My medical board violated my civil rights. I filed a DOJ Title II ADA complaint. Why all doctors should do the same.

Attention: Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

My name is Pamela Wible, M.D. I’m a family physician in Oregon. I believe I’ve suffered Title II ADA violations by multiple medical boards.

In my 2019 study (1), I revealed how competent physician applicants who disclosed mental health conditions suffered discrimination and career jeopardy by medical boards nationwide. Senator Wyden cited my study in his 2023 letter to DOJ (2), demanding federal investigation of medical boards’ unlawful practices.

During my 30-year career, I’ve cared for patients in Texas, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. Each state’s licensure application included ADA-impermissible mental health questions (1) unrelated to current competence—an unethical and illegal breach of privacy, confidentiality, and non-discrimination principles.

Falsifying answers to these impermissible questions risks license denial, and in some states, is a crime. Applications have threatened hefty fines—and even jail time.

Answering YES to these questions requires defending oneself in writing (in person at board request), risking costly unwarranted examinations by board-appointed non-impartial evaluators, and license delay or denial in each state, leading to similar actions in other states.

As a competent, qualified physician, I’ve always answered NO to these questions—at great personal expense.

I’ve been forced to hide my pain. I’ve never sought care from a psychiatrist (or any doctor) for work-related anxiety and depression.

Like my peers, I’ve always put on a happy face at work. I’ve consistently denied my own needs. I’ve repeatedly delayed my own care. I’ve sought off-the-grid therapists who use paper charts—to safeguard records from board subpoena. I’ve acquired psych meds on my own—so as not to be tracked by pharmacies or boards.

As long as medical boards continue to harm doctors by violating our rights under the guise of “public safety,” I can’t trust my profession to keep me safe.

In 2012, after three doctors from my town died by suicide, I asked Oregon Medical Board to track doctor suicides. Their attorney declined. They seemed disinterested in doctor suicide data.

Alarmed, I launched a free doctor suicide helpline. I’ve spent ten years listening to suffering physicians. I can tell you definitively the most common complaint I hear is, “I’m afraid of career repercussions for seeking mental health care.”

I love caring for patients as a family doctor. Yet I retired early—to care for my physician peers.

How can we serve our patients when we are struggling in silence—even dying by suicide—amid state-sanctioned mental health discrimination and punishment by medical boards?

I implore the DOJ to protect all Americans—regardless of occupation—by removing ADA-impermissible mental health questions from state medical licensure applications. Physicians must be able to voluntarily seek confidential care when needed—not deny, delay, and self-medicate occupational wounds until they fall prey to regulatory agencies that force doctors into punitive so-called “physician health programs.”

Please contact me should you need additional data. I truly appreciate your commitment to upholding our nation’s laws for liberty and justice of all.

Respectfully,

Pamela Wible, M.D.

(1) Wible, Pamela, and Palermini, Arianna. Physician-Friendly States for Mental Health: A Comparison of Medical Licensing Boards. Qualitative Research in Medicine and Healthcare 3(3):p 107-119, December 22, 2019. | DOI: 10.4081/qrmh.2019.8649.

(2) Wyden, Ron, Booker, Cory, and Merkley, Jeffrey. Congressional Letter to DOJ re State Medical Boards Violating ADA with Intrusive Mental Health Questions. February 23, 2023.

* * *

Do you fear mental health questions on board applications? Unwarranted scrutiny by board-selected psychiatric evaluators? Do you feel you must hide your emotional struggles? Avoiding or delaying seeking help? Enduring career-threatening discrimination for disclosing a mental health condition to your board? Been falsely flagged as impaired? Sent to a physician health program?

If you answered yes to any question above, your civil rights have been violated by a medical board. Please submit your DOJ ADA complaint here (you may remain anonymous).


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11 comments on “My medical board violated my civil rights. I filed a DOJ Title II ADA complaint. Why all doctors should do the same.
  1. Louise B Andrew MD JD says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Pamela. As was demonstrated in the study by Katie Gold et al ( https://bit.ly/Goldstudy ) also cited in the Congressional letter, 50% of physician mothers had experienced a diagnosable mental illness and did not seek treatment for fear of retaliation, and only 6% had answered these ADA impermissible licensure questions such as revealed in your article, fearing the well known and likely negative repercussions.

