The Impaired Physician and Organized Medicine
It has been estimated that 5%–12% of the physicians in the United States are impaired sufficiently that their condition affects their work and practice. The most common diagnoses are alcohol and drug abuse, emotional disorders, illness related to aging and loss, or physical conditions.1 While traditionally recognition and care of these physicians has been seen as the responsibility of the profession, the lack of success of voluntary treatment, and the inability of many medical groups to initiate effective limiting and/or disciplinary action has led to the increasing concern and involvement of the public, governmental groups (e.g., licensing bodies), as well as organized groups of physicians. A study performed by the American Medical Association stressed that ignorance, apathy, and a lack of feelings of responsibility by physicians generally existed in regard to the impaired and incompetent physician, with intervention coming late in the course of events, or even after the fact (as in physician suicide).2 There are numerous and complex reasons for such delay or inaction.3,4
KeywordsImpaired Physician Disciplinary Action Medical Board Specialty Society License Board
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