Missouri House bill targets doctors who work while intoxicated

Monday, March 14, 2011 | 9:33 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Doctors who perform medical procedures under the influence of alcohol would face criminal charges under a proposed measure debated Monday by the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety.

Rep. Vicki Schneider, R-O'Fallon, introduced HB 540.

"I was shocked to discover that it is not a crime for a doctor to perform surgery while intoxicated," she said.

Paul Passanante, a medical malpractice attorney in St. Louis, told the committee about a physician who was intoxicated while operating on a patient.

"He actually underwent a random drug test on the day that he performed a colonoscopy on my client, and he tested positive," Passanante said.

The patient ended up in critical condition that day. Passanante said he supports the bill and hopes it prevents this from happening again.

Jeff Howell, spokesman for the Missouri State Medical Association, agreed that the problem needs to be addressed. However, he opposes the bill, calling it "unworkable."

"It pretty much requires some type of drug test at the operating room door," Howell said. "Not only does it apply to physicians, but it casts a much wider net. It applies to any licensed health care professional." 

No immediate action was taken on the bill.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, said the bill will be taken up at a later date.

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