There is an important issue that all health care professions are facing: whether a convicted felon should be eligible to be licensed as a health care provider. The two sides to this issue are somewhat obvious: protection of the public (as well as the reputation of the profession) versus the ability of a person to pay their debt and move on with their life.
Most chiropractic colleges are asking questions regarding felony convictions on their applications. Failure to admit to a felony conviction is usually grounds for dismissal from chiropractic college. While pre-admission background checks are being discussed, they are not required at this time by our chiropractic colleges. Certain felony convictions disqualify applicants from becoming students at certain colleges, but many do not.
Some believe our chiropractic colleges need to have background checks, with the student applying for the chiropractic program paying for the background check. The chiropractic colleges say they would welcome the passage of laws by the chiropractic state licensing boards that would require background checks before students can begin seeing any patients.
Once students graduate, the picture changes. Because most state boards have access to the FBI database, they have the ability to know things the chiropractic colleges may not know. Again, lying on the state licensure application form is grounds for non-issuance of an original license. Even so, a surprising number of convicted felons are granted licensure as doctors of chiropractic. One state licensing board estimates that 15 percent of its applicants have some kind of criminal history (mostly misdemeanors) listed on their applications, while another 1 percent of applicants fail to state their criminal history on their application. As stated above, this situation is not unique to chiropractic.
Our state licensing boards can grant unrestricted licenses and those that are encumbered in some way. Board actions on encumbered licenses are generally available to the public. Consumers can read about doctors who have restricted licenses (example: no female or pediatric patients), or require educational remediation (example: the doctor has to pass the SPEC or Ethics and Boundaries examination), investigation (example: practice audits to determine board-order compliance), anger management or drug testing. However, if the state licensing board decides to grant a convicted felon an unencumbered license, that information is generally not available. The board's decision effectively erases the public's ability to know.
As this is an issue that is still being wrestled with, you have the opportunity to speak your mind. You can contact your alma mater or e-mail members of your state chiropractic licensing board with your questions and concerns. You also can take a simple online poll designed to let decision-makers understand exactly how the profession feels about this issue. The poll consists of three basic questions:
- Should a felony conviction automatically disqualify you from attending chiropractic college?
- Should a felony conviction disqualify you from being licensed as a DC?
- Do patients have a right to know that their provider (DC, medical doctor, nurse, osteopath, physical therapist, etc.) is also a convicted felon, regardless of whether the licensing board grants them an encumbered license or an unrestricted license?
To make your opinion heard, go to www.dynamicchiropractic.com/felon. Poll results will be announced in an upcoming issue of the publication.
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.