In the AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics, the Principles of Medial Ethics state the following:
“A physician shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes in those requirements which are contrary to the best interests of the patient.”
The issue becomes, then, what we, as physicians, deem are the best interests of patients.
It goes on to state:
“A physician shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health.”
A physician’s first duty is to do no harm. If physicians are seen approving and encouraging the legalization of recreational marijuana, the general public will surmise, “It can’t be that bad since they say it’s safer than alcohol.”
For those physicians who believe that the continued use of marijuana or any other substance that may impede their clinical skills will not be a problem, just ask yourself if you would let a physician who uses marijuana treat a member of your family. If the answer is yes, then perhaps it is time to “heal thyself.”
–Paul Rossi, DO
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
I am glad to see ACEP Now discussing the issues involving marijuana. Although I have very deep personal feelings favoring full legalization, I will try to keep this response based out of my medical perspective.
We are physicians. It is our job to give our medical expertise regarding potentially lethal, disabling, and harmful substances. As an emergency medicine resident, I see the effects of drugs and alcohol literally every shift. Whether the issues are acute intoxications or withdrawal, these issues plague emergency departments everywhere. Not once have I seen an acutely ill patient due to marijuana. Not once due to intoxication, and not once due to withdrawal issues. I cannot count the times I have intubated for heroin intoxications and alcohol intoxications. In Baton Rouge, we now have a very severe problem of synthetic marijuana, of which we have also seen lethal consequences in terms of both morbidity and mortality.
This being said, how can we seriously look into our patients’ eyes, as well as the public’s, and state marijuana is a substance to be feared and outlawed? The public and our patients lose all credibility for us, the same way we looked at our teachers in middle school when they told us if we smoked a joint, we would be moving on to “hard drugs” in no time.