California Considers Requiring Doctors to Undergo Drug and Alcohol Tests

California voters will decide this November whether doctors in their state will have to submit to random drug and alcohol tests.

If the measure is passed, California would become the first state to require doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol testing, according to The New York Times. The measure is part of a broader initiative that would also raise the state’s financial cap on medical malpractice awards, from $250,000 to $1.1 million.

The medical industry has already raised more than $35 million to defeat the measure, the article notes. Opponents include doctors, hospitals and medical insurance companies. Unions, the state Chamber of Commerce and the California chapter of Planned Parenthood oppose the measure, known as Proposition 46. Supporters include U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

If Proposition 46 passes, the California Medical Board would receive results of random drug tests on doctors. Hospitals would have to report the names of doctors who were suspected of abusing drugs or alcohol.

Dr. Richard Thorp, President of the California Medical Association, told the newspaper the measure is a “money grab by trial lawyers.” He added, “The decision about drug and alcohol testing shouldn’t be made by political consultants — it should be made by stakeholders in a careful, thoughtful way.”

Arthur L. Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University, supports the measure. “It’s crucial: I can’t believe we haven’t done this already,” he said. “We can argue about how often that is, and what to do if you are positive. But the idea that we wouldn’t be screening our surgeon, our anesthesiologist or our oncologist when we are going to screen our bus drivers and our airline pilots strikes me as ethically indefensible.”

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    Jim Recktenwald

    August 6, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    The data on drug affected production are pretty clear. Any work done under the influence may be done less than optimally. We are not getting all we are paying for if the person doing the work is drug-affected. Granted, there are circumstances where for a time-limited period, we may have to make do with a worker who has become ill or injured and has a prescription medication to assist him or her in functioning. If that becomes a permanent feature of that persons functioning, the person’s fitness for some types of work may be jeopardized. However, every person who performs any kind of job where a tax dollar pays the bill should be subject to random drug testing, as a matter of public federal policy. This includes the President, both houses of Congress, and all cabinet posts. Lets get rid of the hypocritical junkies and drunks who are currently making laws that affect US all. Let the states follow suit or not as they see fit. Gross sales and economic output will become the obvious grading points on this policy.

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    August 5, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    I agree. We should be testing public school teachers also.

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