Drug and alcohol addiction is a significant problem in the United States. Nearly anyone with a family history of addiction knows just how destructive alcohol and drugs can be. They also understand how difficult it is for the addicted person to seek help, to accept help and to recover.
Alcoholism and drug addiction nearly always create problems at work for the addicted person. But those problems and their consequences are exponentially higher when the addicted person is a physician. Untreated addiction is a significant cause of medical negligence, and the outcomes for patients can be devastating.
Although rates of addiction are no higher among physicians than among the general population, medical professionals face unique challenges and temptations. First of all, physicians usually have much easier access to prescription drugs, including powerful painkillers, sedatives and stimulants. One study found that physicians are five times more likely than other substance abusers to misuse prescription drugs.
An even larger problem is the threat that physicians pose to patients while in active addiction. Their judgment may be compromised, their hands may be unsteady and their focus may be anywhere but on the patient.
If a drug or alcohol-addicted doctor becomes the subject of a medical negligence claim, their conduct will likely be investigated and closely scrutinized by the hospital. In most cases, hospitals can be held liable for the harms caused by the physicians they hire.
Hopefully, most hospitals are already monitoring their employees closely enough to detect signs of alcohol and drug abuse before patients are put at risk. Sadly, however, this is not always the case.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm and you suspect medical malpractice, please share your story with an experienced attorney. Drug or alcohol addiction is one of many potential problems that lead to medical errors, and each incident deserves a thorough and proper investigation.
Source: Psych Central, “Medical Negligence: Sometimes Caused by Substance Abusing Physicians,” Jerry Nelson