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Alcoholic doc allowed to keep practicing

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Alcoholic doc allowed to keep practicing
16:48 CET+01:00
Sweden's top medical ethics body has ruled that a Stockholm-area doctor's alcohol problems are no reason to strip him of his licence to practice medicine.

The 61-year-old doctor, who practices in Farsta, south of Stockholm, was first reported by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) in November 2007 over concerns that his alcohol abuse could negatively affect his professional responsibilities.

A decision was taken to place the man on probation for a period of three years starting in January 2008. However, since then the health board documented at least six instances in which the doctor had relapsed into alcohol abuse.

Among other things, the doctor was stopped by police twice in 2010 for driving while intoxicated, resulting in his driver's licence being revoked.

The incident prompted the health board to launch a new appeal with Sweden's Medical Responsibility Board (Hälso- och Sjukvårdens Ansvarsnämnd – HSAN) requesting that the doctor's medical licence be recalled over concerns that he "because of his alcohol abuse could not carry out his professional responsibilities in a satisfactory manner".

But HSAN rejected the health board's request, arguing that there was no evidence that the doctor's alcoholism had affected his work as a doctor.

The agency acknowledged the doctor had suffered a relapse in his alcohol problem, writing he was "wrong" when he "thought it would be possible for him to start drinking modest amounts after a long period of abstinence".

"The surveillance he was subjected to through the prescribed probationary period, which has now elapsed, has obviously not resulted in him successfully tacking his addition," wrote HSAN.

But HSAN said there had been no indications that the man's excessive drinking had resulted in problems for his patients.

"During his time as an active doctor there have been no incidents where he has put patients in danger and, as far as he knows, that any patients have complained," the board wrote in its ruling.

In allowing the alcoholic doctor to keep his licence, HSAN also cited a 1999 court ruling which found that alcoholism can't be seen as sufficient grounds to recall a doctor's licence.

According to HSAN, the health board failed to show "any circumstances whatsoever" where the doctor's drinking "threatened patient safety", and thus ruled the revocation request be dropped.

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