Before your next medical checkup, you might want to do some checking up on your doctor.
Recent cases in Arizona, Miami, California, and Connecticut of doctors practicing medicine despite nonexistent, suspended, or revoked licenses highlight the importance of vetting physicians before you enter the waiting room.
Arizona officials in August revoked the license of family doctor Allen B. Aven, who had practiced in Tucson for two years even though Illinois regulators had placed his medical license there on probation and suspended it following evidence he'd had a sexual relationship with a patient.
Arizona officials began investigating Aven in November, but it wasn't until April that they placed any kind of restriction on his license in that state as they reviewed his case.
Many consumers trust that their health insurer, hospital, or state medical licensing agencies have vetted physicians who are open for business. But oversight by medical boards, HMOs, and hospitals is dangerously lax in too many instances, says Alan Levine, a researcher with Public Citizen's Health Research Group , a longtime advocate of more public information on physician discipline.
"You've got a system of self regulation," says Levine, noting that it's mostly physicians who sit on hospital peer-review boards and state licensing boards.
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