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Ben Glass
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Sleep Deprive Resident Still Hurting Patients

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Kathleen Fackelmann is reporting in USA TODAY that medical residents are still hurting patients because of their own sleep deprivation. Apparently the risk of injuring or killing a patient by an overworked health care provider can increase as much as 700% with some schedules.

“Working for more than 24 hours is hazardous,” says sleep researcher Charles Czeisler at the Harvard Medical School. Scores of studies show that people who stay awake for 18 hours straight can have trouble thinking clearly and can zone out or nod off suddenly.

According to the article, many medical residents still work extra-long shifts twice a week — a schedule that leads inevitably to extreme fatigue.

Note from Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawyer Ben Glass: This is not a new problemn. In July 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, worked to limit work schedules to no more than 80 hours in a week. In a major patient safety loophole, the rules still allow marathon shifts that last up to 30 hours.

What’s the reaction of some in the medical community? Same old stuff–“that’s the way we’ve always done it and it’s necessary.” Here’s a comment by surgeon Richard H. Bell Jr., assistant executive director of the American Board of Surgery:

24-hour shifts are sometimes necessary to provide patients with crucial continuity of care. For example, residents might need 24 hours to get a patient through surgery and then to pass on the details of the case to the next resident.