Santa Monica, CA – A USA Today report finds that 103,000 medical professionals are abusing prescription drugs every year, yet most of the addicted doctors are never caught and place their patients at risk. California will be the first state in the nation to require random drug testing of doctors if voters approve an initiative measure that is headed to the November ballot.
View the video of medical professionals telling their stories of addiction here.
The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would require random drug testing of any physician with hospital privileges, and testing after adverse events such as a preventable death. It is modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration’s drug testing program for airline pilots.
“One doctor on duty with a drug problem is too many, but over 100,000, most of whom go undetected, is a travesty,” said Carmen Balber, executive director with Consumer Watchdog which supports the Pack Patient Safety Act. “The Pack Act will make California the first in the nation to finally require random doctor drug and alcohol testing, just like pilots, bus drivers and even athletes already undergo.”
In one shocking case, involving a doctor accused of having an alcohol problem and a pattern of leaving surgeries early, a 72 year old grandfather, Silvino Perez, was left in a permanent vegetative state after his doctor left in the middle of his open heart surgery to go out to lunch. Cristobal Arteaga, of Fresno, CA, found out about the cause of his stepfather Silvino Perez’s condition only after a state report documented the “leaving early” incident and a hospital whistleblower alerted him to it.
Another casualty of doctor substance abuse is a 26 year old woman, who at birth she was the victim of a drunken doctor. In the delivery room, the intoxicated physician pulled so hard on the forceps he used to deliver her that the table moved, stretching her neck and spinal cord like taffy. Today, she remains paralyzed from the neck down , a similar condition to Christopher Reeve’s, the worst injury still compatible with life.
Remarkably the doctor continued to practice, after a mere stint in “treatment,” but the woman is a quadriplegic and is dependent on a ventilator. Recently, when she was told that doctors in California are not subject to drug and alcohol testing, like bus drivers and pilots, she was stunned.
Bob Pack, the proponent of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, lost his two young children, 10 year old Troy and 7 year old Alana, to a drugged driver who was overprescribed narcotics by multiple doctors at the same Kaiser hospital. Shocked that none of the doctors had checked the driver’s prescription history, which would have prevented his family’s tragedy, Pack created the CURES database to make California’s statewide prescription drug database accessible online. The ballot measure he proposed also requires that physicians check the statewide prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics to first-time patients, and indexes for inflation California’s 38-year-old cap on medical negligence damages in cases such as a child’s death.
The California Medical Board estimates that 18% of doctors will have a substance abuse problem at some point during their careers, and that 1-2% will abuse drugs or alcohol at any given time. A review of California physician disciplinary records found that one in six actions involved substance abuse, including self-use or overprescribing.
In 2008, California eliminated a failed substance abuse treatment program that, among other problems, had allowed doctors to continue using drugs without detection and keep their addiction secret from patients.
For more information on the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act visit www.PackAct.org