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House Bill Seeks to Prevent Drunken Doctors from Practicing

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Monday, March 21, 2011

Surgery is often a delicate, invasive procedure that requires all of the surgeon’s skill and concentration. No patient goes into surgery suspecting that the doctor performing the operation might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

But some critics say such irresponsible, life-threatening behavior happens more than most would expect. They include Missouri State Rep. Vicki Schneider, R-O’Fallon, who has introduced a bill that would criminalize practicing medicine while intoxicated. The bill was debated by the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety on March 14.

At the hearing, a medical malpractice attorney from St. Louis told the committee about a client who nearly died due to an allegedly intoxicated surgeon. The doctor allegedly failed a random drug test the same day he performed a colonoscopy on the patient. After complications, the patient ended up in critical condition. Rep. Schneider said she was shocked when she learned that it was not a crime to perform surgery while under the influence.

Not everyone at the hearing supported the bill. A spokesman for the Missouri State Medical Association agreed that the problem of surgeries being performed while the doctor is intoxicated exists and needs to be addressed. But the spokesman said Rep. Schneider’s bill was impractical and overly broad. The bill would require a drug test as the surgeon was entering the operating room, he said, and under current language would apply to “any licensed health care professional.”

Following debate, the committee chairman, Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, said the committee would take a vote on the bill at an unspecified later date.

Source: Columbia Missourian, “Missouri House bill targets doctors who work while intoxicated,” Kadee Brosseau, March 14, 2011

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