CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Disciplined Health Care Provider Sues State

When a state medical or other health care regulatory board has been heavy-handed with discipline--for example, repeatedly disciplining an MD who has integrated complementary therapies--can the provider strike back with a lawsuit?

This question has repeatedly been raised in conversations with my law office.

Consider "Dentist who treated girl who died sues state," from the Chicago Tribune.

"The dentist whose 5-year-old patient died last month after receiving anesthesia in his office stated in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that state officials had no right to suspend his licenses.

Hicham Riba contends state officials suspended his dental and other licenses on Sept. 29 without cause, based on a "fatally flawed dental opinion" and without giving his lawyer an opportunity to be heard.

Riba is seeking a court order to lift the suspensions, saying they will cause him "loss of business and tarnishment of reputation" based on a "severely flawed expert opinion."

Riba filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and its director....

Riba was filling cavities and placing caps on 5-year-old Diamond Brownridge's teeth in his Little Angel Dental office in the Little Village neighborhood Sept. 23 when the girl slipped into a coma. The Southwest Side kindergartner died in Children's Memorial Hospital after several days on life support.

After an investigation, state officials filed a seven-count complaint against Riba, charging him with infractions that include unprofessional conduct, making false reports, gross malpractice and incompetence.

A state report alleged that Riba failed to properly monitor the girl's pulse, breathing and blood pressure after she received a sedative mix of Valium, nitrous oxide and several other drugs.

State officials alleged that in order to protect the public, they needed to suspend Riba's dental, controlled substances and other licenses while the case is pending.

But in the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Riba contends the suspension is a "clear, uncontroverted and a blatant violation" of his constitutional right to due process of law....

Neither the attorney for the dentist nor the state provided comments, except that a spokeswoman for the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said such lawsuits are rare.

This is probably because state and federal officials typically have immunity for acts conducted in the official course of their duties.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173