20 January 2011

Sleep Regulations Objected to By Doctors

Surgeons and related medical professionals are crying foul over proposed regulations that would limit the number of surgeries performed by some by requiring them to disclose the number of hours they have been working to patients. This would allow patients the right to decide to reschedule or ask for another surgeon.

Physicians are protesting as if they were back in college and doing hazing as part of initiation for residents joining a fraternity. They don't want this to end and feel everyone should go through this. Residents are considered potential fraternity members in the medical profession, but this hazing should have no place in determining their eligibility to the profession.

Even most physicians do not deny that lack of sleep can create problems, but turn right around and declare that the disclosure requirement would be oppressive and insidious. And this from people that are supposed to be professionals. When other occupations – airline pilots, truckers, and train operators are regulated and fined for hours of service violations – all in the name of public safety, the medical profession should also fall under regulations for public safety – ours.

When physicians are seeing only dollar signs for working long hours and putting patients in jeopardy, then they should be sued. Regulations would go a long way in deterring physicians from putting patients in danger and should limit lawsuits for doctor negligence and carelessness. Maybe doctors fearing lawsuits should not be doing surgery beyond 10 hours.

At least David Michaels, PhD, MPH, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA has indicated he is standing firm on this issue. He cites the dangers of working extremely long hours and the evidence of patient safety suffering. In a written statement Dr. Michaels issued last fall he said “It is clear that long work hours can lead to tragic mistakes, endangering workers, patients, and the public.” “Hospitals and medical training programs are not exempt for ensuring that their employees' health and safety are protected.”

Read the article here and draw your own conclusions. I am writing (emailing) my thoughts to my congressional delegation.  Tomorrow what the Supreme Court says about interns.

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