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MEETING BASIC ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR PRACTICE

The Americans with Disabilities Act did not apply to individuals whose mental illness prevents them from meeting the basic eligibility requirements for practice, an appellate court in Ohio ruled September 20. The court dismissed an appeal by a physician who had challenged a board decision to monitor her practice as the result of mental impairment, ruling that (Flynn v. State Medical Board of Ohio).

In 2014, following a string of incidents involving erratic behavior, the Ohio medical board notified physician Freda Flynn that it believed she might be impaired due to mental illness. After a psychiatric examination found her unable to continue practicing safely, the board moved to restrict Flynn’s license and, following a hearing, the board placed Flynn’s license on probation for three years, with the requirement that she submit to board-monitored psychiatric treatment. Flynn appealed and the case eventually went up to a state Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

In her appeal, Flynn had cited the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), arguing that the board could not take action against her for a mental illness. The Court of Appeals, in an opinion by Judge Lisa Sadler, disagreed, writing that the ADA does not prevent the discipline of licensees with disabilities.

Noting both that Flynn had been fired from her job at a hospital due to improper practices that could have harmed her patients and a psychiatrist’s finding that Flynn would find it difficult to concentrate due to her mental illness, Judge Sadler wrote that Flynn, in her current state, was a danger to the public and “does not meet the essential eligibility requirements for practicing medicine in Ohio.” Because of this, Flynn was not qualified for protection under the ADA.

Flynn also challenged the board’s decision on the grounds that it had not provided sufficient evidence that she was impaired, arguing that a list of incidents that prompted the board to require her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation was based on unreliable evidence.

The court rejected this argument, as well, with Judge Sadler writing that not only did the list of incidents indicate a long history of struggle with mental illness, but also that the psychiatric evaluation that followed was sufficient, by itself, to prove the point.

In a last argument, Flynn claimed that the board had violated her right to procedural due process when it failed to produce one of its exhibits—130 pages of records from her previous employment—until the day before her hearing, despite Ohio regulations mandating that documents requested by a party in a board hearing must be presented at least fourteen days in advance of the hearing.

While the court acknowledged that the board had failed to meet that deadline, Judge Sadler also wrote that Flynn could have requested a continuance if she believed she needed more time to review the exhibit, and she had not done so. Further, Flynn was unable to identify any actual prejudice that occurred as the result of the late documents: she failed to identify any witnesses or further documents she would have introduced as a result of the exhibit’s admission, and only made “vague allegations of prejudice.”

© 2018 Professional Licensing Report, published by ProForum, a non-profit research group, www.plrnet.org. Reprinted by permission.

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