This November, voters in California will decide whether to mandate drug and alcohol testing for doctors in the Golden State.

Proposition 46 – formally known as “Drug And Alcohol Testing Of Doctors.  Medical Negligence Lawsuits.  Initiative Statute.” – will appear on the ballot in California’s upcoming elections.  If passed, hospitals operating in the State will be required to randomly drug test all doctors “who are employees or contractors [of the hospital] or who have the privilege to admit patients [at the hospital].”  The proposition mandates hospitals report the name of any doctor who receives a positive test result to the California Medical Board.  The Board then would be required to suspend the doctor pending a Board investigation into the positive test result.  Under the proposition, the Board would have no choice but to discipline any doctor it finds was impaired while on duty, though mandated substance abuse treatment as a condition of licensure is considered an acceptable form of discipline.

In addition to the drug and alcohol testing requirements, Proposition 46 imposes an obligation on hospitals to affirmatively report to the Board any doctor suspected of practicing medicine while impaired by drugs or alcohol.  It also requires doctors consult with state prescription databases before prescribing controlled substances to patients.

Proposition 46 would make California the first state in the nation to require drug testing of doctors.  Though studies suggest at least one in ten doctors will suffer from addiction at some point during their career, neither the American Medical Association nor any other state ever has required doctors undergo mandatory drug or alcohol testing.

According to a recent article by The New York Times, Proposition 46 has a number of high-profile supporters, including Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Barbara Boxer, both Democrats of California.  The California Chamber of Commerce, the California chapter of Planned Parenthood, the Committee of Interns and Residents-SEIU and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists-AFSCME Local 206 are among the opponents of the proposition, which also would increase the State’s cap on awards for medical malpractice damages.