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Original Articles

A study on the knowledge and attitudes on examination of patients for drunkenness among doctors involved in such examinations

Authors:

H. D. S. C. P. Appuhamy ,

District General Hospital, Matale, LK
About H. D. S. C. P.
Office of the judicial medical officer
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I. Kitulwatte,

University of Kelaniya, LK
About I.
Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine
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K. Vaasuthevaa,

Institute of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, Colombo, LK
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K. Shanker,

Institute of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, Colombo, LK
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U. Senarathna,

Teaching Hospital, Ragama, LK
About U.
Office of the Judicial medical officer
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S. D. S. Gangahawatte

Teaching Hospital, Ragama, LK
About S. D. S.
Office of the Judicial medical officer
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Abstract

Introduction: Driving after consumption of alcohol is an offence in Sri Lanka according to the Motor Traffic Act. When a police officer suspects that the driver of a motor vehicle on the highway has consumed alcohol, he may request such person to submit himself immediately to a breath test for alcohol or to an examination by a government medical officer.  Hence, the knowledge and attitude of doctors who perform examinations for drunkenness play a crucial role in the administration of justice. The objectives were to study knowledge and attitudes on examination of patients for drunkenness among doctors with different levels of expertise/experience who are engaging in such examinations.

 

Study design: A cross-sectional descriptive study was performed using an interviewer-administered questionnaire, on doctors who engage in an examination of people for drunkenness. The knowledge was assessed by 8 comprehensive questions on the procedures and subjects scoring ≥75% were considered as having ‘satisfactory’ knowledge on the matter.

 

Results: Out of the 306 doctors who participated in the study, 80% (n=246) were ordinary medical officers while there were 9.5% (n= 29) postgraduate trainees in Forensic Medicine and 10% (n = 30) specialists. One-third 34% (n=105) believed that their knowledge on examination procedures is poor.  The procedure to be followed in the finger nose test was correctly identified by a majority 95% (n= 290) while only 35% (n= 107) were aware of the procedure to be followed in the one-leg stand test.        

 

Conclusions: According to this study, ordinary medical officers who perform a majority of medico-legal examinations for drunkenness in Sri Lanka were found to have poor knowledge on examination procedures. This can adversely affect the results of the tests in the examination of drunk and hence can lead to wrongful convictions.  Thus, it is high time to fill the gaps in their knowledge through special professional training programs and by introducing a guideline.
How to Cite: Appuhamy, H.D.S.C.P., Kitulwatte, I., Vaasuthevaa, K., Shanker, K., Senarathna, U. and Gangahawatte, S.D.S., 2022. A study on the knowledge and attitudes on examination of patients for drunkenness among doctors involved in such examinations. Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka, 10(1), pp.7–12. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/mljsl.v10i1.7455
Published on 30 Jun 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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