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Home > Blog > Medical Malpractice > What to Do If You Suspect Your Doctor Was Under the Influence While Treating You
by: NPHM | January 24, 2022

What to Do If You Suspect Your Doctor Was Under the Influence While Treating You

Alcohol and drug dependence are serious issues in America that affect people of all professions, backgrounds, and income brackets. Studies show that between 10%-12% of physicians will develop a substance abuse disorder during their career, which is higher than the rate in the general population. In addition, the problem may be even greater than this, as medical professionals may be even less likely to report or seek treatment for substance abuse disorders.

Ultimately, the biggest victims of this drug epidemic are patients. When intoxicated doctors treat patients, the outcomes can range from poor to disastrous. Impaired doctors may misdiagnose patients or misread their charts, while impaired surgeons may operate on the wrong body parts or make careless mistakes that can seriously injure or kill.

It’s important to take the right steps to protect yourself if you believe your doctor was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when treating you. But it’s also important to first determine if they were impaired while treating you.

How Do You Know If Your Doctor Was Impaired?

Doctors with a dependency on alcohol or drugs often fall into the category of “high-functioning.” That means they may be able to abuse substances for months or years without being visibly intoxicated, making obvious intoxication-related mistakes, or being caught by patients, other providers, or their superiors. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to tell or have suspicions that your doctor was under the influence.

Potential signs of intoxication include:

  • Frequently being late to or missing scheduled appointment times
  • Disheveled appearance or poor personal hygiene and grooming
  • The smell of alcohol on their breath, clothes, or body
  • Slurred speech
  • Uncharacteristic mistakes or sudden decline in professionalism

If your physician displays these possible signs of intoxication, it’s important to act quickly and decisively to protect yourself and others who might be under that doctor’s care.

Tell Another Doctor at the Hospital or Clinic

If you suspect your doctor is intoxicated, chances are you aren’t the only one who has noticed. The time you spend with your doctor pales in comparison to the time they spend with other healthcare providers who also may notice other substance abuse-related symptoms, or will be more likely to notice them once you bring up the possibility.

The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics requires that physicians report hazardous behavior of their colleagues, including potential drug and alcohol intoxication while on the job. According to the AMA, roughly one-in-three physicians know of colleagues who have substance abuse issues, but many never report it on their own. Alerting other doctors that you have also noticed these signs should act as an incentive for them to finally report what they know or may suspect.

Get a Second Opinion or Switch Doctors

If you believe that your doctor’s ability and judgment are compromised because of intoxication, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion on your treatment or to switch doctors entirely. Your diagnosis or treatment plan may be completely off-base, which can put you at risk of your illness getting worse, undergoing unnecessary treatments, and developing preventable side effects and complications.

Being evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by another doctor is every patient’s right, and it’s never more important than when their health and even their life may be on the line due to decisions made while their original doctors were impaired or intoxicated.

File a Complaint to the State Medical Board of Ohio

Patients have the right to file official complaints against doctors and other medical professionals in the state to the state medical board. The medical board investigates complaints for things like:

  • Practicing while impaired
  • Lewd and immoral conduct
  • Minimal standards of care
  • Criminal convictions
  • And more

Click here to learn more about how to file a complaint against your doctor and to begin the process.

Call an Experienced Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice can take many forms, and mistakes that happened because of intoxication that harm patients almost always fall under this category. If you believe that your health was harmed in any way because your doctor was under the influence, it’s important to get experienced legal representation on your side.

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our Ohio medical malpractice attorneys know how devastating even one negligence-related mistake can be. We have zero tolerance for doctors who put patients in harm’s way because of intoxication and impairment, and we work hard to hold them accountable.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your family get maximum compensation for the harm you suffered at the hands of an impaired physician or provider.

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