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ACP Issues Position on Response to Physician Impairment

MONDAY, June 3, 2019 -- Providing assistance for physician impairment and rehabilitation is addressed in a position statement issued by the American College of Physicians and published online June 4 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Philip J. Candilis, M.D., from Saint Elizabeth Hospital and the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and colleagues developed a position paper to establish the professional duties and principles that should guide the response of colleagues and the profession to physician impairment, or the inability to carry out patient care responsibilities safely and effectively.

The authors note that whenever possible, physicians should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into medical practice without compromising patient safety. At the same time, when physicians are unable to provide safe care, they have a duty to seek help. Physicians should act on collegial concern when identifying and assisting colleagues who might be impaired, while also considering ethical and legal guidelines that require reporting of behavior that may put patients at risk. Practice environments in which patient safety is prioritized and physician wellness and well-being are addressed should be supported by health care institutions and the profession. Physician health programs should be committed to ensuring patient safety and the rights of physician-patients.

"Members of the medical profession share in the responsibility to safeguard patients from harm," the authors write. "This is one of the ways in which physicians demonstrate the commitment to care for ill persons -- including caring for one another."

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Posted: June 2019

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