MD Background Checks Debated

The board overseeing Nevada doctors
suggested changes Wednesday to soften a proposal that all
physicians undergo criminal background checks and face discipline
if the checks reveal evidence of convictions for numerous types of
Representatives of the state Board of Medical Examiners said
AB208 is needed and would mirror what many other states have done.
But they added the board should have some leeway in cases involving
already licensed doctors with, for example, decades-old offenses
that predate their medical careers.
Board member Donald Baepler told the Assembly Commerce and Labor
Committee that Nevada shouldn't become known as a state that
doesn't require criminal background checks.
"We don't want to take another state's problem children," the
board's executive secretary, Tony Clark, said after the committee
hearing on the bill by Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas.
Attorney Keith Lee, lobbyist for the board, suggested amendments
so that the panel has discretion in deciding whether to move
against currently licensed doctors. He added background checks for
some 5,000 doctors already in the state would be costly and
time-consuming and "would be unlikely to reveal anything."
However, new doctors seeking Nevada licenses should go through
the background checks, the medical board representatives told
Commerce and Labor Chairwoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said
after the hearing that Horne's bill is needed. She added some
committee members are frustrated at the medical board because of
reports of "doctors who should be investigated and are not."
Horne and 33 co-sponsors introduced AB208 partly in response to
the recent arrest of Las Vegas pediatric physician David Evans on
child molestation charges. Horne says the arrest highlighted a gap
in state law that could affect the confidence patients have in
their doctors.
Under AB208, new doctors would pay for the criminal background
check as part of their licensing fees. In its initial form, the
bill also called for background checks for doctors already
practicing in the state, and mandated disciplinary proceedings if
felony convictions are found.
The new bill would effectively scrap part of a 2003 law
criticized last week by Clark, who said it has prevented licensing
boards from taking action against licensees convicted of felonies
unless the felonies related directly to their profession.
Clark said the 2003 law made it more difficult to yank licenses
of errant doctors, although high-profile cases such as Evans' can
still lead to suspensions because of the disrepute their actions
bring on the medical profession.