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Medical Malpractice Can Be Limited By Lowering Resident Physician Work Hours

It is well established that sleep deprivation in care workers poses a threat to the patients that they treat. Doctors, nurses, and assistants who are tired are less likely to catch all types of mistakes that can result in harm to those who depend on their accuracy and precision. It is no exaggeration to note that Illinois medical malpractice can be lessened with more reasonable working hours for new doctors.

This awareness began forty years ago when a study involving “new” doctors or resident physicians revealed that twice as many errors were made by sleep-deprived residents when compared to those who had the proper amount of sleep.

Today the Los Angeles Times ran an article by patient safety advocates on the problem of overworked medical residents. New rules will take effect this year which will limit the total number of hours that a first year medical resident can work to no longer than 16 hours a day. However, second and third year residents will still be able to work 28 hour shifts-often with no sleep. The story explains how the new limits on resident work hours are a step in the right direction, but they remain insufficient.

One study requested by the Institute of Medicine found that “the scientific evidence establishes that human performance begins to deteriorate after 16 hours of wakefulness.” This notion that prioritizes wakefulness was met with anger from many physicians who believed that long hours were necessary for learning. However, the studies showed that little learning occurred after 16 hours on the job.

In fact, experts believe that besides saving patient lives more reasonable work hours actually improve resident morale and maximize their education. Limiting hours has also not been shown to burden teaching hospital staffing.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have represented many clients who were injured intern doctors. We understand the dangerous risk posed by residents who are tired and therefore unable to provide the appropriate level of attention on the task at hand. This problem is only exacerbated when those exhausted doctors are poorly supervised. There is no reason why sufficient steps are not taken to limit these malpractice risks.

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