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California Proposal for Random Drug Tests of Doctors

Having to undergo randomized or routine drug testing is a standard part of the job for many professionals, particularly those who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring the well-being or others. To be sure, pilots, firefighters, and police officers are often subjected to drug testing. But one group of professionals has managed to continuously escape randomized drug testing: doctors. And while some Californians in the state have pushed for reform, Proposition 46—the most recent ballot initiative—has failed. The legislation would have also changed caps in medical malpractice claims.

Understanding Proposition 46

Proposition 46, also known as, ‘Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute,’ gained attention when it was proposed in the second half of 2014 for two key components of the proposal: first, that all doctors would be required to undergo drug and alcohol testing, and that any of those results would be reported to the California Medical Board. Second, Proposition 46 would have finally increased the state’s antiquated cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, which is currently only $250,000. Proposition 46 would be increased the cap on non-economic damages to over $1 million.

Another important change in Proposition 46 included a proposal that would require the California Medical Board to suspend doctors testing positive for drugs or alcohol, and a requirement that healthcare professionals report any medical professionals suspected of drug or alcohol abuse to the Board.

Supporters and Opponents of Proposition 46

Despite fierce support from some powerful organizations and people in the state of California, including both Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, the proposition failed to gain the traction that it needed to become law. Blocked by organizations such as the California chapter of Planned Parenthood and the state Chamber of Commerce, 66.76 percent of Proposition 46’s votes were no votes – only 33.24 percent of voters in the state supported the initiative. Opponents of the legislation claimed that, “This has nothing to do with the drug testing of doctors,” as quoted by The New York Times, and instead that the proposition was really about raising medical malpractice caps for trial lawyers’ benefits.

The First Proposition of Its Kind

The ballot measure, which was on the November 2014 ballot and failed that month, was the first of its kind. California would have been the first state in the nation to mandate drug and alcohol testing of doctors within its borders. While the proposition did not make it this go-around, the fight may not be over. The idea that there should be random drug testing of professionals in charge of public health is unquestionably legitimate. As quoted by The Times article cited above, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services said, “No one should be above suspicion or below suspicion. I think we all need to play by similar rules.”

When You Are a Victim of Medical Malpractice

Unlike the state of California, there are no caps on compensatory damages in medical malpractice claims that are filed in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. To learn more about your rights during a medical malpractice claim and what damages you are entitled to recover, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. today. We are reachable now at (215) 567-3500.

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