Medical Malpractice and Sleep Deprivation; Should Surgeons Disclose to Patients When They Haven’t Slept?

As a New Jersey and Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney, I found a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine quite interesting. It posed a question regarding surgeons and their often wearisome schedules; Should a surgeon who has been deprived sleep in the past 24 hours be obligated to do disclose such to his/her patient?

Surgeons and Surgery Schedules

new jersey philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers disclosure lack sleepSleep deprivation can affect a surgeon or physician’s clinical and physical performances as severely as alcohol intoxication, and therefore increase risk of medical malpractice. But for a hospital, the task of ensuring that it’s surgeons are not suffering from fatigue has proven quite a challenge. Hospitals are in need of 24/7 coverage of clinical procedures, and must provide continuous care. Hospital trainees currently have work regulations set forth by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education that restrict them to a maximum of 16 consecutive working hours followed by a minimum of 8 hours off-duty. These types of regulations do not currently exist for fully trained physicians, who work multiple on-call and overnight shifts a week, strategically placing elective surgical procedures in between.

Furthermore, continuous sleep deprivation can lead to more serious problems, creating a larger concern regarding it’s effect on patients. Surveys show that patients would be very concerned if they were told that their physicians had gone 24 hours without sleep, and 80% of those surveyed said they would request new providers. Considering how important this is to so many patients, it seems informed consent should be demanded in these situations.

The Sleep Research Society has proposed legislation that would require medical providers who have been awake for 22 of the last 24 hours to:

“inform their patients of the extent and potential safety impact of their sleep deprivation and to obtain consent from such patients prior to providing clinical care or performing any medical or surgical procedures.”

Patients should be informed of the impairments sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause, as well as the increased risk of complications associated with proceeding. Patients should then be given the opportunity to proceed, re-schedule, or proceed with a different physician. Until hospitals can staff their facilities accordingly, patients will have to play a more active role in their medical care in order to protect themselves from medical malpractice and negligence.

Medical Malpractice Lawyers in New Jersey and Philadelphia

If you or a loved one have suffered at the hands of a negligent medical provider, please contact the Mininno Law Office for a free case evaluation. You may also call for a free consultation at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia. The medical malpractice lawyers at the Mininno Law Office are experienced and skilled in earning victims their full and fair compensation.

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