Will Doctors Be Able to Escape Random Drug Testing?

Leigh Page, MS


April 22, 2015

In This Article

Do You Have the Right to Refuse Testing?

Many physicians are under the impression that they can simply refuse to be tested and that the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, would protect them. Random testing "violates the Constitution," one respondent to the Medscape poll said. "There needs to be reasonable cause."

However, the courts generally have not recognized a constitutional defense for refusing to take the test, according to a legal analysis[5] by the American Society of Anesthesiology. "The public interest has been found to outweigh the privacy interests of doctors and other healthcare workers," the analysis stated.

It's true that a few jurisdictions ban random drug testing. Rhode Island; Vermont; and a few cities, such as San Francisco and Berkeley, California, have bans in place, according to American Alliance Drug Testing.[6] Several other states, including California and Connecticut, partly ban random drug testing, but not for workers in "safety-sensitive" positions, which include physicians, the alliance said.

Another Medscape respondent said that random testing is "beneath the dignity of the office," adding that "I am not a drinker or user but would refuse it."

Refusing to be tested, however, is usually not an option. Federal testing law states that those who refuse tests will be fired immediately, and private employers are usually allowed to fire workers "at will." The SHRM's model drug-testing policy[7] for employers states that employees who refuse to be tested are "subject to immediate discharge." Of course, the decision is left up to the employer, and a hospital might be unwilling to fire a doctor who brings in a great deal of revenue.


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