Surgeons may someday be required to let patients know they are sleep-deprived before an operation. An editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine proposes that it is unethical for doctors to operate without adequate rest unless the patient has given his or her explicit permission. That’s because sleep deprivation has effects similar to excess alcohol consumption. If you wouldn’t want your surgeon to operate drunk, you probably would prefer he not stay up all night before your operation. People skimping on sleep are rarely good judges of how much their performance may be impaired. Disclosing sleep deprivation would be a dramatic change and would probably be unpopular, but it should improve patient safety.

[New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 29, 2010]

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  1. SHELLDEE
    Reply

    I believe it’s criminal if surgeons perform operation when sleep deprived! When they are sued through the roof… then they will learn the lessons of life.

  2. RKM, MD
    Reply

    It would be nice if patients would schedule their emergencies so we could adjust our schedules in accord. I was an active orthopaedic surgeon for 40 years, and there were times when you did not have a choice but care for people when they needed it.
    However, I think most of us made the adjustment during training and learned to function on what sleep you could get, and learned to nap when time permitted. Those who couldn’t adjust chose different specialties.

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