Judicial Watch • States Protect Doctors Who Abuse Drugs, Alcohol

States Protect Doctors Who Abuse Drugs, Alcohol

States Protect Doctors Who Abuse Drugs, Alcohol

DECEMBER 18, 2007

Nearly every state in the nation operates publicly funded drug and alcohol rehab programs that protect dangerous physicians who are allowed to practice while supposedly undergoing treatments that are rarely supervised by state licensing boards.

Thousands of doctors across the country have participated in the confidential programs that specifically aim to conceal potentially damaging information from unsuspecting patients, many of whom become victims of atrocious malpractice by the addict practitioners.

Troubling examples include botched surgeries by intoxicated doctors, unnecessary surgical procedures that caused serious complications, critical delays in crucial medical treatments and a binge-drinking plastic surgeon in California who had been arrested in a drunk-driving accident days before performing his last botched surgery on a woman.

In fact, California’s state-operated rehab program is such a disaster that the state is finally getting rid of it in 2008, after nearly three decades of protecting troubled physicians. After a series of damaging investigations, state officials concluded that the system failed to protect patients or even help addict doctors get better.

Abolishing the program means that the Golden State will be the first to revert back to the zero-tolerance policy in which drug and alcohol-abusing doctors were immediately stripped of their licenses. The president of California’s medical board, Dr. Richard Fantozzi, says the state has acted because it’s unconscionable to hide such damaging information from patients.

It’s estimated that between 10-15% of physicians nationwide will have a substance abuse problem throughout their career and, in most cases, patients will never know about it. Currently, there are about 8,000 practicing doctors enrolled in the confidential treatment programs that conceal the information from the public.

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