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Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. A qualified doctor has gone to medical school and obtained licensing and training necessary to practice in his or her field. There are laws in place to protect the public against those individuals who use fraudulent means to conduct unsafe and even deadly procedures under the guise of being a licensed doctor.
News articles about lawsuits often surface, especially in the areas of cosmetic surgery, laser surgery, liposuction, and breast augmentation performed by unlicensed doctors. Some are imposters who examine patients and give advice or treat them; some sexually assault patients and molest children; and some use identity theft to write illegal prescriptions. All states have laws making the unauthorized practice of medicine a criminal offense.
There is a distinction to be made between medical advice and the practice of medicine. If a friend, for instance, advises a person to take vitamin C, it is medical advice. If the friend, who is not a doctor, claims to be a doctor and gives that advice, it would be considered a fraudulent practice of medicine. In some cases, activities might be considered legal even when performed by those without a medical license. Schools, for instance, can dispense prescription medications to students because the original prescription was issued by a doctor and it is generally considered safer than having the medicine in the hands of students.
There was recently a case of a teenager in Palm Beach, Florida who opened an office and gave physical examinations and advice to the unsuspecting patients. He had seen a woman with severe intestinal pain and claimed to be a naturopathy doctor. The woman, now 86 years old, had been searching for a doctor using natural treatments. He is accused of emptying out her checking account, forging checks as well as practicing naturopathy without a license. A plea deal was offered to him to serve three years in prison with five years’ probation, which he has declined. The charges he faces may be punishable for up to 70 years in prison. The teen was arrested by an undercover officer after allegedly conducting a physical examination.
In communities with a large immigrant population, there are doctors or businessmen who own and operate discount clinics. Some foreign medical students have difficulty being licensed in the United States because of language difficulties or inadequate training and they obtain employment in these clinics. This could be a problem in instances of unlicensed medical practice. A physician’s assistant is required to work under the supervision of a licensed doctor, but some cases reveal that physician’s assistants have more autonomy and are breaking the law.
There has been an increase in lawsuits involving patients who have been treated by unlicensed doctors such as when undergoing laser surgery. Medical law encompasses the prerogatives of medical professionals, the rights of patients, malpractice, medical treatment and criminal law. For those victimized, it is advisable to contact a healthcare attorney and schedule a consultation to discuss any legal actions or remedies that may be pursued.