Could An Overly-Tired Doctor Have Lead To Your Loved One's Death?

Could the doctor who treated your loved one at the hospital been too tired to make a good decision? Is that what lead to your loved one's death? This is a question that more and more people should probably be asking when something that seems simple goes drastically wrong and an emergency room patient ends up dying either in the ER or at home shortly after the visit. Here's why tired doctors are a serious problem.

Tired doctors make basic mistakes.

It probably doesn't surprise anyone to realize that the more tired someone is, the more likely they are to make a mistake—even doctors. What might surprise you is how basic some of those mistakes can be. For example, doctors just four hours into a shift are already 25% more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics. While that might not be fatal, it does lead to complications like antibiotic resistance and it could indicate that a doctor is missing the real cause of the problem. If an antibiotic isn't necessary, some other treatment might be.

Doctors often work longer than they're supposed to work.

It used to be the norm for hospital interns and residents to work several days without a break, in a culture that pushed doctors to get "battle ready" for clinical practices where they have to work long hours. However, reforms capped first-year interns at 16-hour shifts and senior doctors-in-training at 30-hour shifts.

However, current studies indicate that the rate of errors hasn't changed much. Maybe the shifts are too long, or maybe (as many people believe or attest) doctors only report part of the hours they work. Some are motivated to see each patient through personally rather than hand a case off to the next doctor coming in, while others may be under pressure from "old school" colleagues who expect them to work more, tired or not.

You have no way of knowing how tired the doctor is.

If your loved one sought treatment for a suspected heart attack and got sent home with a diagnosis of GERD instead, despite a history of heart problems or hypertension, you have to wonder what would lead to that kind of mistake. It may very well be that the doctor was on hour twenty-nine of a thirty-hour shift—or maybe already two hours past the time he or she should have gone home. 

The odds are very good that the hospital isn't going to tell you. However, that's the sort of information that a wrongful death attorney will consider and dig into, using tools like subpoenas for shift records and interrogatories or depositions that can elicit that kind of information.

To discuss your particular case, consider contacting an attorney near you as soon as possible. Contact a firm like Burke Schultz Harman & Jenkinson Attorneys at Law to learn more.

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