Medical Institutions Introduce Residency Programs in Addiction Medicine

In a growing acceptance that addiction is a physical disease, ten medical institutions have recently introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine. The one-year residency programs, accredited by the American Board of Addiction Medicine, will follow a physician's primary residency in internal or family medicine and will, hopefully, expand understanding by the public and other physicians that addiction is a complex disease, as well as expanding knowledge and application of a wide range of treatment options.

Acknowledging problems with physicians' communication skills, in a welcome change, more medical schools are including a "people skills test" for physicians as part of their education. NY Times, July 11, 2011. Ironically, this coincides with the increasing pressure on many physicians to limit the time spent with patients due to insurance coverage limitations, especially in the area of psychiatry. (NY Times, March 6, 2011)

In the recent case of Williams v. Booker, the Georgia Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiff's claim of negligence based on facts that Williams was an active alcoholic at the time of her surgery. Instead, the court affirmed its earlier opinions that "in medical malpractice suits, evidence of a physicians' alcohol or drug use or addiction is relevant and admissible only when there is evidence from which the jury may infer that the physician was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the allegedly negligent treatment." Williams v. Booker, A11A0634, A11A0635.