Should Doctors be Drug Tested?

Drug testing is a big issue in sports, but what about in the medicine world? A hot topic in drug testing right now is whether or not doctors should be subject to random drug and alcohol tests. Many industries protect their customers by drug testing their employees, so many believe that hospitals should be doing the same.

The Journal of the American Medical Association believes that hospitals should be conducting random drug and alcohol screenings on all doctors, and that doctors should be tested immediately following an unexpected patient death. An article in JAMA said this about the benefits of screening doctors,

“Patients might be better protected from preventable harm. Physicians and employers may experience reduced absenteeism, unintentional adverse events, injuries, and turnover, and early identification of debilitating problem.”

Testing before Hiring

Random drug testing on doctors was one of several recommendations that experts made:

• Mandatory physical examination and testing before a medical staff appointment to a hospital.

• A program of random alcohol-drug testing.

• Routine testing for all physicians involved with a patient death.

• Establishment of testing standards by a national hospital regulatory or accrediting body.

Consequences for a Failed Test

The panel suggested a suspension or revoked privileges, and in some cases being reported to the state licensing board in the event of a failed drug test. Also, doctors who failed to pass a test would have to undergo treatment and monitoring to continue practicing at the hospital.

“Patients and their family members have a right to be protected from impaired physicians,” the article said. “In other high-risk industries, this right is supported by regulations and surveillance. Shouldn’t medicine be the same? A robust system to identify impaired physicians may enhance the professionalism that peer review seeks to protect.”