Hot off the presses with co-author Nick Lawson in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry is this article entitled “Do state physician health programs encourage referrals that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?”
Here is the abstract: The websites of many physician health programs provide lists describing signs of impairment or indications to refer physician-employees for evaluation and possible treatment. This study aimed (1) to determine how many of these descriptions likely provide physicians’ employers with sufficient evidence to legally request mental health examinations under the general regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and (2) to find out who they described. The authors applied US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance documents and sought expert legal advice to evaluate the descriptions for their consistency with the ADA. They used directed content analysis to review and code these descriptions into categories. Very few, if any, of the 571 descriptions appeared to provide sufficient evidence for employers to request an examination under the ADA. About 14%, however, could refer to physicians attempting to defend themselves, assert their ADA rights, or otherwise complain about the hospital; and 27% either described physicians who complain or else had discriminatory effects in one of several different ways. Leaders within the medical field should ensure that their policies and state laws pertaining to physician impairment comply with and incorporate the language of the ADA. They should also reevaluate the functions of these policies, laws, and physician health programs, and the implications for patient safety, physician wellness, suicide, and other important issues.