An editorial in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine suggests that sleep-deprived surgeons should not be allowed to perform certain surgery without first informing their patients. Dr. Michael Nurok is an anesthesiologist at the renown Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and a member of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. In the editorial he writes “we think institutions have a responsibility to minimize the chances that patients are going to be cared for sleep-deprived clinicians.” He goes on to advocate that “sleep-deprived physicians should be required to inform patients of their condition and the potential hazards that can come with this impairment” before any elective surgery.

Easily preventable mistakes are often the source of tragic outcomes I regularly see in my practice. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009, “interns commonly work shifts that are longer than 24 hours.” “Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impairs psychomotor performance as severely as alcohol intoxication.” 

Dr. Nurok stated that “sleep deprivation affects clinical performance. It increases the risk of complications. And it is clear from survey data that patients would want to be informed if their physician was sleep-deprived and that most patients would request a different provider.” He concluded that “we think institutions have a responsibility to minimize the chances that patients are going to be cared for by sleep-deprived clinicians.”

Of course, if you or a loved one has had a bad surgical outcome it is unlikely that you will be able discover what really happened in the operating room. Together with the medical malpractice team here at Stark & Stark I investigate hundreds of potential medical malpractice cases each year. While not all bad outcomes are caused by malpractice the only way to know whether you have a case is to consult with an attorney who will carefully investigate the matter for you. My team and I are happy to do that at no charge. If after our investigation I believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice I am happy to represent you on a contingency fee basis. Please feel free to call me at 267-907-9600 if you believe you or someone you care about may have been a victim of malpractice.