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Calif. Voters to Decide Whether Docs Should Be Drug-Tested

Initiative will appear on this November's ballot.

Published: May 19, 2014

California voters will decide this November whether the state's hospitals should be required to randomly test physicians for drugs and alcohol. The controversial proposal is part of a ballot measure that would also raise the ceiling on medical malpractice caps for pain and suffering and other damages, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The drug-testing initiative would also require physicians to be screened after preventable medical errors and require physicians to report to the state's medical board any colleagues who they know have used drugs or alcohol while on duty. Under the terms of the proposal, physicians who test positive or refuse to be tested could have their medical licenses suspended.

Proponents point to a 2000 California Medical Board report that estimated that 18% of the state's physicians have had substance-abuse problems. Opponents say the provision, which tested well with focus groups, was added as a way to "sweeten" the measure. Richard Thorp, MD, president of the California Medical Association, calls the testing provision "a desperate attempt to get voters to swallow the other flawed provisions."

The initiative would increase certain malpractice caps from $250,000, a limit that has been in effect since 1975, to about $1.1 million, and index them to future inflation rates. The measure would also require physicians to consult a state-run online database before prescribing certain narcotics, to determine whether patients already have prescriptions for those medications.

Jim Burger

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