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Study Finds Sleep Deprivation Leads to Medical Errors

A recent study has found that sleep deprivation can lead to a significant uptick in medical errors committed by physicians. The study published in JAMA Network Open in December shows that even moderate deprivation was associated with a meaningful uptick in errors.

Given how exhausted many residents and doctors are, it is unsurprising that many people are suffering from medication errors, surgical errors, and other medical mistakes that can cost them dearly. If you believe a doctor’s fatigue impaired your recovery, please contact one of our Miami medical malpractice attorneys today.

Significant Increase in Medical Mistakes

The study involved around 11,300 physicians who responded to surveys regarding wellness, including sleep. The doctors also self-reported whether they had made any medical errors. The surveys were conducted between 2016 and 2018.

According to research, residents were more likely to be sleep deprived than attending physicians. Residents who worked in surgical specialties were also the most at risk of getting insufficient sleep. With respect to attending physicians, those who worked in emergency medicine were the most likely to report sleep deprivation.

The study also found a link between sleep deprivation and reported errors. Even after adjusting for practice and experience, the researchers found a 53% increase in significant errors when the physician reported moderate sleep deprivation. 

The greater the sleep deprivation, the greater the chance for errors. Those reporting the most sleep deprivation reported an astounding 97% increase in significant medical errors.

Limitations to the Study

Obviously, the study has a key limitation—the number of medical errors are self-reported. Some doctors might refuse to admit to making mistakes, even if granted anonymity with the survey. Others might be so tired that they are unaware whether or not they have made a mistake. The true number of errors is probably much higher.

Still, the survey results are not that surprising. Fatigued drivers tend to make more errors behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, so there is no reason why a surgeon or other doctor would not make more errors on less sleep. The correlation between sleep deprivation and mistakes makes sense.

Speak with a Miami Medical Malpractice Attorney

Fatigue, like burnout, leads to errors, and innocent patients bear the burden. No patient should have to shoulder increased medical expenses or other losses when a doctor fails to follow the correct standard of care. To learn whether you have a legal case, please contact Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP today by calling 305-371-2692.