The ethics of drug testing medical professionals
Should random drug testing be required for medical staff?
Many times, the question comes up and a discussion ensues about the ethics of requiring drug testing for medical professionals. For many years, this discussion has been a hot topic. The medical professionals say it is taking away one of their rights, but the public say they want to be protected. It is a constant tug of war. Lets look at the ethical issue from a couple different ways and break down the debate into different areas of medical care. This way, we can try to see both sides of the story.
Random healthcare worker drug tests
One of the areas that seem to have a high incidence of addiction is anesthesiologists. They are exposed to very highly addictive medications. Some residency teaching programs have implemented random urine drug testing. Many times a healthcare worker can disguise their addiction, so if the tests are random, it takes that aspect out of the equation. The theory is that early detection and deterrents can significantly reduce the impact of addiction among anesthesiologists. Unfortunately, you still have cases where you don’t know someone has a problem until they are found dead.
Scheduled urine drug screens for nurses
Now, let’s look at the area of nursing. The abuse of alcohol and other substances among nurses is unfortunate, but a very real health problem. Drug testing is not done randomly, but if an institution feels that there is a reasonable suspicion and/or objective evidence that job performance is or has been impaired byh alcohol or other drug use, then they can do a urine drug screen. The reason for these screens are to safeguard the quality of patient care and to provide guidance and support for the nurse to obtain appropriate treatment and regain health. The recommendation is that the employer should, prior to any testing, advise employees who may be subject to drug testing. They also should make sure that the privacy of the employee is maintained. Most importantly, the employee should be given the opportunity for assistance/treatment for their alcohol/drug problem.
Drug screening for health workers: A requirement or NOT?
The debate can be made on both sides of the spectrum about drug testing healthcare workers. In fact, employing a health care worker with an addiction is a complex, sensitive issue that involves the health care system as well as society in general. When appropriate, I feel healthcare workers should be drug tested so that if they have a problem, they can get the help they need. But what do you think? Should drug and alcohol testing be required of anyone working in medicine? Is drug screening an invasion of privacy? Or should patients have the right to know what their doctors, nurses, pharmacists, or specialists are consuming? Your comments are welcomed here.
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