Thursday, August 18

California Considers Mandatory Drug Testing for Doctors

Job seekers and current employees alike are usually pretty familiar with random drug testing, and the majority of people have either had to take a random drug test for a job or expect to do so in the near future. Jobs that directly affect the health and safety of others — and especially those jobs which have the potential to be very high-profile, such as police work and firefighting — are nearly expected to mandate drug tests for employees. But one group of workers have remained untouched by random drug tests, despite being directly responsible for the health of others: doctors. But if the state of California has anything to say about it, this may change soon.

This coming November, a mandate, called Proposition 46, requiring that all doctors be subject to random drug and alcohol testsis going to be on the ballot. Doctors across the country have been watching the proposal closely, and about $35 million have already been raised to fight it. The opponents of the proposition aren’t just doctors; the entire medical industry, including hospitals and medical insurance companies, also seem to be opposed to the proposition as well.

Feelings regarding Proposition 46 seem to be very divided; many notable Democrats, including Representative Nancy Pelosi, already strongly support the bill, while a variety of unions, including Planned Parenthood, are worried that it could set a national precedent that deters doctors from seeking careers in risky fields of medicine. Opponents of Proposition 46 refer to it as nothing more than “money grab by trial lawyers,” according to Dr. Richard Thorp, who is the president of the California Medical Association.

However, it should be noted that medical malpractice occurs at a surprising rate in the U.S., and even the New York Times notes that “substance abuse is a well-known issue in the medical profession.” Even though medicine is a practice and mistakes will inevitably be made, supporters of the proposition note that drug- and alcohol-related mistakes need to be put under intense public scrutiny, and that doctors involved in these cases need to be weeded out to protect their patients’ lives.

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