Hazardous: No Breathing Space - Breathing Space Blog
Study: Sleepy doctors a liability for hospitals
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (Reuters) -- “Overworked, sleepy doctors-in-training who hit the road after work are as much a hazard as drunk drivers, a finding that could unleash a wave of lawsuits against U.S. hospitals…”
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, "medical interns who worked shifts lasting 24 hours or more were twice as likely to be involved in serious crashes after work than doctors who put in fewer hours. Just as bartenders are now being held liable for accidents caused by drunk customers, hospitals, which routinely schedule interns to work double, triple or quadruple shifts, may soon find themselves sued for motor vehicle accidents caused by exhausted staff, one of the researchers said.”
"The medical profession should be a leader in accident prevention, yet it's requiring its medical trainees to work marathon shifts and lets them drive home in this impaired condition in which they're unfit to drive," said Harvard Medical School's Charles Czeisler, a sleep expert. "That's akin to letting someone get behind the wheel when you know they're drunk."
Despite years of research showing sleep-deprived workers are more prone to errors, the U.S. medical community has been slow to cut back on trainees' hours. The European Union has imposed a 13-hour limit on daily shifts for physicians, with some exceptions.