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September 29, 1975

Medical DisciplinePart II. Constitutional Consideration—The Police Power

JAMA. 1975;233(13):1427-1428. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03260130063036

THE PURPOSE of state medical practice acts is to protect the public from receiving inadequate medical treatment.1,2 To be constitutionally acceptable, however, the provisions of the acts must be reasonable in relation to this purpose.3 It is well settled that statutory licensure requirements regarding minimum standards of education and character meet this reasonableness test.4

Character  Legislatures have generally agreed that good character is a proper requirement for medical licensure. Defining precisely what constitutes good or bad character has caused medical boards and courts considerable difficulty, however. Three recent California cases illustrate this. In the first and earliest case, the California Supreme Court struggled with the definition of "moral turpitude."2 In the second, a California Court of Appeals avoided the term "moral turpitude" altogether.5 And, in the third and most recent case, another Court of Appeals panel attempted to reach a compromise between the two earlier decisions.