Is alcohol addiction a serious problem among radiologists?

The case of a radiologist who crashed into multiple cars, a road sign, and a tree while almost three times the blood-alcohol limit has focused attention on the grave risks of addiction. Failure to seek help and get treated can have serious consequences, an expert has warned.

Dr. Philip Pasfield, a 64-year-old radiologist from Sydney, was sentenced on 18 January for driving under the influence of alcohol, narrowly escaping jail, according to an article posted by the Daily Telegraph (access requires subscription). He has reportedly had an impressive career but also a history of alcohol-related problems. In court, Pasfield pleaded guilty to midrange drunk driving and failing to comply satisfactorily with a breath test. He has submitted an appeal, which is due to be heard on 19 March, the Daily Telegraph noted.

Pasfield drove his black Alfa Romeo sedan north on the Princes Highway at Heathcote, New South Wales, at 5 p.m. on 27 March 2023, according to the article. A witness observed the Alfa swerving across the road, police stated in court documents. The car did not maintain a constant speed and varied between 60 km/h and 130 km/h in a 110 km/h speed zone. At an intersection, he tried to perform a U-turn but crashed into a parked Ford Falcon before hitting a "no parking" sign and a bin, mounting the curb, and driving along a footpath before he crashed into another parked car. The car then struck a tree and could not be driven due to the damage.

Residents said Pasfield appeared confused and disorientated, and he smelled of alcohol. He was given five attempts to take a breath test, but only blew gently into the device and a reading could not be obtained at the roadside. Police officers noted Pasfield's clothing was disheveled, he was swaying, his eyes were bloodshot, and his speech was slurred, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Pasfield claimed to have only consumed alcohol the night before the incident, but he was arrested. He said he had a medical condition that caused alcohol to leave his system more slowly. He returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.145 – just below a high-range reading, the article pointed out.

The court heard he had had previous drunk driving convictions, including in the high range, in 2004 and 2014. Pasfield's barrister said her client had started seeing a psychiatrist and began treatment for alcohol abuse disorder prior to the offending, adding that his rehabilitation included attending a full-time program and using Alcoholics Anonymous and other substance abuse programs, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Magistrate Philip Stewart said Pasfield had made "very positive steps" and determined he should serve jail time wholly in the community. He was placed on a seven-month intensive correction order, including 100 hours of community service. Later in the day, Pasfield lodged an appeal against the severity of the sentence, representing himself, the article stated.

“Medical practitioners are well known for not having a general practitioner and not getting help, especially with addiction illnesses,” an expert source told AuntMinnieEurope.com, adding that seeking assistance urgently requires destigmatizing. If this case has raised concerns with anyone, they should talk with their general practitioner or contact their local doctors’ health program and ask for support from websites like doctorshealthalliance.org.au/find-a-doctor and practitionerhealth.nhs.uk, the source noted.

Pasfield is a general radiologist who obtained his MBBS medical degree from the University of Sydney in 1982, according to his entry in healthshare.com.au. His areas of specialty are oncology, cardiac, thoracic, abdominal, and breast imaging, as well as musculoskeletal and spinal interventions and all biopsies, and he received the NSW Health Commission Prize for Medicine. He now works at several imaging facilities, particularly Auburn Medical Imaging, stated Healthpages.wiki.


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