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August 04, 2023

California Nurse Practitioners Sue Attorney General for Ability to Use the title “Doctor”

In June 2023, three California nurse practitioners brought suit against the state attorney general and state medical board.  The plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of a California law that allows only physicians to call themselves “doctor.” In the past California has enforced the law, including a case brought in November 2022 against nurse practitioner Sarah Erny. Despite holding a Doctorate in Nursing Practice, Erny paid a $2,500 fine to the California Medical Board and settled with the attorney general by refraining from using the term “doctor” and paying $19,750 in civil penalties. Erny had been running a professional practice and website where she identified herself as “Dr. Sarah Erny.” Erny ended up closing her practice. The attorney general and medical board argue for enforcement of this law to protect and inform the public. The nurse practitioners bringing the suit argue that they should be able to use the designation to be recognized for their heightened level of expertise.

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