California lawmakers have proposed legislation that would require doctors in the state to undergo random drug testing if they have privileges at any hospital. The law would also require drug testing of doctors after a major mistake was made during patient care. While workers in other industries are required to participate in drug tests, it's not legally required for physicians.
While some organizations may drug test physicians, there is no federal law on the matter. According to government studies, as many as 10 percent of working physicians have an alcohol or drug addiction problem. Some doctors are reportedly treating patients and performing surgeries under the influence of drugs.
One physician, who reports being clean for 10 years, says he was taking as many as 100 pills each day while seeing patients. He says he worked in a hospital and had easy access to narcotics. He also claims that some of his physician friends would write him prescriptions for pills.
Though that doctor was never accused of harming a patient, others have not been as lucky and have allegedly made surgical errors while under the influence. A physician in another state allegedly removed the spinal cord of a man in error during surgery. Prior to the surgery, the man said he was healthy. After the surgery, the man claims he was disabled. He alleges that the physician may have performed the surgery while under the influence of drugs.
Two other patients died after that doctor operated on them. Witnesses testified in depositions that the doctor used drugs, including cocaine and LSD. Several lawsuits have been filed against the physician.
Individuals who are injured because of doctor errors have a right to seek compensation for damages through medical malpractice suits. Regardless of what the law says about drug testing requirements, doctors have an obligation to deliver a certain standard of safe care.
Source: Today, "Is your doctor stoned? Physicians with substance abuse problems continue to work" Jeff Rossen and Charlie McLravy, Jun. 16, 2014