Consumer Watchdog Campaign: No On Prop 46 Doctor: Wine At Dinner More Important Than Following Up On Patient Deaths and Injuries

Published on

SANTA MONICA, CA – Today the campaign supporting Proposition 46, California’s patient safety ballot measure on the November 2014 ballot, criticized an opposition spokesperson for suggesting that it’s more important that a physician enjoy alcohol than getting to the bottom of an adverse event.

Dr. Sion Roy, a spokesperson for the insurance company-backed No on 46 campaign, said to KABC in Los Angeles yesterday. “They can call a doctor when he’s having dinner with a glass of wine to get drug tested.”

Prop 46 only requires drug and alcohol testing of a doctor within 12 hours of notification of an “adverse event,” otherwise random drug testing takes place on the job. Adverse events are defined by California law and include surgery performed on the wrong patient or body part, a medical device left in a patient during surgery, serious disability or death as a result of infection, a wrong drug or dose prescribed and other medical errors and hospital "never events."

Dr. Richard Thorpe, President of the California Medical Association, reiterated today on KQED Forum that physicians shouldn't be called back from home for testing after an "adverse event" because it interrupts their "off-duty" time.

“The only reason doctors could be called back to the hospital for drug testing is if a patient has been wrongfully injured,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “Doctors should be more worried about getting to the bottom of why a patient had the wrong limb removed than their right to have a cocktail without being interrupted.”

Watch the interview here:

Prop 46’s random drug and alcohol testing procedures are based on the FAA’s successful testing procedures for airline pilots. Millions of Californians in safety-sensitive positions are already drug tested at work such as police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and truck and bus drivers. Currently, doctors are not tested, although they practice medicine on tens of thousands of California patients every year. Up to 440,000 Americans die every year due to preventable medical error. According to the Journal of Patient Safety and the CDC, preventable medical errors are the third largest cause of death in this country, behind heart disease and cancer.

The California Medical Board has reported that experts estimate that nearly 1 in 5 doctors will suffer from substance abuse or addiction at some point in their lifetimes. The Medical Board has also said that up to 2% of doctors – or roughly 2,600 physicians – are abusing drugs or alcohol at any one time. However, the vast majority of impaired California physicians are undetected; last year the Medical Board only disciplined 46 doctors, out of an estimated 2,600, for substance abuse.

USA Today reported recently on a government survey that found 103,000 medical professionals have a prescription drug abuse problem every year. The number rises above 500,000 when alcohol abuse is included.

In addition to misrepresenting drug testing, Dr. Roy erroneously suggested that simply indexing California's cap on medical malpractice damages to account for 38 years of inflation would triple malpractice premiums. There is no evidence for this. Between 1975, when California's damages cap was enacted, and until 1988, when Prop 103 rate regulations came into effect, medical malpractice premiums skyrocketed 450% — definitively proving that California's damages cap had no effect. As a result of Prop 103 protections, malpractice premiums immediately fell and stabilized beginning in 1989. Indeed, many medical malpractice insurance companies have admitted that caps on damages have no effect on premiums.

Read the report on how insurance reform lowered medical malpractice premiums:
Proposition 46, also known as the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, will:

•    Enact the first law in the nation to require random drug and alcohol tests of physicians in hospitals, modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration testing program that has successfully reduced substance abuse by pilots;

•    Require the Board to suspend a doctor and investigate a confirmed positive drug or alcohol test and take disciplinary action if the doctor was impaired while on duty;

•    Mandate that prescribers check California’s existing statewide prescription drug database known as CURES when prescribing to first-time patients, in order to curb doctor-shopping and end the prescription drug epidemic;

•    Promote justice for patients and legal deterrence to wrongdoing by adjusting California’s cap on compensation for victims of medical negligence to account for 39 years of inflation – the unadjusted cap prevents many victims from holding doctors who harm them accountable.

Learn more about Proposition 46 and the campaign for patient safety at:


Paid for by Consumer Watchdog Campaign – Yes on 46, a coalition of attorneys, consumer advocates, and patients.  2701 Ocean Park Blvd., Ste. 112, Santa Monica, CA  90405.  Major Funding by Aitken, Aitken & Cohn, LLP.

Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Latest Videos

Latest Articles

In The News

Latest Report

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More articles