European Physicians: 'Drug Testing OK' and 'Doc Knows Best'

Shelly Reese


February 13, 2015

In This Article

Ethics Here and Across the Pond

Physicians in Europe are much more likely to favor random drug testing for doctors, are less likely to report an impaired colleague, and are more comfortable with the attitude of "the doctor knows what's best for the patient," according to Medscape's recent Physician Ethics Report 2014.

Diverse cultures affect the roles of physicians and patients, and the different legal environments contribute to varied patient-care decisions, according to this fascinating look at the differences in medical ethics between US and European physicians.

The survey reports opinions from over 21,000 physicians, including almost 4000 in Europe. European respondents were from the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and 25 other countries.

The ways in which US and European physicians see many issues differently reveals much about how diverse cultures view the roles of physicians and patients, as well as the legal environment that contributes to many patient-care decisions.

Some of the key differences:

European doctors are far more willing to oppose a patient's family. Would you oppose the family and continue treating in some situations? Yes: United States: 22%; Europe: 55%.

European doctors are more likely to downplay treatment risks if they think the patient will benefit. Would you downplay risks? No: United States: 76%; Europe: 49%.

European doctors are more likely to keep quiet about mistakes. Is it acceptable to cover up or avoid revealing mistakes? Yes: United States: 3%; Europe: 9%.

More European doctors support random drug and alcohol testing for physicians; Yes, support: United States: 39%; Europe: 56%.

European doctors are less likely to report an impaired physician. Would you report? Yes: United States: 77%; Europe: 45%.

We looked at several areas of ethics: life and death, pain, romance, money, and patients.


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