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Md. board still weighing doctor background check policy

Dr. William Dando
(Baltimore Sun)

Maryland doctors may have to be fingerprinted and entered into a national background check system under a forthcoming state Board of Physicians legislative proposal, but the board still hasn't released details of its plans.

Representatives from the Maryland Criminal Justice Information System briefed board members Wednesday on their system, which includes "live scan" electronic fingerprinting that can produce state and FBI reports within one to three days.

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The Maryland Board of Physicians is considering a legislative proposal that would require doctors to undergo criminal background checks before being licensed to practice in the state and periodically thereafter.

The board began developing a proposal this summer after it was revealed that a western Maryland doctor had been practicing in the state for nearly two decades despite having previously served a prison sentence for raping a woman at gunpoint.

While other professionals — including nurses, social workers, therapists and mortuary drivers — are subject to background checks in Maryland, doctors aren't. That is despite a 2007 call from state legislative auditors to enact such a policy, and efforts by lawmakers as recently as last year to do so.

Details of the proposal, including how frequently background checks of licensed doctors would be conducted, have not been revealed.

"We haven't gotten it yet," said Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, the state's medical society. "We continue to support the idea of background checks."

The issue was brought to light when Dr. William Dando, a former family practitioner in Catonsville, was accused of sexually assaulting a patient at an urgent care center near Cumberland. Allegany County prosecutors dropped the charges against Dando as his trial was scheduled to begin last month, because he agreed to surrender his medical license.

Dando was convicted of rape with the threat of a deadly weapon in Florida in 1987. He served four years of a 10-year sentence, released early for good behavior. He began practicing medicine in Maryland in 1996.

Maryland is one of 13 states that does not conduct background checks on physicians, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards.

When doctors apply for licensure here, they are required to disclose any arrests, charges or convictions for crimes "of moral turpitude." Board officials have said that Dando disclosed he "assaulted someone" when he applied for his license.

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