, we understand that the board will be naming an interim director this week.
The new chair of the board, Dr. Candace Sloane, has reached out the MMS to discuss what lies ahead. She visited the MMS to hear our concerns and questions, and we anticipate several meetings in the coming weeks and months to work on issues of mutual interest. She also asked for input on the three unfilled positions on the board, which are a high priority to fill.
One of the areas to discuss is the recent appointment of Kathleen Meyer. The membership of the board has traditionally included attorneys and retired judges, and we saw that was a good thing. They understand the need for high legal and ethical standards, and strongly appreciate the value of due process in the board’s operations.
However, the appointment of Kathleen Meyer has prompted widespread concerns among many of my colleagues. Ms. Meyer has personal and professional affiliations with Lubin and Meyer, one of the leading malpractice law firms in the state.
The potential for conflicts of interest are obvious. We’re deeply concerned about her impartiality in cases that reach the board, as well as her possible early access to unvetted complaints filed by patients against physicians – patients who could be clients of Lubin and Meyer and other malpractice firms.
But simply recusing herself from problematic cases wouldn’t solve the entire problem. She is in a position to strongly influence the discussion and implementation of many important public policy issues, most of which would affect or even benefit Lubin and Meyer, both directly and indirectly.
How will these issues be addressed?
The board’s job is to protect the safety of the public. This duty must be balanced with the highest regard for physicians’ right to due process in all disciplinary proceedings – a right that has been strongly affirmed in case law. Under intense public scrutiny, the board in the past has executed its mandate and balanced its imperatives in a thoroughly professional and competent manner. Its situation bears no resemblance to the issues that have afflicted other state oversight agencies, such as the Board of Pharmacy.
We believe in a strong, effective and independent Board of Registration in Medicine. In fact, we supported and helped promote changes in its funding that buffer its members and staff from the fickle winds of politics. This is good for public safety, and it’s good for the profession of medicine.
Filed under: Board of Medicine