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Addict Doctors are Still Allowed to Practice (Even Surgery)

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According to an article by the Associated Press, physicians who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are allowed to keep their problem secret while they go through rehab. While in treatment programs, they can continue to practice medicine -- even surgery.

Here are some of the consequences cited in the article:
In Montana, a patient accused a doctor enrolled in the state's treatment program of not following up on her abnormal test results, delaying her cancer diagnosis by more than a year. Montana revoked Dr. Robert Schure's license last year after he flunked out of treatment six times since 1994, according to board documents. The patient's suit was settled for an undisclosed sum.

A North Carolina surgeon enrolled in the state's program for alcoholism charged patients for one type of gastric bypass and then performed a shortcut procedure that led to serious complications, including stomach ulcers and vomiting, according to patients and a medical board investigation.

[...]

Opponents of California's program have focused on the case of Dr. Brian West, a Long Beach plastic surgeon who has been accused of negligence by the state medical board and is fighting to keep his license.

In 1999, West performed a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery on Becky Anderson. The procedure left her with gaping, infected wounds that wouldn't close and, ultimately, a grotesque lump the size of a melon caused by organs spilling through an unhealed hole in her abdomen.
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Weeks before performing his final, futile procedure on her, West was arrested for a drunken-driving accident.

After his conviction, West entered the diversion program for alcoholism. A year later he performed a tummy tuck on a 37-year-old woman that also healed poorly.
>> Read the full article.

The risk of doing harm while going through drug or alcohol treatment is too high. The AMA needs to do something about this. A patient's safety should be more important than protecting the doctor's privacy and reputation.

Keep doctors away from patients until they're certifiably clean.

In the meantime, I say: Physician, heal thyself.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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