Doctor Makes a Mockery of the Probation System & Loses His License to Practice
The problem with professional misconduct is that the punishment for wrongful conduct is handed down by members of the same profession. As a result more often than not the wrongdoing professional is given probation whose terms are seldom followed.
In the Matter of Muneer Imam v. New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct et al., 2020 NY Slip Op 08138, 529258, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York (December 31, 2020) the Appellate Division was asked to review a determination of the Administrative Review Board for Professional Medical Conduct (ARB) that revoked Muneer Imam’s license to practice medicine in New York. the ARB concluded that, as petitioner had “received disciplinary penalties twice already that should have deterred [him] from further misconduct,” “allowing [him] to retain his [l]icense after his latest misconduct would make a mockery of the probation system.”
Petitioner was licensed to practice medicine in New York in 1984. In 2016, the Bureau of Professional Medical Conduct charged petitioner with committing professional misconduct by practicing the profession with negligence on more than one occasion and by failing to maintain accurate patient records. Agreeing that he could not successfully defend against “at least one of the acts of misconduct alleged,” petitioner entered a consent order with respondent State Board for Professional Medical Conduct. The consent order, which went into effect on April 12, 2016, imposed a 36-month suspension of his medical license, which was stayed during a 36-month period of probation, that is, no real suspension. The terms of petitioner’s probation required, among other things, that he “practice medicine only when monitored by a licensed physician, board certified in an appropriate specialty,” and that petitioner maintain a certain level of medical malpractice insurance coverage.
Thereafter, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) charged petitioner with violating the terms of his probation. A Hearing Committee of the Board for Professional Medical Conduct found that petitioner “failed to comply with the terms of probation” and imposed a six-month suspension of petitioner’s medical license, to be followed by three years of probation, and a civil penalty of $18,000. Upon review, ARB affirmed the Hearing Committee’s determination that petitioner committed professional misconduct but overturned the penalty, instead revoking petitioner’s license.
The ARB is empowered to impose a harsher penalty than the Hearing Committee, and such penalty will only be disturbed if it is so disproportionate to the offense that it is shocking to one’s sense of fairness. The fact that patient care was not implicated does not preclude revocation of a petitioner’s license.
Petitioner admitted that he continued to practice medicine from May 2016 through January 2017, despite not having a practice monitor or excess malpractice insurance in place during that time. The ARB and the Hearing Committee appropriately rejected petitioner’s assertions that he simply misunderstood the terms of the consent order and that he reasonably believed that he was entitled to practice medicine while he was attempting to comply with the requirements to obtain a practice monitor and excess insurance.
Although no patients were harmed, petitioner put his patients at risk by evading the probationary terms that were intended to protect them. Furthermore, petitioner had been placed on probation after having been found guilty of professional misconduct in 1993 and he violated his 2016 probation by ignoring the main provisions immediately after entering into the agreement.
The Appellate Division concluded that the ARB appropriately concluded that, as petitioner had received disciplinary penalties twice already, the fact of the earlier discipline should have deterred him from further misconduct and that allowing him to retain his license after his latest misconduct would make a mockery of the probation system.
Therefore, the Appellate Division concluded that the ARB did not err in revoking petitioner’s license to practice medicine.
The doctor was disingenuous by claiming he did not understand the terms of his probation which he violated with impunity by not obtaining the excess insurance required and by dealing with patients without being monitored by a licensed physician, board certified in an appropriate specialty. To me, the only question is why the board suggested more probation and what took the ARB so long to revoke Dr. Iman’s license after he made clear he had no intention of complying with the terms of the license.
© 2020 – Barry Zalma
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 52 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and email@example.com.
Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.
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