Roughly twice a month I am contacted by a physician somewhere in the U.S. who is, effectively, being extorted.

J. Wesley Boyd, md, Phd, Harvard Medical School

Articles on Physician Health Programs

Mental Health Questions for Docs Still Violating Disabilities Act (Medscape).

Mental Health Support for Clinicians: Where’s the Privacy? (Medscape). Doctor-patient confidentiality is an expected pillar of our healthcare system. Not so, however, for doctors and other healthcare workers.

Covid-19 Pandemic Leaving Doctors Burnt Out, Yet Study Shows Obstacles To Help (Forbes). The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has left many doctors feeling bunt out, probably even more burnt out than they already were prior to 2020. But at least they can get proper help from mental health professionals, right? Well, not necessarily, as demonstrated by a research letter recently published in the medical journal JAMA.

Physician Health Programs Under Fire (The BMJ). Jeanne Lenzer asks whether bias and profit are forcing some doctors into unnecessary treatment programs for impaired physicians.

Why Don’t Doctors Seek Mental Health Treatment? They’ll Be Punished for It (Washington Post). Licensing boards can require all medical records, including details from long-ago psychotherapy sessions, and then press for close supervision.

Doctors Pay Up or Else Don’t Work (Psychology Today). A former Associate Director of a state PHP discusses widespread abuses of physicians, financial conflicts of interest, unchecked power, and extortion by PHPs, especially for physicians suspected of mental health issues.

Doctors Fear Controversial Program Made to Help Them (KSDK, St. Louis). Many say a controversial program designed to help doctors with mental health issues is out of control, destroying careers and causing some doctors to commit suicide.

Emergency Physician with Depression Chronicles Her 10-Year Fight to Keep Her License (ACEP Now). Harrowing story of an emergency physician in Oregon.

The Civil Rights Physicians Have When Their License is at Stake (Doximity).  Just as with other social injustices, restraints on the arbitrary use of power by medical licensing boards and their affiliates will occur only once the injustice is exposed.

Physician Suicide (Medscape). On the culture of silence and suffering around physicians with depression and other mental illnesses.

Beloved doctor dies in physician health program. Her husband wants to know why. (Pamela Wible, MD). Why are physician health programs not using evidence-based medicine? Why is there a lack of transparency in physician health programs so that the physician and family are not given a diagnosis and treatment plan with a clear pathway to resolving the unsubstantiated allegations against the doctor? Why are physician health programs unwilling to answer questions about physicians who have died by suicide under their care? Why are two individuals with 10-month community college certificates in charge of determining the fate of a doctor’s career in 45 minutes?

Doctor left destitute after seeking help from physician health program (KSDK, St. Louis). PHPs have many doctors questioning if they are doing more harm than good.

Deciding Whether to Refer a Colleague to a Physician Health Program (AMA Journal of Ethics). Given the authority that PHPs often have over the ability of physicians to practice medicine, their power is enormous and not necessarily wielded appropriately.

The Dangers of a Medical Board Investigation: How to Protect Yourself (Medscape).

Why Physicians Who Need Psychiatric Care Go to Kansas (Psychology Today). Physicians in the U.S. deserve better. They should be able to be evaluated by clinicians who are free of conflicts of interest. Everyone in the U.S. ought to care about this issue because some good doctors are being prevented from practicing medicine and others are often forced to go through a deeply unfair process to keep their license.

Physician Interrupted (podcast series). Critically relevant topics, real life stories and practical survival advice from physicians in the trenches negotiating the challenges of contemporary physicianhood. We focus on the burning issues facing physicians today and the challenges that they face in their careers as clinicians and healers.

Do State Medical Practice Acts REALLY Preempt Federal Statutes? (Tom Horiagon, MD, MOccH). What is a licensed, or license-seeking, physician to do about the notion that a medical license is conditioned on the surrender of federal civil rights to a state agency?

WPHP: What we have learned so far (Tom Horiagon, MD MOccH). The absurdity of an arrangement in which regulatory authorities established a monopoly state contractor to violate civil rights statutes that the state neither oversees or restrains should be apparent. This structure is designed to hold no one accountable for ADA violations or monopoly creation

Physician health programs: ‘Diagnosing for dollars’? (Clinical Psychiatry News).  If the goal of a PHP is to provide mental health and substance abuse services to physicians who are struggling – to prevent physicians from burning out, leaving medicine, and dying of suicide – then any whiff of corruption and any fear of professional repercussions become a reason not to use these services.

In Mechanics and Mentality the Physician Health Program “Blueprint” is Essentially Straight, Inc. for Doctors. (Disrupted Physician). PHPs are a system of institutional injustice that is killing physicians by driving them to hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. The general medical community needs to awaken to the reality of the danger to expose and dismantle it at the State level.  And many of the doctors caught in this maw do not even have an addiction or substance abuse issue.

No one should be subjected to an arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional process that puts his or her livelihood, reputation, emotional well-being and physical freedom at risk.

Anne Phelan-Adams, MD