A new Nevada Assembly bill would close a medical licensing loophole created by an obscure 2003 law change and require all Nevada doctors to undergo criminal background checks.
Assemblyman William Horne (D-Las Vegas) and 33 co-sponsors introduced the bill Tuesday in response to the recent arrest of Las Vegas pediatric physician David Evans on child molestation charges. Horne says the arrest highlighted a gap in state law that could affect the confidence patients have in their doctors.
Under the bill, new doctors would pay for the criminal background check as part of their licensing fees paid to the state Board of Medical Examiners. Doctors already practicing in the state also would go through background checks, and the board would initiate disciplinary proceedings in those cases if the check revealed a conviction for numerous types of felonies.
The new bill would effectively scrap a 2003 law criticized this week by Tony Clark, executive secretary of the state Board of Medical Examiners, because it prevents licensing boards from taking action against licensees convicted of felonies unless the felonies related directly to their profession.
The 2003 law "certainly does bring the medical profession . . . into I think disrepute in the public eye," Clark told a Reno television station.
The 2003 licensing board provision slipped through virtually unnoticed, overshadowed by a controversial section that automatically restored voting rights of ex-felons who complete their sentences for first-offense, nonviolent crimes.
Clark said the 2003 law made it more difficult to yank licenses of errant doctors, although high-profile cases such as Evans' can still lead to suspensions because of the disrepute their actions bring to the medical profession.
But Clark said the "disrepute" argument is harder for regulators to prove in cases that occur in outlying areas if there's not a lot of media attention.
The section in the 2003 law that has made it more difficult to pull licenses of professionals convicted of crimes was added as part of a last-minute amendment that turned the final version of what began as a three-page bill into 66 pages.