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Drug testing for medical staffers a serious issue

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about a medical malpractice story that involved a doctor who once had a drug addiction. That man went on to perform many surgeries, some of which were botched. And yet the institutions he was aligned with continued to recommend and support him, even as he ventured out on his own and created a spinal clinic.

He certainly isn’t the first medical professional to deal with a drug problem, and he won’t be last. There was a famous recent case where a medical technician would take syringes full of painkillers and use them. The syringes were prepared for patients who were about to undergo a cardiac procedure. The technician then refilled the used syringe with saline and put it back. As if the story couldn’t get any worse, the man had hepatitis C. He did this for years across many states and in many medical facilities. Many people were infected, and some even died.

Thankfully he was caught and sentenced to a lengthy term in prison (nearly four decades long). While both of these stories are jarring examples of medical malpractice, they also pose a serious question: why aren’t doctors rigorously tested for drug use?

As these stories show, a doctor’s drug use doesn’t just affect him or her. It can affect their patients in a variety of ways, may it be by the transmission of diseases via the drug use, or impairment by drug use.

Medical staff members provide an all-too-important service for their professionalism and performance to be left so unchecked. There could be a push in the near future to bolster drug testing laws for doctors, nurses, surgeons and all medical staff members to better protect patients from harm.

Source: New York Times, “Why Aren’t Doctors Drug Tested?,” Daniel R. Levinson and Erika T. Broadhurst, March 12, 2014