Purpose: To determine whether medical licensing board application questions about the mental or physical health or substance use history of the applicant violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
Method: Content analysis of 51 allopathic licensing applications (50 states and District of Columbia) was performed at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School in 2005. Questions referencing physical or mental health or substance use were identified by a team of physicians and reviewed and categorized based on the ADA and appropriate case law by legal counsel.
Results: Of the 51 applications reviewed, 49 (96%) contained questions pertaining to the physical or mental health or substance use history of the applicant. Thirty-four of the 49 (69%) state medical licensing applications contained at least one “likely impermissible” or “impermissible” item based on the ADA and appropriate case law.
Conclusions: Most state medical licensing applications contain questions that ask about the physical or mental health and substance use of physician applicants. Many licensing applications appear to be in violation of the ADA, even 19 years after enactment of the regulation. These questions do not elicit responses by which professional competence can be judged. The presence of these questions on licensing applications may cause physicians to avoid or delay treatment of personal illness.