Why doctors don't speak up about workplace drinking

When you go in for surgery, is it obvious that you want your surgeon to be sober? It may be to you, but some doctors say this is often not the case.

For instance, one established doctor told a story of when he was first starting out in his career and got a job at a new hospital. One of the surgeons came in, obviously drunk and smelling like alcohol.

No one else was around to perform the surgery. He said that the delay alone, caused by the chaos of that doctor's arrival, already was a risk to the patient. So, the impaired surgeon went on and did the procedure.

It all worked out. The patient wasn't harmed and recovered. However, the risk was clear. Saying that outcome meant it was all "fine" would be like saying drunk driving wasn't dangerous just because a drunk driver managed to get home without crashing.

The doctor felt like he should speak up, but he revealed a big problem in medical institutions -- as the young, new doctor, he was too intimidated to tell his superiors or speak to a more established physician. Instead, he just set out looking for a new job so that he wouldn't have to work at that hospital anymore.

That got him out of harm's way, but how many more patients came in behind him? Were they all as lucky as the one he saw pull through? Or were others harmed or even killed by the impaired surgeon?

Drug and alcohol addictions put patients at risk. If you've been harmed or lost a loved one to a drunk surgeon, be sure you know your legal options.

Source: Time, "How to Deal With Doctors Who Get Drunk and High on the Job," Ken Murray, accessed Oct. 05, 2017

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