To err is human. So the saying goes, but not all errors are equal. The fact is, when medical
care providers make mistakes, it can be deadly.
Avoidable medical mistakes are serious business. They can destroy lives and very often lead to death.
In fact, in a study done by Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins
School of Hygiene and Public Health, she found that medical treatments
account for 225,000 deaths per year. Even though 106,000 were not from
errors, that would still rank them the third leading cause of all deaths
in the U.S. We go the hospital expecting to get better, not to get worse.
We don't expect to be treated with
medical negligence. A well known 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine estimated that as
many as 98,000 patients die each year as a result of avoidable medical
mistakes. To put that number in perspective, that's like five
747 commercial airline jets full of passengers crashing in this country
each week for an entire year. Five airline disasters a week! Those numbers are huge
and completely unacceptable. If you're a victim of medical negligence,
you can fight back. You don't have to accept what the hospital tells
you. An experienced
Portland medical malpractice lawyer can guide you through the maze of medical negligence litigation.
Resident Sleep Deprivation
One possible cause of
avoidable medical mistakes is simple sleep-deprivation. When you think about it, it's pretty
logical. When you run to the emergency room in the middle of the night,
who are the people usually there to help you? The answer is often sleep-deprived
residents. These doctors in training are the lowest on the totem pole
and often expected to sleep overnight in the hospital, working as needed
and catching moments of sleep now and then when they can. It's no
wonder they're so sleep-deprived. Depending on how busy the night
is, they might not get any sleep at all. These are the people we depend
on to take care of us and often to make life and death decisions about
our medical care. Sleep deprivation is one likely cause among others for
so many medical errors.
Sleep-deprivation is such a serious problem that in 2008 the Institute
of Medicine released a report for the US Congress titled "Resident
Duty Hours: Enhancing Sleep, Supervision, and Safety." In this report
they recommended some important changes for physicians in training, including
a mandatory 5-hour break for sleep when on a 30-hour shift. Though shocking
in itself (shifts that last up to 30 hours?), the report was an important step, but it's not enough. With the
staggering prevalence of
medical negligence, one would hope the improvements would be greater than that. The report
says nothing about other non resident physicians. Residents aren't
the only ones we depend on, after all. They're not the only ones responsible for
If that's not alarming enough, check this out. According to an article
for healthyshiftworker.com, "If you've been awake for 17 hours
straight, then your performance is equivalent to that of someone who has
a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%". Physicians and residents often work
30 hour shifts with only recently the added bonus of 5 hours of sleep.
When sleep deprivation otherwise known and mental exhaustion renders a
doctor the cognitive equivalent of intoxicated, costly medical mistakes
are virtually guaranteed. This is not okay.
Something needs to be done about this. While the medical community seems
to be attempting some improvements, deaths from
and other avoidable
are going to continue until the American Medical Association (AMA) takes
real measures to protect patients from medical negligence. If you've
been the victim of medical negligence, speak up and be heard. Don't
be intimidated by hospital rhetoric. Seek the advice of a reputable medical
Angel Law, P.C.
can help you decide whether or not a legal remedy is an option for you.