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Fatigue and the Care of Patients

Abstract

This chapter examines the ethical questions that are raised by fatigued medical professionals in the care of their patients. The chapter starts with a review of the science of sleep deprivation and explains why fatigued physicians are at high risk for medical errors. The chapter then provides an ethical analysis of fatigue in the context of physicians’ duties to their patients and arrives at the conclusion that physicians who treat patients while impaired by fatigue violate certain ethical responsibilities to their patients. The chapter finishes up with a review of the current regulation of physician work hours in the United States and shows that, while progress has been made, there may be a need to establish coherent and enforceable limitations on work hours for all practicing physicians.

Keywords

  • Fatigue
  • Ethics
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Physician Work Hours

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Correspondence to Richard J. Kelly MD, JD, MPH, FCLM .

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Kelly, R.J., Nisynboim, C. (2015). Fatigue and the Care of Patients. In: Jericho, B. (eds) Ethical Issues in Anesthesiology and Surgery. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15949-2_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15949-2_7

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