When most hear about bad doctors losing their licenses to practice, they rest assured in the knowledge that the doctor in question can no longer cause harm to patients. They take solace in the idea of a body of accrediting agencies working to keep the patient population safe and saying to this person “you are unworthy of practicing medicine and will never harm another soul.”
It is unnerving then to learn that, in most cases, that statement generally comes with a caveat. It is incomplete. What the agencies are actually saying is that “you are unworthy of practicing medicine and will never harm another soul in this state.”
Last month, Medpage Today posted an especially damning look at the ease with which doctors who have lost their license to practice in one state can move to another state and begin practicing there instead. In fact, the post which highlights a joint effort between the USA Today Network and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, finds that over 250 doctors are currently practicing in new locations after previously losing their licenses in others.
At the center of the story, and perhaps serving as the most egregious example, is Cincinnati, Ohio urgent care clinic physician Dr. Larry Mitchell Isaacs, MD. When patients visit him at Tri-State Urgent Care, most would be shocked to learn that Isaacs was actually trained as a surgeon. They’d be even more shocked to find out that Isaacs has lost his license to practice in several states and that Ohio is the fourth stop in his medical career.
Isaacs gave up his license to practice in Louisiana after removing what is presumed to be a healthy kidney from a patient during what was supposed to be colon surgery. From there he moved to California where he removed a woman’s fallopian tube that did not need to be removed. Isaacs claims that he believed the organ was actually the woman’s appendix. What he failed to realize, however, was that she didn’t have one of those either. Subsequent surgeries followed to repair the damage done and it was during one of those that Isaacs allegedly left the woman’s intestine disconnected.
From there it was on to New York. New York, however, discovered Isaacs’ history. He voluntarily surrendered that license as well – just as the state was moving to take action against him based on the California case. He subsequently left New York for Ohio, where he currently sits in front of unsuspecting patients who, by the facility’s very nature, require some level of immediate and direct care.
While Dr. Larry Mitchell Isaacs is certainly a worst-case-scenario level example of what can go wrong when state boards don’t communicate with one another, he is far from the only example. Of the more than 250 doctors practicing in states having lost their licenses in other states, one-third of them practice without any limitations on their abilities or public disclosure of their previous troubles.
One has to wonder why it appears to be easier to practice medicine having had your license revoked than it is to get a driver’s license under the same circumstances.