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A physician's right to delegate authority is governed by both statutory and contractual limitations. Failure to comply with these limitations can subject the physician to civil liability and, for drug law violations, loss of licensure and criminal prosecution. Physicians must be personally familiar with the terms of these statutes; they cannot rely on nursing personnel or clinic administrators to ensure that their practice complies with the law.

Every state has a medical practice act and a board of medical examiners. These set the requirements for obtaining a license to practice medicine in the state, oversee the processes of licensure, and provide for the revocation of licenses or for disciplinary action against those who are accused of violating the terms of licensure. All physicians should read the medical practice act for the states in which they hold licenses. Those who supervise PEs should read the specific provisions of the medical practice act that govern such supervision.

Copies of a state's medical practice act can be obtained from the state's board of medical examiners. Physicians should ask for all applicable administrative regulations as well. These regulations are enacted by the board rather than the state legislature but nevertheless have the force of law. Physicians should make sure that the law and regulations are still in force as written. Changes in the law or regulations can take months or years to appear in the written materials provided by the regulatory agency.

Most medical practice acts are understandable to physicians who read them carefully. They do not need to consult a lawyer on the intent of the regulations. Moreover, most attorneys, including those who practice health care corporate law or medical malpractice defense, are unfamiliar with the laws and regulations that govern medical practice in private physicians' offices. If sections of the law are unclear or seem contrary to common practice, an official of the medical board or an attorney who is knowledgeable in medical practice regulations can be consulted.

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