Physician Not Responsible for PA's Improper Conduct, Rules Vermont Supreme Court

The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that a physician is not responsible for a physician assistant's improper conduct — a ruling that is expected to ease physicians' reluctance to sign on as supervising physicians for PAs, according to an American Medical News report.

In 2009, Jon Porter, MD, found out that a PA may have improperly prescribed opiates. After looking into the matter further via electronic medical records, Dr. Porter concluded the PA had engaged in improper prescribing practices, according to the report.

Dr. Porter filed a complaint with the Vermont Board of Medical Practice, the PA admitted to the improper prescriptions, and the board disciplined the PA.

But in December 2010, Vermont filed charges against Dr. Porter, claiming that he "vicariously engaged" in unprofessional conduct and should also face disciplinary actions. The medical board held a hearing on the matter, concluding that Dr. Porter did not engage in the improper activity. The medical board also ruled Dr. Porter was not aware of the PA's conduct "and could not reasonably be expected to be aware of it," according to the report.

The state appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which upheld the medical board's decision. An official from the medical board said if the court had held the physician responsible for the PA's conduct, that ruling could endanger residency programs, since similar statutes govern physicians who supervise residents, according to the report.

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