Monday, June 7, 2010

Impaired physicians


Robert P. Bright, MD,
Instructor of psychiatry, Department of psychiatry and psychology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ

Lois Krahn, MD, Professor of psychiatry, Department of psychiatry and psychology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ


As physicians, recognizing impairment in our colleagues or ourselves can be difficult. The American Medical Association defines an impaired physician as one who is unable to fulfill personal or professional responsibilities because of psychiatric illness, alcoholism, or drug dependence. Impairment is present when a physician is unable to perform in a manner that conforms to acceptable standards of practice, exhibits serious flaws in judgment, and provides incompetent care.

Recognizing when a physician is impaired, deciding whether to report him or her to the state medical board, and referring a colleague for treatment can be challenging. This article will:
  • review substance abuse, cognitive decline, and other causes of impairment
  • address legal and ethical issues involved in reporting a colleague to the state medical board
  • provide resources for physician treatment and assistance.
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