Proposed Changes in NY Medical Misconduct Law

Katarina Siegfeld | December 15th, 2014

female patient with doctorBoth houses of the New York State Legislature have passed a bill proposing changes and restrictions on the way that the state’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct responds to possible incidences of medical misconduct. The bill, which awaits the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo, would entail sweeping changes to NY medical misconduct law and to the way that the office conducts its business. Such changes would include prohibitions against disciplining doctors against whom claims of misconduct have been filed “based solely on treatment that is not universally accepted by the medical profession.”

Ostensibly, the bill would provide a more flexible approach to certain types of “alternative” medicine and encourage more acceptance of new, experimental, and yet-to-be-accepted types of treatment. A memo accompanying the bill states that “[I]t is important that the [Office of Professional Medical Conduct] maintains a flexible, case-specific, investigations policy—particularly where new treatments and acceptance by the medical community do not align.”

NY medical misconduct law proposes changes

However, critics of the bill worry that it would actually insulate doctors who prey on patients willing to trust them for expensive but ineffective treatments from being disciplined. Thus, the fact that doctors could offer medical interventions that are not “evidence based” without fear of repercussion would essentially shield exploitative quacks.

Critics of the bill also worry that the politicians who have passed the law proposing changes that concern medical treatment and standards of misconduct or malpractice about which they have limited or insufficient knowledge. For instance, while the law defines malpractice not as a mistake, per se, but as a deviation from accepted medical practice (meaning that it is different from what most doctors would consider to align with broadly received medical norms), the wording of the bill seems to stand in tension with this general definition.

Bill could affect Lyme disease misdiagnosis

Specialists concerned about health and law also believe that the bill has been composed as a response to lobbying by activists seeking acceptance for alternative, and unproven treatment of “chronic Lyme disease.” Lyme disease, spread by the bite of a Lyme-infected tick, manifests itself early on in a bull’s-eye shaped rash and fever, and can cause neurological and other problems if untreated. However, antibiotic treatment at any stage of the disease’s progression should provide a cure.

Some doctors have been promoting the idea that the disease has lingering effects (“chronic Lyme”) that should be treated by intensive (and expensive) antibiotics. This theory has not been accepted by mainstream medicine, but does provide revenue from wealthy but uninformed patients, according to the theory’s detractors. According to Brian Palmer, science and medical writer for Slate Magazine and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the bill has been worded explicitly to protect doctors who encourage a Lyme disease misdiagnosis.

Advocating for victims of medical misconduct & misdiagnosis

Although the proposed changes may shield doctors from censure where the Office of Professional Medical Conduct in New York is concerned, they do not prevent patients who believe that they have been exploited by unscrupulous doctors from seeking refuge in a court of law.

Patients and their families who believe that they are in such a position are encouraged to contact the New York medical malpractice attorneys at The Sanders Firm to better understand their legal options. With over 45 years of experience representing clients in all five boroughs of New York and in Long Island, lawyers from our firm believe that exploitative medical professionals should be held accountable for their actions and that patients who have suffered harm deserve fair compensation.

Please call us at 800-324-7752 to arrange a free case review with one of our attorneys.


  1. Slate, Lyme-Illiterate New York is about to change its medical misconduct law to protect quacks http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/12/new_york_chronic_lyme_bill…

  2. NY Dept. of Health, Frequently Asked Questions http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/doctors/conduct/frequently_asked_questions.htm#misconduct