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Campaign Calls for Limits on Doctors' Hours
Date:2/4/2010

Forty groups say typical 30-hour shifts need to be cut to 16 to avoid medical errors

THURSDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In November 2000, Helen Haskell took her 15-year-old son to a teaching university for a routine, elective procedure.

Four days later, he was dead. The cause: failure to rescue, meaning, Haskell said during a Thursday news conference, "failure to recognize and act upon declines in patients."

He was cared for by a resident physician who had been awake for more than 30 hours and who was less than a week into her pediatric surgery rotation.

"I know that fatigue had to have played a role in my son's death," said Haskell, who later founded Mothers Against Medical Error. "In that time of crisis the last thing we needed was an exhausted resident as the only lifeline for our dying son."

Fatigue can also be devastating to doctors, resulting in car crashes, potentially deadly needle or scalpel pricks, depression and harmful reproductive effects on female residents.

But a new campaign hopes to prevent these tragedies in the future.

Activists are urging the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which controls medical residency training programs, to limit the amount of time residents go without sleep to 16 hours and to increase supervision of the residents. This would bring prevailing rules in line with recommendations outlined in a 2008 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on resident duty hours.

"More than 100,000 residents are routinely scheduled to work 30 hours or more at a time. One-hundred-hour workweeks are not uncommon," said Dr. John Ingle, a third-year resident at the University of New Mexico and regional vice president of the Committee of Interns and Residents/Service Employees International Union Healthcare.

"There are dangerously lax regulations of medical residents' work hours," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Healt
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