LLR-Board of Medical Examiners

Approved by the Board: October 22-24, 2001 Board Meeting

Service Area: Medical

Subject: Retired Physicians


In accordance with Section 1-23-40 of the 1976 Code of Laws of South Carolina as amended, notice is hereby given that the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners, in response to questions from physicians, particularly at the time of annual re-application, has adopted the following statement regarding retired physicians as guidance for licensed physicians in the practice of medicine under the South Carolina Medical Practice Act and the Principles of Medical Ethics, as adopted by the Board.


Physicians contemplating cessation of the active practice of medicine have two (2) options available to them:

  1. Allow the permanent medical license to lapse and become inactive with none of the privileges or responsibilities associated with the active practice of medicine.

An inactive license allows the physician the right to apply for re-activation and to maintain health insurance through professional associations, such as the South Carolina Medical Association. An inactive license does not allow the physician to:

    1. Provide patient services
    2. Order tests or therapies
    3. Prescribe, dispense or administer drugs
    4. Perform any other medical or surgical acts
    5. Receive income for provision of medical and/or surgical services performed following deactivation.
  1. Maintain a full active license which requires fulfilling all requirements of such licensure, including financial and educational.

The South Carolina Medical Board is aware that a number of physicians consider themselves "retired” but still hold a currently registered active medical license and provide professional medical and/or surgical services to patients on a regular or occasional basis. Such physicians customarily serve the needs of long-standing patients, nursing home residents, emergency rooms, community health programs, etc. The Board commends those physicians for their willingness to continue to serve following "retirement,” but recognizes that such service is not the complete cessation of the practice of medicine and, therefore, must be joined with an undiminished awareness of professional responsibility. That responsibility means that such physicians must:

  1. Practice within their areas of professional competence.
  2. Prepare and keep medical records in accordance with good professional practice.
  3. Maintain their competence through an active continuing medical education effort.
  4. Assure that their health status allows them to practice safely and effectively.

The Board also reminds "retired” physicians with currently registered active licenses that all federal and state laws and rules relating to the practice of medicine and/or surgery apply to them, that the policy statements of the Board apply to all actively practicing physicians, and that they continue to be subject to the risk of liability for any medical and/or surgical acts they perform.

For those inactive physicians wishing to provide medical services to the indigent and needy citizens of our State, a special volunteer license is available which limits practice to a specific site(s) and practice setting(s) with no associated licensure or other fees. Physicians with a special volunteer license are not allowed to receive income for the provision of their medical and/or surgical services.