Swedish doctor found drunk on the job

Swedish health authorities have recommended that a doctor from a clinic in Umeå in northern Sweden be placed on probation for three years after he was caught under the heavy influence of alcohol at work.

On the afternoon and evening of October 18th last year, the doctor was on duty at the Norrlands University Hospital when his behaviour indicated he was affected by alcohol, according to a report made by the Swedish Health and Welfare Board (Socialstyrelsen) following an investigation.

The Board’s investigation revealed that the doctor had been drinking during the afternoon and evening on the day before he reported to work drunk, and had continued drinking the following morning.

During the doctor’s shift, which began that afternoon, patients and staff who came in contact with the doctor reported that he smelled of alcohol and was behaving strangely. The medical duty doctor removed the doctor from his shift, and took his blood reading at 7 pm, more than seven hours after the doctor’s last drink. The tests showed that the doctor had a residual blood alcohol content of 0.026.

The Board’s investigation found that the doctor had a history of excess alcohol consumption, and his drinking had increased since the beginning of 2000. While the Board recognised that the doctor had been performing his duties adequately, both before and after the incident, the Board considered the doctor to have an alcohol dependency, since he had often drunk so much that he occasionally experienced ‘blackouts’ and had developed alcohol cravings.

The Board expressed its concern that there was a significant risk of the doctor suffering a lapse in his behaviour, given his long history of alcohol dependency, therefore recommended a three-year probationary period, during which time the doctor should also be treated for his alcohol dependency. The Medical Responsibility Board (HSAN) will make the final decision on the doctor’s penalty.

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