Massachusetts state laws and regulations that affect your medical practice
I. GUNSHOT WOUNDS
1. Should gunshot wounds be reported to the proper authorities?
Yes. The law mandates that every physician attending or treating a case of bullet wound, gunshot wound, powder burn or any other injury arising from or caused by the discharge of a gun, pistol, BB gun, or other air rifle or firearm, or examining or treating a person with a burn injury affecting five per cent or more of the surface areas of his body, or, whenever any such case is treated in a hospital, sanitorium or other institution, the manager, superintendent or other person in charge thereof, shall report such case at once to the colonel of the state police and to the police of the town where such physician, hospital, sanatorium or institution is located or, in the case of burn injuries, notification shall be made at once to the state fire marshal and to the police of the town where the burn injury occurred.
Every physician attending or treating a case of wound or injury caused by a knife or sharp or pointed instrument shall, if in his opinion a criminal act was involved, report such case forthwith to the police authorities of the town in which he attended or treated such wound or injury.
Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars.
The colonel of state police shall make available to the commissioner of public health all reports regarding: (i) bullet wounds, gunshot wounds, powder burns or any other injury arising from or caused by the discharge of a rifle, shotgun, firearm or air rifle; (ii) burn injuries affecting 5 percent or more of the surface area of the human body; and (iii) wounds or injuries caused by a knife or other sharp or pointed instrument; provided, however, that personal information identifying the victim or the perpetrator may be redacted if the release of such information may compromise an investigation.
M.G.L.A. 112 § 12A
II. IMPAIRMENT, GROSS INCOMPETENCE OR UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF ANOTHER PRACTITIONER
1. Should a practitioner report another's impairment, gross incompetence or unprofessional conduct to the Massachusetts Board?
Yes. The following may be grounds for discipline if a physician:
(a) fraudulently procured a certificate of registration;
(b) is guilty of an offense against any provision of the laws of the commonwealth relating to the practice of medicine, or any rule or regulation adopted thereunder;
( c ) is guilty of conduct which places into question the physician's competence to practice medicine, including but not limited to gross misconduct in the practice of medicine or of practicing medicine fraudulently, or beyond its authorized scope, or with gross incompetence, or with gross negligence on a particular occasion or negligence on repeated occasions;
(d) is guilty of practicing medicine while the ability to practice is impaired by alcohol, drugs, physical disability or mental instability;
(e) is guilty of being habitually drunk or being or having been addicted to, dependent on, or a habitual user of narcotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, hallucinogens, or other drugs having similar effects;
(f) is guilty of knowingly permitting, aiding or abetting an unlicensed person to perform activities requiring a license for purposes of fraud, deception or personal gain, excluding activities permissible under any provision of the laws of the commonwealth relative to the training of medical providers in authorized health care institutions and facilities;
(g) has been convicted of a criminal offense which reasonably calls into question his ability to practice medicine;
(h) is guilty of violating any rule or regulation of the board, governing the practice of medicine.
No person filing a complaint or reporting or providing information pursuant to this section or assisting the board at its request in any manner in discharging its duties and functions shall be liable in any cause of action arising out of the receiving of such information or assistance, provided the person making the complaint or reporting or providing such information or assistance does so in good faith and without malice.
The board, including but not limited to the data repository and the disciplinary unit, shall keep confidential any complaint, report, record or other information received or kept by the board in connection with an investigation conducted by the board pursuant to this section, or otherwise obtained by or retained in the data repository; provided, however, that, except to the extent that disclosures of records or other information may be restricted as otherwise provided by law, or by the board's regulations, investigative records or information of the board shall not be kept confidential after the board has disposed of the matter under investigation by issuing an order to show cause, by dismissing a complaint or by taking other final action nor shall the requirement that investigative records or information be kept confidential at any time apply to requests from the person under investigation, the complainant, or other state or federal agencies, boards or institutions as the board shall determine by regulations.
Any employee of the board who is found to be in violation of the confidentiality provisions of this section or any other confidentiality law or regulation which is applicable to the board shall be subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars. Said fine shall be assessed and collected by said board.
M.G.L.A. 112 § 5
III. DUTY TO WARN PATIENT NOT TO DRIVE
When a physician prescribes a medication with side effects that pose a significant risk that the patient will fall asleep while driving, or be less able to exercise effective judgment, the physician owes a duty to the potential class of victims on the road to warn the patient not to drive while taking the medication.
