Doctor and healthcare worker drug use needlessly endangers PA patients

Current healthcare policies and state laws may allow a large number of medical professionals to abuse drugs, placing their patients in harm’s way.

Most people in Pottsville understand the rigorous standards doctors and other medical professionals are held to; as a result, they expect only top-caliber treatment when they require medical attention. Unfortunately, medical malpractice is shockingly common, claiming an estimated 210,000 to 440,000 lives per year, according to National Public Radio. One significant but underappreciated factor contributing to these cases may be drug use on the part of healthcare professionals.

Caregiver negligence

Rates of drug use among doctors, nurses, technicians and other healthcare professionals are higher than many patients suspect. In April, USA Today reported that 100,000 medical professionals around the country abuse drugs or suffer from drug addiction. Research suggests that one-tenth of healthcare professionals will habitually abuse drugs or alcohol at some point in their careers.

There are a number of measures that could prevent or at least reduce drug use by healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, several laws and policies currently in place across the country may contribute to the problem:

  • No states have passed laws mandating universal drug testing or drug testing in healthcare settings.
  • Many healthcare facilities lack the technology to adequately monitor their employees or track harmful drugs.
  • Many states do not require healthcare facilities to report employee drug abuse to the relevant authorities.
  • When a medical professional is caught abusing drugs, lasting disciplinary action, such as the suspension of any professional licenses, is fairly rare.
  • Many states allow professionals who voluntarily complete rehabilitation to continue practicing under supervision but without disciplinary action.

Sadly, these oversights can leave patients in significant danger. Professionals who abuse drugs on the job may make medication errors, misdiagnoses, late diagnoses and physical errors during surgical procedures. These unnecessary mistakes may result in injury or even death.

The intentional actions of drug-abusing healthcare professionals have also been known to harm patients. For instance, after one hospital technician was caught directly injecting himself with patients' pain medications, over 8,000 people had to be tested for hepatitis. At least 46 patients were infected. Hepatitis outbreaks have occurred under similar circumstances in Colorado and Florida.

Many cases of drug abuse by medical professionals go undetected, according to USA Today. This means the negligent decisions of even one medical professional have the potential to harm many patients.

Protection for patients

This November, California voters will consider a bill to make random drug testing mandatory for doctors, according to the New York Times. If the bill passes, it will be the first law of its kind in the country. If a reduction in California patient injuries, deaths and malpractice claims is subsequently observed, the legislation could set a model for other states to follow.

Until then, however, Pennsylvanians face an unfortunate risk of receiving substandard care at the hands of professionals who have made extremely irresponsible decisions. Anyone who is hurt as a result of medical mistakes or negligence should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss pursuing compensation for the wrongful injury.

Keywords: medical malpractice, surgical error, personal injury