Beebe and O'Neil

Dangerous doctors: drug abuse puts patients at risk

There is a quiet but growing epidemic in the halls of America’s hospitals and clinics: doctors, nurses, and other medical staff abusing prescription drugs. With long days, highly stressful working environments, and relatively easy access to drugs, more health care practitioners are taking drugs on the job. Connecticut patients, among others, should be aware of the risk for medical malpractice when a physician abuses his or her privilege to get access to drugs.

Health care employees are just as likely as other members of the population to abuse alcohol and drugs, but their rate for prescription drug abuse is five times the national average. Physician suicide rates, too, are the highest in any profession. This dangerous combination signals motivation for self-medicating using prescription drugs. Since there is very little regulation of this, doctors and nurses have a much easier time accessing these medications without any questions being asked.

Performing surgeries, conducting diagnosis work, or even reviewing lab results can be extremely dangerous when a doctor is under the influence. Mistakes made could result in serious injuries or even death to patients relying on their care. Some physicians have even overdosed on medication, leaving a trail of questions in their wake about possibly affected patients due to their negligence.

Doctors using needles to inject drugs also pose another risk--the spread of disease. One method of drug abuse in hospitals is self-injection by the health care provider, who then drains the needle and fills it with saline for the patient. Continuous practice of this can expose patients to Hepatitis C or other issues that spread quickly without patient knowledge. Drug diversion, resulting in health care professionals who are impaired while working, can put patients at grave risk of injury or even death.

Victims of doctor error, whether caused by a medical professional abusing drugs or not, may protect their rights by speaking with a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Mint Press News, “’Drug diversion’ leading to ODs in Hospitals,” Frederick Reese, April 25, 2014

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