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Maryland doctors' addictions threaten patient safety

Drug and alcohol addiction is not unheard of within the medical community, and, unfortunately, Maryland doctors are not immune to substance abuse either. In a recent investigation conducted by ABC2 News, records from the Maryland Board of Physicians uncovered dozens of cases involving doctors struggling with drug and alcohol abuse while working with patients.

Among the cases cited in the ABC2 investigation were stories of physicians injecting themselves with opiate-filled needles at the hospital, doctors snorting cocaine while with patients and performing their duties while intoxicated. Such behaviors legitimately raise grave concerns about the risk of medical malpractice and negligence.

While this is never acceptable behavior regardless of someone's profession or where they work, among medical professionals the stakes are dramatically higher and the consequences significantly graver.

The Board of Physicians does not release the names of the physicians with histories of substance abuse, however, many of these physicians end up being unveiled as a result of public discipline records. It is not surprising that many of the physicians who struggle with substance abuse also have disciplinary records.

Although some in the profession take these issues seriously and speak out about them, according to others, there is a lot of denial that takes place. The decision to turn a blind eye probably stems from fear of the repercussions.

Medicine is a sacred art wherein people place their lives and well being in the hands of strangers. For a doctor to jeopardize that trust by using intoxicants while on the job is more than wrong, it is criminal.

If someone suspects their physician of using drugs or alcohol while at work they have a responsibility to report them, not only for their sake but for the sake of everyone else.

Source: ABC2-TV, "Investigation shows dozens of Maryland doctors struggle with addiction," Joce Sterman, May 3, 2012

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