Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Cheney MD A Pill Popper

Now this is the sort of stuff I love to read about physicians.

Vice President Dick Cheney's personal doctor, who four years ago declared Mr. Cheney "up to the task of the most sensitive public office" despite a history of heart disease, was battling an addiction to prescription drugs at the time and has recently been dropped from the vice president's medical team, according to officials at the hospital where he practiced.

The doctor, Gary Malakoff of George Washington University Medical Center, had treated Mr. Cheney since 1995 and been a prominent spokesman on the vice president's health. He also reviewed the medical records of Vice President Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, but did not see Mr. Gore as a patient.
So we have a physician self-medicating. Hardly newsworthy, except that this man treats the VP of the United States, and stated a few years ago that even with heart problems, Cheney was fit for an arguably stressful position.

Hospital officials said Sunday that they had known since 1999 of Dr. Malakoff's problem, and that Dr. Malakoff informed the vice president at that time or in 2000. But he was permitted to continue working, they said, while undergoing treatment and monitoring, including urine tests, by an independent board.
Interesting. The hospital had known said physician was an addict self-medicating, and instead of throwing his ass out he was treated. Now, I'm all for treating addicts as that is 10000x better than throwing them in prison. However, allowing an physician to continue to practice whilst undergoing treatment for addiction appears rather stupid. I mean hell, the guy didn't even lose his spot as director of general internal medicine @ George Washington.

But in May, when the board concluded that Dr. Malakoff was too impaired to care for patients, he was relieved of his position as director of the medical center's general internal medicine division, they said. He is on leave until September, and could not be reached Sunday for comment.
How did they finally come to that conlcusion? Did he happen to undergo withdrawal symptoms while taking an H&P? Maybe he stole some samples destined for an elderly ICU patient? Maybe he simply pissed off his nurse who decided to stop covering for his ass. We'll likely never know.

The point is that, while not completely rampant within the profession, this occurs more often than it should. I'm not just referring to doctors self-medicating, but administrators and nurses covering for said physician. Sort of difficult to help others if you're on cloud9 thanks to a stash of diazepam. Hell, this guy was high profile and kept his job 5 years after everyone knew of his problem. Imagine what a no-name physician in a rural area can get away with.