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Report: More than 500,000 doctors struggle with substance abuse

There are several things that can lead to a medical professional making a mistake that has serious consequences. An error in judgment or misreading a patient’s record, for example, can result in a San Diego patient experiencing unnecessary suffering. Proposed medical malpractice legislation is targeting another explanation for medical errors, and it’s one that could have a profound effect.

A sleep medicine expert from La Jolla was charged with helping his girlfriend gain access to prescription drugs. While he pled not guilty to the charges, he did admit that he smoked meth, and he surrendered his license to practice medicine.

The Patient Safety Act, which will be on the California ballot in November, mandates that doctors take drug and alcohol tests. A report from Consumer Watchdog estimates that almost 7 percent of medical professionals have either been dependent on or have abused drugs or alcohol. That accounts for more than 500,000 doctors across the country. NBC San Diego reports that they discovered at least six physicians in the county who have issues with drugs and alcohol.

The proposed act also looks to increase the current limit on how much someone can recover following a malpractice lawsuit. Advocates of the legislation note that it could be life-saving, though opponents argue that it could lead to an increase in health care costs. Patients who seek help from a doctor should be able to trust that they are in good hands. Anyone who suffers a worsened condition should consult with an attorney regarding their options.

Source: NBC San Diego, “Prop 46 Targets Substance Abuse in Medical Profession,” Candice Nguyen and R. Stickney, Aug. 8, 2014

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