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Medical professionals' drug use jeopardizes patients

North Carolina residents may be surprised at the level of drug use by medical professionals while on the job. According to a recent report, it is estimated that more than 100,000 medical workers are abusing or addicted to medications, and each impaired caregiver has the potential of injuring thousands of patients. However, it is difficult to detect or prevent drug abuse since many health care facilities do not have drug testing requirements or take immediate disciplinary action when a practitioner is suspected of being impaired.

Several studies indicate that one in 10 health care professional will abuse drugs or alcohol in their lifetime, but sources say that only a few ever get caught. Moreover, disciplinary action is not taken until a medical practitioner commits multiple transgressions. In one recent case, 8,000 patients in eight states were tested for hepatitis following disclosure that a hospital worker had been caught injecting himself with patients' painkillers and refilling syringes with saline solution; over 40 people were infected.

The debate continues about whether the use of drugs by healthcare professionals is a criminal or a medical situation. Many believe that education on drug abuse and addiction for doctors should be focused during their residency or intern days and continued throughout their careers. Additionally, several legislators and addiction specialists believe that education on signs of impairment and addiction prevention would help address the problem.

If a person or a loved one has been harmed because hospital negligence permitted an impaired caregiver to remain on the job, a legal counselor may be able to review the facts of the case and determine the possibility of filing civil action. If a medical practitioner did not demonstrate duty of care in carrying out his or her duties, compensation for damages may be available.

Source: KTVB, "Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk", Peter Eisler, April 16, 2014

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