Medina v. Pillemer, 2005 WL 3627226
IV. DUTY TO REPORT ABUSE OR NEGLECT OF CHILDREN
The following professionals must, by law, report abuse or neglect of children:
Any physician, medical intern, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, medical examiner, psychologist, emergency medical technician, dentist, nurse, chiropractor, podiatrist, optometrist, osteopath, public or private school teacher, educational administrator, guidance or family counselor, day care worker or any person paid to care for or work with a child in any public or private facility, or home or program funded by the commonwealth, which provides day care or residential services to children or which provides the services of child care resource and referral agencies, voucher management agencies, family day care systems and child care food programs.
Also, any probation officer, clerk/magistrate of the district courts, parole officer, social worker, foster parent, firefighter or policeman, licensor of the office of child care services or any successor agency, school attendance officer, allied mental health and licensed human services professional, drug and alcoholism counselor, psychiatrist, and clinical social worker.
Also, any priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, person performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body that are recognized as the duties of a priest, rabbi, clergy, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioner, or person employed by a church or religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel a child on a regular basis.
Any of these individuals, in their professional capacity, who shall have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare including sexual abuse, or from neglect, including malnutrition, or who is determined to be physically dependent upon an addictive drug at birth, shall immediately report such condition to the department by oral communication and by making a written report within forty-eight hours after such oral communication; provided, however, that whenever such person so required to report is a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility, he shall immediately either notify the department or notify the person in charge of such institution, school or facility, or that person's designated agent, whereupon such person in charge or his said agent shall then become responsible to make the report in the manner required by this section.
Any such hospital personnel preparing such report, may take or cause to be taken, photographs of the areas of trauma visible on a child who is the subject of such report without the consent of the child's parents or guardians. All such photographs or copies thereof shall be sent to the department together with such report.
Any such person so required to make such oral and written reports who fails to do so shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars. Any person who knowingly files a report of child abuse that is frivolous shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.
Said reports shall contain the names and addresses of the child and his parents or other person responsible for his care, if known; the child's age; the child's sex; the nature and extent of the child's injuries, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect, including any evidence of prior injuries, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect; the circumstances under which the person required to report first became aware of the child's injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect; whatever action, if any, was taken to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child; the name of the person or persons making such report; and any other information which the person reporting believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries; the identity of the person or persons responsible therefor; and such other information as shall be required by the department.
Any person required to report under this section who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has died as a result of any of the conditions listed in said paragraph shall report said death to the department and to the district attorney for the county in which such death occurred and to the medical examiners. Any such person who fails to make such a report shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.
In addition to those persons required to report pursuant to this section, any other person may make such a report if any such person has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering from or has died as a result of such abuse or neglect.
No person so required to report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of such report. No other person making such report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of such report if it was made in good faith; provided, however, that such person did not perpetrate or inflict said abuse or cause said neglect. Any person making such report who, in the determination of the department or the district attorney may have perpetrated or inflicted said abuse or cause said neglect, may be liable in a civil or criminal action.
No employer of those persons required to report pursuant to this section shall discharge, or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against, any person who in good faith makes such a report, testifies or is about to testify in any proceeding involving child abuse or neglect. Any such employer who discharges, discriminates or retaliates against such a person shall be liable to such person for treble damages, costs and attorney's fees.
Within sixty days of the receipt of a report by the department from any person required to report, the department shall notify such person, in writing, of its determination of the nature, extent and cause or causes of the injuries to the child, and the social services that the department intends to provide to the child or his family.
Any privileges relating to confidential communications shall not prohibit the filing of a report.
A priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of a church or religious body or accredited Christian Science practitioner shall report all cases of abuse under this section, but need not report information solely gained in a confession or similarly confidential communication in other religious faiths. Nothing in the general laws shall modify or limit the duty of a priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of a church or religious body or accredited Christian Science practitioner to report a reasonable cause that a child is being injured as set forth in this section when the priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of a church or religious body or accredited Christian Science practitioner is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise make him a reporter.
M.G.L.A. 119 § 51A
Copyright Kern Augustine Conroy and Schoppmann, P.C. Used with permission.