Psychological medicine

Identification of the impaired doctor

Andrew Pethebridge



The lifestyle of a doctor can include self-sacrifice and long working hours, which are often detrimental to family life. This may lead to physical or mental illness or to dependence on alcohol or illicit substances causing the doctor to become impaired.

Article Extract

Doctors sometimes need to be reminded that they are human and susceptible to human frailties such as illness and dependence on illicit substances. For many doctors, physical or mental problems or the use of alcohol or illicit substances may cause brief interruptions in their day-to-day responsibilities, that may resolve quickly with minimal intervention. Occasionally, these conditions may be more severe and interfere with a person’s ability to function as a doctor. Impairment is a legal concept used to define a situation in which a doctor’s physical or mental health potentially interferes with his or her skills and ability to safely care for patients.