It's time to properly address resident sleep impairment, or expect more lawsuits

LETTER — Posted April 18, 2005

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Regarding "Illinois lawsuit could further restrict resident work hours" (Article, March 21): The tort system is seldom, if ever, an ideal solution to the problem, and it is not the real solution for presently mandated residency training sleep impairment.

Neither is the real answer to have someone else drive you home after call.

What about the errors made before the long shift is ended? These are generally not as dangerous to the resident, but they can be deadly for the patient.

This proposed solution well illustrates why the poor-as-it-is tort system often proves to be the solution of choice -- it is too often the only way to initiate progress towards finding a real solution.

Until our noble profession addresses the fundamental issues underlying the presently mandated residency training sleep impairment, which exposes both physicians and patients to the untoward effects of that sleep impairment, the tort system will (and, I think, must) continue to be utilized as an imperfect, and quite blunt, instrument to effect needed reforms.

John H. Kelly Jr., MD, MPH, Cherry Valley, Calif.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/04/18/edlt0418.htm.

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