If you have recently received a notice from the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board that they have started an investigation, you may worry that all your hard work to build your career is in jeopardy. Before you panic, you should know that you do have rights in this process and preparing for the hearing can help your defense.
Understand your complaint
Many investigations begin with a patient complaint. The Department of Safety and Professional Services (the Department) oversees the Medical Examining Board. The Department handles intake of complaints, deciding which complaints warrant investigation. Your complaint will state what rule or statute regarding professional conduct you are accused of violating. The complaint should explain what type of information the Department plans to collect. You will also receive a Notice of Hearing, which will identify the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who will administer your case, as well as the scheduled date of your hearing.
Requirement to cooperate
First, you should understand that you must cooperate with the investigation. This process is administrative, not criminal, so you do not have the right to remain silent. You must cooperate with the investigators, answering their questions and turning over requested documents. You must file a written answer to the complaint within 20 days. You do have the right to hire an attorney of your choosing at your own expense, however. Your attorney can help you prepare for this phase of the investigation and represent you at the hearing.
Preparing for the hearing
Prior to the hearing, the ALJ will hold a prehearing conference to pinpoint issues and facts and schedule the hearing. You will want to identify witnesses who will testify on your behalf. You and your attorney will continue the discovery process by requesting the information gathered by the Department. During this phase, some cases settle with an agreement called a “stipulation.” If your case does not settle, you will have your hearing.
The ALJ holds the hearing like a trial. Both sides have the opportunity to give an opening statement and introduce witnesses and evidence. You may testify on your own behalf and the other side may call you to testify. The Department has the burden to prove the allegations are true. The ALJ will weigh the evidence and propose a decision to the board, who issues a final decision.
Facing a disciplinary hearing can be frightening for any medical professional. With preparation, however, you can confidently face the complaint and make a strong argument for your future.