    Anyone who has experienced ANY licensure repercussions from self reporting should submit a complaint to the DOJ. IT IS HOWEVER MUCH BETTER IF YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF, so that DOJ can contact you for more details. Your identity will not be revealed by the DOJ to the licensure agency.

    If you have like Pamela felt you must avoid treatment or seek treatment anonymously or pay privately to avoid being reported to the medical board by a treating physician or having to report yourself on the basis of these questions, you should likewise complain to the DOJ.

    Be aware that the ADA prohibits ANY medical examination (including the asking of questions) that require that you divulge a medical condition or predict the future of a medical condition; so even the phrases “for which you are not being appropriately treated that impairs your judgment or that would otherwise adversely affect your ability” or “that is not being appropriately treated which is likely to impair or adversely affect your ability” are impermissible under DOJ interpretations of the ADA.

    Likewise, asking referents to give indirect information about your presumptive health status is impermissible. Retaliating against you for refusing to divulge such information is also impermissible.

    If you are a licensed (or formerly licensed) practitioner with any condition that limits an activity of daily living, (including alcoholism or substance use for which you are in treatment, UNLESS you are currently using illegal substances), and a PHP has reported you to a medical board for “noncompliance”, you may also have a complaint for illegal retaliation under the ADA.

    Incidentally, you can NOT be required to relinquish your rights against illegal discrimination, for example by contract. So if you have been coerced into signing something agreeing to reporting of your condition to the medical board unless specific conditions are met, you have been forced into an impermissible deprivation of your civil rights. You should provide a copy of any such coercive contract with your complaint.

    The Department of Justice is actively seeking cases NOW, possibly in response to the Congressional letter. They CANNOT however act without cases and information about patterns or practices reflecting ignorance or abuses of the law. You should submit your complaint whether or not it is perfect.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Excellent and much appreciated instructions for those who might minimize the impact of these ADA-impermissible questions on their mental health and career. Consequences are far-reaching and poorly understood by most victims. I believe nearly all physicians should be submitting their victim impact statements to the DOJ.

    • Anon says:

      Out of curiosity, has the DOJ said publicly that it’s actively seeking cases now? I was wondering how you know that, or if there’s a link to a webpage where the DOJ says as much. Thanks!

  2. Thomas Schacht says:

    This problem is not limited to licensing boards. Non-governmental credentialing organizations also intrude, and have even persuaded state legislatures to pass laws requiring physicians to cooperate.

  3. David Hook says:

    God bless. You speak for me and many others.
    (btw, any relationship to FtWorth Wibles?)
    Warm regards
    JD Hook, retired MD, PhD

  4. Anonymous doctor says:

    Two medical boards are mandating psychiatric evaluations on me because of false allegations.
    I have tried the ADA argument in the proceedings with one medical board using ADA language after consulting with two well-known experts in the field to no avail. The other one has just started and I am supposed to go to a psychiatric evaluation next week with the State’s expert.
    Will filing an ADA complaint to the DOJ help? Are they seeking individual cases like mine?

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yes they are seeking cases. Reach out to me here for guidance: Contact Dr. Wible.

    • Anonymous doctor says:

      I filed a complaint with the DOJ against one of the state medical boards using Title II of the ADA and got a response stating they are not pursuing it.
      I guess they don’t care after all.

      • Pamela Wible MD says:

        Those are automated responses and we all get them (including me) before our follow-up interviews with the DOJ. So keep the faith please. Reach out of you want to talk. Happy to help you.

        • Anonymous doctor says:

          This is the response I received by email on 3/29 –

          “You contacted the Department of Justice on March 22, 2024. After careful review of what you submitted, we have decided not to take any further action on your complaint.

          What we did:
          Team members from the Civil Rights Division reviewed the information you submitted. Based on our review, we have decided not to take any further action on your complaint. We receive several thousand reports of civil rights violations each year. We unfortunately do not have the resources to take direct action for every report.

          Your report number was …”

          Is this the same generic response you and others have received?

          I replaced the report number with the ellipsis.

          • Pamela Wible MD says:

            We all get the “generic” response before then having an interview. Took them 5 months to follow up with me for an interview. So keep going! You may also send me your letter here and we may be able to expedite depending on what specifically has happened to you. Reach out to me here.

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