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Why you may want to ask your surgeon if he or she got enough sleep last night

Any new parent or college student who is pulling all-nighters would likely be able to attest to the negative effects of sleep deprivation. While the dangers of a fatigued individual at the wheels of a commercial truck or airplane are widely regulated and reported on, rarely discussed are the dangers related to the overly-tired doctors who may be delivering your baby or operating on your loved one.

No human is immune to the negative effects of sleep deprivation and study after study has linked lack of sleep with an increase in errors in nearly every imaginable activity. For example, research from Harvard University found that lack of sleep can negatively "affect judgment, mood and the ability to learn and retain information."

Given the universal and significant consequences associated with not getting enough sleep, the demanding work schedules of many doctors are troubling. In the medical profession, it's common for doctors to work 24 or more hours straight with little to no rest much less sleep. The resulting effects can be devastating with a 2009 study published in JAMA proving that complication rates are higher for surgeries performed by surgeons who sleep less than six hours.

Research on the negative effects of sleep deprivation among medical residents lead to weekly work hour restrictions. To date, however, no such restrictions have been adopted or mandated for full-fledged physicians. Consequently, an unknown number of medical errors continue to be made each year by doctors whose judgment is clouded by severe sleep deprivation.

Delaware residents who have been negatively impacted by a surgical error or other medical mistake would be wise to examine the factors that may have contributed to the error. In cases where a doctor’s actions or failure to act directly caused or contributed to an individual’s injuries, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed.

Source: Quartz.com, "It’s time for doctors to admit that our lack of sleep is killing patients," Brian Goldman, MD, May 5, 2015

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