Consumer Watchdog Campaign: Victim Of Negligence At Hands Of A Drunk Doctor, A Physician and Consumer Advocates Release New Yes on 46 TV Ad, “On Call”

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Santa Monica, CA – A victim of medical negligence at the hands of an Orange County doctor with a history of alcohol abuse, a physician and consumer advocates unveiled a new television ad for Yes on Prop 46 today, highlighting how Prop 46 will identify and deter physician substance abuse with random drug and alcohol testing.

The ad pictures a doctor drinking at a bar as a pager goes off reading “911-Report To ER.”  Proposition 46 will enact the first law in the nation requiring random drug and alcohol testing of doctors, and requires suspension of doctors who are impaired while on duty.

Watch the ad here:

"I was a victim of Dr. Brian West, an alcoholic whom the Medical Board protected at the expense of patient safety. I would have never gone to him had I known about his alcoholism. This ad is all too real for me, and other victims of doctors like mine who are practicing medicine under the influence. Californians need Prop 46's patient protections so that impaired doctors like Dr. West are discovered before they harm patients," said Tina Minasian of Roseville, who still suffers from continuing pain and spitting sutures from her surgery.

Dr. Brian West had multiple DUI arrests, including one on the way to the hospital to see a patient. He entered the Medical Board’s secret (and now defunct) addiction monitoring program. Before he lost his license, complaints of negligence and dishonesty were filed by at least six of his patients, none of whom were notified of Dr. West’s alcohol problem.

Jeffrey V. Nordella, MD, a practicing family medicine and emergency medicine specialist, endorsed Proposition 46, saying: “Random drug and alcohol testing is as necessary as continuing medical education to ensure that physicians’ faculties are sharp and patients are protected. Doctors, no matter the specialty, hold patient lives in our hands. Yet studies repeatedly show that we are unlikely to turn in a colleague for substance abuse, for fear of hurting their reputation, their livelihood, or simply to protect a friend. Proposition 46 erects an important check and balance to identify those doctors who may be placing their patients at risk.”

Minasian also spoke about the case of Dr. Jan Adams, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who lost his license this past Friday. Like Minasian’s physician, Dr. Jan Adams had multiple DUI arrests, but public records show he did not draw scrutiny from the Medical Board until his patient Donda West, the mother of celebrity Kanye West, died after an operation. Minasian advocated for the Donda West bill, approved by the California legislature, to mandate medical exams before cosmetic surgery. Dr. Adams allegedly did not conduct such an exam before West’s surgery.

Editors at Scientific American endorsed drug testing of physicians this week, stating: “If we expect our train and truck drivers to be sober when they clock in, we should expect nothing less from those who follow the Hippocratic credo to, above all, do no harm.”
The California Medical Board has reported estimates that 18% of doctors will have a substance abuse problem at some point during their lifetimes, and 1-2% are abusing drugs or alcohol at any time. Since there are about 128,000 licensed physicians in California, 2% would constitute 2,560 impaired doctors. However, just 32 doctors are disciplined by the California Medical Board on average each year 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.

"On Call," begins running on television in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Monterey today.  

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 prescription drug abuse;

•    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:

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Paid for by Yes on Prop. 46, Your Neighbors for Patient Safety, a Coalition of Consumer Attorneys and Patient Safety Advocates – major funding by Consumer Attorneys of California Issues and Initiative Defense Political Action Committees and Kabateck, Brown, Kellner, 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.

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