Is your doctor sleep-drunk?
Sometimes, I don't know who's in worse shape: hospital patients -- or the residents who treat them!
Newly minted docs are punished with grueling schedules of up to 28 hours at a stretch -- and if you think that leaves them in good enough shape to treat a patient, you try staying up for 28 straight hours one of these days.
Let me know how that goes.
In the meantime, hospitals are patting themselves on the back over new rules that are supposed to give some docs a little more sleep, limiting shifts to "just" 16 hours.
Wakeup call for ER docs
But don't think your doc is going to get much extra rest -- because there's a big-time loophole in those rules: After a five-hour nap, the resident is back on the clock. That means your doc could be working for 32 out of 37 hours -- or almost as much as most people work in a week... covered in just a day and a half!
If that's not crazy enough, consider this: These new rules only apply to first-year residents. After that, it's back to 28-hour shifts, no excuses -- and try not the let the patients see you yawn.
It's pure insanity, and a big part of the reason for 180,000 deaths due to medical mistakes every single year.
That's the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every day, killing everyone on board -- because the airline required its pilots to get drunk before flying.
Imagine the outcry!
But it's the same thing -- because studies have shown that too little sleep can have the same effect as too much booze.
One recent study found that operations by sleep-drunk docs had double the rate of complications... while another found that long shifts caused a 500 percent increase in diagnostic errors.
You wouldn't let a woozy doc with liquor on his breath near you... so why would you even think about letting a yawning, red-eyed kid just out of medical school make life-or-death decisions for you?
Not that you have much of a choice when you've just been hauled out of an ambulance -- so for now, it's just cross your fingers and hope you're not on the flight that's going to crash today.
About the author
William Campbell Douglass I.I., M.D. has been called "the conscience of modern medicine."
You can sign up for his "Daily Dose" at DouglassReport.com.