In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, several prominent MD-PhDs proposed a radical way to reduce the possible incidence of medical negligence due to sleep deprivation. Their proposal: a doctor who has been awake for 22 of the last 24 hours should disclose that to patients who are about to undergo elective surgery. This would allow patients to opt out of having that surgery then with that doctor. The doctors writing the editorial claimed that this was an essential component of informed consent, and that informed consent should not be considered complete without it.
In response, a number of medical organizations have stated their opposition to such legislation. It would, they claim, take away doctors’ right to keep their own council about whether they are fit to perform surgery. In addition, they claim, it may actually give patients more ground for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. After all, if you knew your doctor was impaired and you suspect you may not have received the highest standard of care, you would be more likely to pursue compensation for additional medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
Personally, I do not think these are adequate objections that should be allowed to interfere with a patient’s right to know. After all, if a doctor is tired and still gives care up to the highest standards of the medical profession, there would be no grounds of a lawsuit. And if the doctor does not, then perhaps the doctor shouldn’t have been performing that procedure anyway.
As far as taking away a doctor’s right to determine their own fitness for duty, it is an absurd objection. According to some studies, sleep deprivation can be as impairing as drunkenness. And, like alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation can impair a person’s ability to know when they’re impaired. No one is arguing that drunk doctors should be allowed to decide when they are fit for surgery.
Whether the suggestions are embraced or not, if you have been hurt due to a doctor’s negligence that is due to sleep deprivation, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ohio. For a free case review, please call or email the lawyers of Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA today.