Featured News 2016 Doctor Fatigue and Medical Errors

Doctor Fatigue and Medical Errors

A lot of people don't realize just how many hours some doctors log in before they go home for a good night's rest. If your doctor is sleep-deprived, can you trust him or her to make life and death decisions for you or your family? Should hospitals allow residents to make snap decisions after being awake for 24 or more hours?

Sleep deprivation affects everyone, including doctors and the problem is that sleep deprivation increases the risk of medical errors in the hospital setting. When fatigued doctors make mistakes, it's the patients who pay the ultimate price.

How is doctor fatigue linked to patient deaths?

Can doctor fatigue be linked to patient injuries and deaths? In Canada, for example, no one knows for sure because nobody is keeping track. In the U.S. and Canada, a resident can be awake for 24 to 27 hours straight, or longer; that's not an uncommon shift for a surgical resident.

Tired doctors can work for 24 or more hours per a shift. They are expected to make snap, and sometimes life-changing, decisions in an instant and under pressure. If a doctor hasn't slept in 24 hours, their reaction time will be less quick, and they're reflexes will certainly be blunted.

It's not unheard of for exhausted residents to forget prescribing medications or prescribe the wrong dosage. The thing is pilots, commercial truck drivers and bus drivers aren't allowed to work 24-hour shifts because it's not safe, but doctors are allowed to work marathon shifts, directly compromising the quality of care patients receive.

CBS Marketplace interviewed one Canadian doctor who wrote a prescription during a long shift. The pharmacist called, telling him that he had to re-write it because his math was off.

In 2012, Quebec became the first in Canada to limit doctors' shifts to 16 hours, but most parts of Canada and the U.S. allow for shifts that last 24 to 27 hours on average. If your doctor has been awake for 24 hours straight, he's too tired to drive and he's too tired for surgery!

If you were injured by a fatigued doctor, we urge you to contact a medical malpractice doctor in our directory to file a claim for compensation.

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