State medical boards license doctors. They also enforce standards of practice. For example, medical boards took away the licenses of over 50 doctors who treated chronic Lyme disease, and investigated many more. Frustrated Lyme patients, unable to find doctors to treat them, went to their state legislatures to fight back. As a result, every state legislature in New England has passed legislation directing their medical boards to give doctors the right to diagnose and treat Lyme disease, outside of the restrictive guidelines issued by the CDC. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Here is the Maine law.
There are many reports of state medical boards taking action against doctors for other heretical beliefs, such as that vaccines may cause autism.
Dr. Mark Geier has published many research papers linking vaccines to adverse outcomes. His review of the evidence linking thimerosal to adverse neurological outcomes in small children was especially strong. He has testified in many vaccine injury cases, and advised government agencies internationally on vaccine issues. He also treated vaccine-injured children.
No doubt his advocacy rubbed many (in government and industry) the wrong way. The Maryland Board of Physicians went after him, pulled his medical license, and made spiteful (and illegal) personal attacks on him and his family. Board members and staff then destroyed evidence and failed to produce documents when Dr. Geier fought back and brought suit against them.
Medical boards have acted in egregious ways before, no doubt believing that their acts were protected because they were behaving as an arm of state government. Dr. Geier’s case demonstrates that they cannot necessarily act with impunity.
In a most interesting turn of events, each member of the Maryland board who participated in the illegal harrassment of Dr. Geier has been personally directed to pay punitive damages, based on his/her net worth (from $10,000 to $200,000) to Dr. Geier and his family. Yes: out of their own pockets. Explaining the unusual award, the judge wrote that “It is necessary in this case, unfortunately, to deter such conduct in the future.”
I imagine other medical boards will take note, and this may deter them from capricious harrassment in future.
The WaPo article is here.