Weinberg Bill Requiring International Background Checks for Doctors, Surgeons Continues Advancing

Senator Weinberg

Stems from Case of Passaic County Doctor Convicted of Manslaughter in UK

 TRENTON – Responding to the case of a Passaic County doctor who was convicted of manslaughter in the United Kingdom and later began practicing in New Jersey, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg sponsored legislation to require international background checks for all applicants seeking to practice medicine or surgery in the state. The bill was approved yesterday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“Patients deserve to know that their medical professionals have the appropriate training and education, but also that they have conducted themselves in compliance with the law,” said Senator Weinberg. “Since our laws do not extend background checks internationally, we have little way of knowing whether healthcare professionals practicing here have abused their licenses in other countries. This leaves patients at risk of undergoing a medical procedure performed by an unqualified doctor or surgeon. Requiring an international background check will help to protect the safety of our residents and give patients the confidence of knowing that those charged with their care have a clean history of practicing medicine.”

The legislation (S975) would prohibit the Board of Medical Examiners from issuing or renewing a license to any applicant for licensure unless it first determines that no criminal history record information exists on file with the law enforcement authorities of any foreign country in which the applicant has resided, unless the BME determines that it cannot obtain reliable criminal history records from the foreign country. The bill would also require an applicant, when applying for initial licensure, to identify and provide contact information for any employers in the medical or health care fields for whom the applicant has worked in the previous ten years.  The bill would prohibit the BME from issuing an initial license to an applicant unless it first contacts all of those employers identified by the applicant that the BME is able to contact and determines that the applicant is of good moral character and is capable of discharging the functions of a licensee in a manner consistent with the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Under current law, all licensees are required to register biennially with the board.

The bill was introduced in response to the case of Dr. Richard Kaul of PomptonLakes, an anesthesiologist who advertised himself as a spinal surgeon, and performed spinal procedures, without the proper education or training.  In 2001, he was convicted of manslaughter in the United Kingdom and lost his license to practice after a woman whom he sedated for a tooth extraction went into cardiac arrest and subsequently died.  Dr. Kaul went on to renew a pre-existing New Jersey medical license and establish a practice as a “board certified minimally invasive spine surgeon” in PomptonLakes.  In 2012, the BME revoked his medical license due to malpractice with regard to six patients.  The State ordered Dr. Kaul to pay $300,000 in penalties and over $175,000 to cover the State’s legal costs.

The bill was approved by a vote of 13-0. It next heads to the full Senate for a vote.