According to the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper, when state officials learned a Hampton Roads physician was convicted of felony child-pornography charges, the Board of Medicine suspended the doctor’s medical license right away. The doctor, Lawrence Brielman Ryan, was in the U.S. Naval Reserve medical corps when he was court-martialed in 2004 for possessing and distributing child pornography. Virginia-licensed doctors have lost their licenses for drug diversion, income-tax evasion, mail fraud, unlawful prescribing, drunken-driving-related manslaughter and other felonies.
How is Virginia doing in its obligation to protect the public from bad doctors? It depends on how you look at the numbers.
Public Citizen, a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests has published a report which sheds some light on this question. The report says doctors with criminal convictions are often getting by with a slap on the wrist from state regulators.
Virginia’s rate of 2.65 disciplinary actions per 1,000 doctors put the state in 34th place.
Public Citizen says that nearly two-thirds of the states have a higher rate of imposing serious disciplinary actions against physicians. This fact could mean a number of things:
• That Virginia is doing a poorer job than most other states of disciplining physicians.
• That Virginia is blessed with better qualified and more conscientious physicians than are most other states, resulting in less need for disciplinary action.
Read the report for yourself. How good of a job do you think Virginia is doing in protecting its citizens from incompetent doctors?