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Substance Abuse Among Doctors & Risk of Medical Negligence

Patients in who visit a doctor in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and surrounding areas expect that they will receive appropriate care by a trained professional. While doctors are not perfect and errors sometimes happen, patients expect that in general they will be treated by someone who is qualified to address their health needs. What patients do not expect is a doctor who is abusing drugs. prescription-bottle---blank-label-991548-m

Unfortunately, experienced New York medical malpractice lawyers know too many patients will end up being treated by a physician with a drug abuse problem. As Medscape reports, nearly 17 percent of 1900 doctors responding to a 2010 survey admitted to having direct personal knowledge of an impaired or incompetent physician among their peer group in the prior three years.

Of these physicians, around a third did not report the person they believed might be abusing drugs. Some (19 percent) kept silent because they thought someone else was addressing the problem, while 15 percent didn't believe reporting would make a difference and 12 percent feared retaliation. Others (10 percent) thought it wasn't their responsibility, while nine percent said they feared the physician would be excessively punished.

What Happens When Doctors Abuse Drugs?

Psych Central indicates that a doctor's drug abuse is often not identified until a mistake has been made and a medical malpractice investigation uncovers the problem. A criminal incident or an arrest for impaired driving may also be the catalyst that leads to a doctor being caught.

In most cases, when a medical professional is using drugs, it is prescription medications that are the problem. Although doctors are just as likely as the general public to develop substance abuse problems, there is a five times greater chance that their problem will be with prescription pills. The easy access makes this an attractive choice.

When the drug use is identified, the physician can receive confidential care. Physician health programs also provide ongoing monitoring, which typically lasts for up to five years. Monitoring can make a big difference in terms of doctors kicking the habit. Those medical professionals who are not in a monitoring program have a relapse rate similar to the general populations and almost half relapse and begin using again within the first year. Physicians who get treated and who are part of active monitoring programs, on the other hand, have a lower rate of relapse. About 22 percent test positive over the course of the monitoring period and 71 percent remain license and employed five years after the drug abuse problem comes to light.

Of course, treatment for the physician is likely not the primary concern for patients who are harmed by a doctor who has been using drugs. Evidence of impairment is usually prima facie evidence of medical negligence and those who are harmed can usually make a strong case for medical malpractice.

For more information about how a medical malpractice attorney in New York can help you with your medical malpractice case, contact Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC. Call 212-736-0979 or visit and schedule a free consultation today.

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