Pennsylvania residents expect that when they require medical treatment, they will be treated by doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals who have their well-being in mind. Unfortunately, and likely more often than anyone realizes, this is not always the case.

Nobody expects health care workers to be perfect — either as professionals or as human beings. Just like anyone else, they can have bad days; just like anyone else, they can have serious issues that can interfere with them doing their jobs. The difference is that when many of us have a bad day at work because of personal problems, it doesn’t put lives at risk. Medical personnel who have addiction issues, however, are very much responsible for the welfare of others. A medical error brought on by a doctor, nurse or technician who is using drugs, for example, is not something that any of us should have to experience.

It is true that many health care workers who have issues with addictions often have few places to turn. Many feel that they risk being ostracized or even losing their jobs if they seek help for their problems. However, the alternative — providing care to people while impaired — can have a far greater impact.

It’s estimated that about 100,000 American medical workers struggle with drug abuse or drug addition. Many of these people have easy, and sometimes unchecked, access to drugs thanks to their jobs.

Despite the sympathy we might have for people like this, it does not excuse poor treatment or mistakes that are inflicted on patients who only deserve the best in medical care.

Source: USA Today, “Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk,” Peter Eisler, April 16, 2014