Monday, August 25, 2014

Should Doctors be Drug Tested?

The New York Times recently posted an article on drug testing doctors in the state of California.  It seems contradictory to test someone who has taken a pledge to help, serve, and heal the sick but the statistics of medical professionals who use and abuse drugs or alcohol is close to 18%.  Many point out that the doctors that put patients in extreme danger such as surgeons, obstetricians, anesthesiologists and other high-risk doctors should be randomly tested while general practitioners should be randomly tested just not as regularly.  Proposition 46—as it is known as comes from the large number of medical malpractices suits that are appearing in California every year. 

Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in an interview that there should be random drug testing across the medical profession, given the access in hospitals to controlled substances. “I don’t think that a carve-out when it comes to the medical field is sensible public policy,” he said. “No one should be above suspicion or below suspicion. I think we all need to play by similar rules.”

In California, major laws are routinely made at the ballot box, and initiatives like this can be as hard-fought as a race for governor. Both sides expect this contest to dwarf anything else on the ballot, including the lopsided race for governor (Jerry Brown, a popular Democrat, is widely expected to win re-election).

“From a national perspective, this is really historic,” said Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, one of the groups supporting the initiative. “It will give the public a chance to put doctors in the same category as pilots and truck drivers and other workers who are tested for impairment because they have public-safety jobs. That will spread like wildfire if the voters of California give it a nod.”

Dr. Thorp of the California Medical Association said the issue was so important that the coalition opposing it was “very committed to ensuring that this ballot initiative doesn’t get passed.”

Consumer Watchguard, the lobbying group for this initiative even put together a YouTube campaign called “Pee in a Cup, TheMusical”.  The video ends with the statistic that 18% of medical professionals abuse alcohol or drugs. 

The new proposition will be voted on with the other ballots in November.  If passed, experts say that the drug testing of doctors will spread like wildfire to the rest of the union.   

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