The Chicago Tribune recently published a story involving a doctor who admits to developing an intense drug addiction–it was a problem that put many patients at risk. The doctor, Richard Ready, developed the destructive habit during medical school, and it continued throughout his rise as the chief resident of neurosurgery at a Chicago hospital.
To get through his daily rounds during the second year of his residency he became a regular user of Tylenol mixed with codeine. Eventually he was taking up to 70 pills each day in order to meet his craving. He explained how at times he would look sick right before getting ready to operate, and so he would quickly take 10 pills and then begin the procedure.
Unfortunately the doctor’s conduct is not as unique as one might expect. Recent studies indicate that as many as 1 in 10 doctors are battling either drug or alcohol additions-with more doctors struggling with the drugs than the alcohol. In Illinois alone, the state’s medical licensing board reprimanded or suspended 156 professionals for these types of problems last year. Obviously the number of abusers is much larger than the small percentage that happens to be punished for the conduct.
Stories like those of this doctor are motivators behind a new push for mandatory drug testing for all medical professionals. However, it is unclear whether this type of regulation will become mandatory as many groups are fighting in opposition.
Tribune reporters discussed the sad reality with one of our firm’s founders, Chicago malpractice lawyer Steve Levin, who explained, “To go to a doctor who is impaired can really have deadly consequences. It’s no different than an airline pilot who is using drugs or alcohol in that you’re often dealing with life-and-death circumstances.”
All of our Chicago malpractice attorneys have been involved in many situations where the negligence of a doctor in one form or another caused serious injury and sometimes death to the patients in their care. The scope of medical errors caused by negligence and truly reckless behavior like drug-taking should be viewed as a national epidemic.
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