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Supreme Court Affirms Vermont Medical Practice Board’s Decision to Deny a Request to Vacate a Final and Irrevocable Surrender of a Medical License

In In re Stephanie H. Taylor, M.D., 2016 VT 82 (July 22, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Vermont Medical Practice Board’s decision denying Dr. Taylor’s request to vacate a consent order from 2005 in which she agreed to a “final and irrevocable” surrender of her medical license.

Issue: As this was the second appeal on this matter (the first was In re Taylor, 2015 VT 95, 128 A.3d 422), the Supreme Court declined to go into detail on Dr. Taylor’s disciplinary history, but referred to her “chemical addiction,” “mental impairment,” and “disregard for the fundamental principles of doctor-patient boundaries.” While she was allowed to pursue a residency at Tufts in 2000, the Massachusetts medical board suspended Dr. Taylor’s license when she did not comply with drug testing requirements. The Vermont Board then filed a complaint against Dr. Taylor, alleging 25 counts of professional misconduct. The complaint led to the 2005 consent order, which Dr. Taylor agreed was an “acceptable means of resolving the matter.” Although she agreed to the final and irrevocable surrender of her medical license, she applied for reinstatement in 2013 and 2014. The Board declined to modify the consent order. Dr. Taylor appealed, arguing that the Board erred in failing to determine whether there were “less restrictive means available to regulate [her] conduct;” that the Board violated her right to due process by shifting the burden of “guess[ing] at the Board’s requirements for reinstatement onto her;” that the Board relied on the specification of charges that led to the 2005 consent order; and that the Board erred in considering the Massachusetts decision revoking her medical license.

Holding: The Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s decision to deny Dr. Taylor’s request. With regard to her first argument, the Court found that Dr. Taylor erred in relying on 26 V.S.A. §3101, noting that it applies to the entry into a profession or occupation, and not to the circumstances at issue here. With regard to her due process argument, the Court found that the Board did not violate Dr. Taylor’s due process rights by shifting the burden onto her – she failed to provide any persuasive evidence that addressed significant changes or rehabilitation in the areas of her professional judgment, discipline, and self-regulation. The Court also noted that the Board explicitly stated that it “did not consider the charges as proven,” and as such, there was no error. Finally, the Court found that the Board’s admission of the Massachusetts order was harmless, since Dr. Taylor’s sanctions in Massachusetts were not a secret and the record already reflected the fact that her license there had been suspended indefinitely. As such, there was no prejudicial error or a basis for changing the Board’s decision.

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