Cases like that of David Kwiatkowski, a lab technician who infected dozens of patients with hepatitis C because he first injected himself with their drugs, are a sign of a big problem in the world of health care, writes Kent Sepkowitz in the Daily Beast. That would be drug-addicted doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, and even psychiatrists. Sepkowitz, for example, writes that he has personally known two anesthesiologists who died young after overdosing on the drugs they deal with so frequently, and he argues that the general public should be getting worried.
"Thousands of doctors each year become impaired," he writes. "Some are sufficiently compromised to harm patients most dramatically by diverting drugs, such as fentanyl, from the patient to themselves." It's an easy enough trick—"a syringe with an addictive drug is handed to a health care worker; he gives a little to the patient, a little to himself, and perhaps a little more to the patient." It's time to focus real attention on the problem, he writes, and shows like Nurse Jackie that trivialize it aren't helping. "Only by accepting just how complex a disease drug addiction truly is can we begin to control this endless epidemic." Click for his full column.