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Drug Screening of Physicians: Violations of Personal Privacy vs "Peace of Mind"
Yesterday, I received the following e-mail from Ed:
"Dr Bernstein, as a retired USAF pilot and current
airline pilot who has been subjected to random drug screening for my entire
professional career, why aren't medical providers who have easy access to legal
drugs as well as the same to access to illegal drugs as the rest of society,
subject to random drug screening? The public literally places their lives in
our respective hands and it seems both professions have a ethical, moral, and
legal obligation to ensure reasonable efforts are made to identify those who
abuse drugs. I think this would make a great topic for your blog."
I wrote Ed back "Good topic for consideration. The
question is not the moral, ethical or legal aspects of testing but in the
physician population alone, what are the studies and statistics which confirm
that such testing would make a significant difference in overall patient safety
vs the validity and the economics of a test result? An airline pilot, in
daily work, may have hundreds of lives beyond his/her own at immediate highly
significant risk whereas a physician's risk pool is limited to his one patient
with less significant risk. ..Maurice. "
We must find the statistics to compare physicians to airline
pilots with regard to drug intoxication, frequency of incidence and outcome in
terms of risks to lives and health in their daily professions. In reality, the
testing of physicians for drug use is already occurring in U.S. hospitals both
on staff admission and also randomly. If the statistics show that drug use by
physicians is minute and the consequences of such addiction is also minute,
then the questions are whether such testing is simply a way to provide society
and the patients some "peace of mind" and whether that benefit is sufficient
to ethically permit violation of a physician's personal privacy and its
professional consequences for that
If statistics will show that there is a difference between
the risks to patients vs passengers, would you agree that there should be a
difference between physicians and airline pilots in the way society handles the
drug-use issue for safety and "peace of mind"? ..Maurice.
Graphic: From Google Images modified by me with ArtRage 3.