Botched surgeries highlight troubled area of the medical profession….
December 18, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Troubling cases in which doctors were accused of botching operations while undergoing treatment for drugs or alcohol have led to criticism of rehab programs that allow thousands of U.S. physicians to keep their addictions hidden from their patients.
Dr. Jason Giles, a Malibu, Calif., physician, completed the state’s confidential program in 2004 after five years in treatment for alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs. His experience in rehab was so transformative, he said, that he quit practicing anesthesiology and opened the drug treatment center he now runs.
Nearly all states have confidential rehab programs that let doctors continue practicing as long as they stick with the treatment regimen. Nationwide, as many as 8,000 doctors may be in such programs, by one estimate.
These arrangements largely escaped public scrutiny until last summer, when California’s medical board outraged physicians across the country by abolishing its 27-year-old program. A review concluded that the system failed to protect patients or help addicted doctors get better.
Opponents of such programs say the medical establishment uses confidential treatment to protect dangerous physicians.
“Patients have no way to protect themselves from these doctors,” said Julie Fellmeth, who heads the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law and led the opposition to California’s so-called diversion program.
Most addiction specialists favor allowing doctors to continue practicing while in confidential treatment, as does the American Medical Association.
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