“To go to a doctor who is impaired can really have deadly consequences. It’s no different than an airline pilot who is using drugs or alcohol in that you’re often dealing with life and death circumstances,” said Steve Levin, a medical malpractice attorney with the Levin & Perconti law firm in Chicago.
Remarkably, Ready said that as far as he knows he never did harm to a patient in the operating room. But he knows his clouded judgment put them at grave risk.
Recently, those kinds of risks have sparked a number of patients’ rights advocacy groups to call for mandatory drug testing of all medical professionals, said Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation in Boston. Many in the medical community argue such testing would infringe on personal privacy.
Through the first 10 months of 2010, Illinois’ state licensing board reprimanded or suspended the licenses of at least 156 medical professionals for stealing, using or mishandling drugs, or failing drug tests. Those numbers have remained fairly consistent over the last 10 years, records show, even while awareness of the problem in the medical community has grown.