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Should Doctors Face Drug Tests?

Should Doctors Face Drug Tests?

Drug testing of employees and professionals is a longstanding practice that has gained popularity over time. However, some professionals — such as doctors — seem to be outside of the reach of drug testing mandates.

Although doctors have contact with and control over powerful drugs, they are not routinely drug tested despite the potential for abuse.

But should they be? Should doctors and other healthcare professionals be forced to submit to random and announced drug testing on a regular basis? Although there is a great divide on the issue, the answer to this question so far has been no.

Currently, there are no laws on the books requiring drug testing of doctors. California tried to pass one almost ten years ago but failed.

The Pros of Drug Testing Doctors

With tens of thousands of physicians practicing in New York State, it is a safe bet to say that some of them unethically and illegally use or handle drugs. Fortunately, the majority of them do not, but enough do for the issue to be of concern.

The question is, will instituting a drug testing policy address the issue? Here are some possible benefits of requiring drug testing for doctors.

Patient Safety

Patient safety is the number one reason to require drug testing for doctors. When a person is on drugs, they are typically unable to perform their job as well as they could when sober. So when a doctor treats a patient while under the influence of drugs, they represent a direct threat to that patient.

Drug testing would remove dangerous doctors and keep them away from patients.

Workplace Safety

A doctor who is under the influence of drugs puts not only patients’ lives at risk but other workers’ lives as well.

While under the influence, a doctor could make errors that injure and kill other workers due to the powerful and complex equipment and tools doctors regularly use. Drug testing would make the workplace safer by weeding out doctors on drugs.


Mandatory drug testing is an excellent way to enforce accountability among healthcare professionals. If doctors are subjected to drug tests, they learn that they are not above the law or rules and they are ultimately accountable for their actions.


The costs associated with instituting a drug testing regimen are far lower than the costs to address the damage done by a physician on drugs. Drug-using doctors can cause multiple millions of dollars in losses for patients and the places where they treat patients.

The Cons of Drug Testing Doctors

Not every aspect of testing doctors for drugs is positive. There are some important cons to consider as well:

Privacy Issues

Some critics of doctor drug testing argue that doctors and other healthcare professionals have privacy rights that would be violated by drug testing. However, this concern is often seen as overblown due to the limited amount of information a drug test would reveal.

With that being said, many doctors are vehemently opposed to these tests — especially when administered randomly — because they consider them to be invasions of privacy.

Trust Issues

Some opponents of drug testing for doctors feel that testing would lead to a loss of trust between doctors and administrators. They argue that doctors should be given the benefit of the doubt and be unquestioningly trusted.

However, proponents counter this argument by stating that submitting to a drug test demonstrates ultimate trust and concern.


Establishing and maintaining a fair, effective drug testing program is not cheap. Opponents argue that the money that would be used for drug testing would be better spent somewhere else.

The problem with this argument is that it fails to consider the money saved by identifying drug-using doctors and preventing them from possibly harming patients.

Doctors and Drug Use

The question of drug testing among doctors would not be an issue if doctors and other healthcare professionals did not use drugs while on the job. But they do. According to researchers at Mayo Clinic, 10 to 12 percent of doctors develop a substance use disorder.

Although not all addicted physicians harm patients, many have. And it may be only a matter of time before those who have not end up doing so.

Speak with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or someone you love has been treated by a doctor or other healthcare professional under the influence of drugs, you may be entitled to damages. The team of medical malpractice lawyers at Silberstein, Awad & Miklos is ready to discuss your case and your options for compensation. Contact us for a free consultation today.