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Reporting impaired(?) physician

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6 years 1 month ago #90927 by nbp
My husband recently started seeing a psychiatrist and has decided that he needs to terminate and find a new one. His psychiatrist is very old, gets easily confused, and has a hard time holding basic facts in mind (so my husband reports). For example, last week he stopped my husband's medications; this week he asked my husband if he was on any medication. He also suggested a medication to my husband that really made no sense to me (granted he is an experienced clinician and I am a PGY-2). I have a friend who sees the same guy for psychotherapy and he laughs about how sometimes he (the physician) falls asleep during sessions. Honestly it sounds like he may have early (or not so early?) signs of dementia. I know what often happens with aging clinicians is that their colleagues tend to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing, because who wants to tell someone they can't practice any more? But that can lead to accidents and patient harm. So I'm wondering if I ought to report this guy, and if so, how to go about it. I hate the idea of being a whistle-blower on a kind old man with an illustrious career, but I am obviously concerned. Perhaps I am overreacting?

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6 years 1 month ago #90928 by AmmaMD
You should report this. It feels bad all around, but the man is a physician - imagine if you were at a point like this in your career. Wouldn't you want someone to intervene before you hurt someone?

Also, at least in our state, you by virtue of being a physician yourself are actually a mandated reporter of things like this - if you know but don't report it, you are breaking the law and could technically be held liable for any damages down the road (if that helps you get over your guilt any...).

Your state should have an impaired physicians board or organization of some sort that will evaluate the situation and see if there is any way to support the physician in retaining some ability to practice (or not), but will ensure that things that need to be done to protect patients are done, up to and including revoking a license if needs be. If it's not something that needs to be acted on, they can decide that - but let them make the decision. PM me if you have trouble finding the one for your state.

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6 years 1 month ago #90931 by nbp
Thank you, Amma. I called the state Public Health Dept and spoke with a really nice woman who gave me the information for the confidential state affiliated organization that evaluates physicians for impairment. I am going to touch base with my husband before I report him, just because he may be uncomfortable with it, though obviously I will need to report regardless. I suspected this was the case but was just feeling a little unsure of myself. It feels awful to be a resident reporting a senior physician that I don't even know!

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6 years 1 month ago #90933 by asunshine
nbp, what a tough situation! If it makes you feel any better, my coworkers and I had to report a case. It's hard, but it sounds like you're doing the right thing.

One thing they told us in medical school was that you're relaying a concern, not revoking a license, i.e. you're just the messenger, and it's the board who makes the ultimate decision.

Your husband may want to do the reporting himself (or together with you?), since he witnessed the occurrences.

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6 years 1 month ago #90970 by clee03m
Is the reporting confidential? I can see how a resident reporting something like this could backfire.

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