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Is a 30-hour doctor workday dangerous to patients?

The combination of knowledge and hard work required to become a doctor earns the profession widespread respect. At the same time, that respect is eroded by physicians and medical facilities that fail to give patients the standard of care everyone expects when they enter a hospital.

The likelihood of receiving an acceptable level of care is diminished when residents -- doctors finishing graduate medical training in a hospital or clinic -- are forced to endure work shifts that can stretch to 30 hours at a time. One young doctor in her final year of residency wrote recently that she is unlikely to be able to forgive herself if she makes an error that harms a patient "because of this exhaustion" she must go through.

Here in West Virginia, we know the value of hard work and long hours. But a 30-hour workday strains the minds and bodies of even the most physically fit people. And when those people working those marathon shifts have to make medical decisions that can quite literally be matters of life and death, it makes observers wonder if patient health is unnecessarily put at risk.

The doctor who wrote the article for The Daily Beast is spending a month in a county hospital's medical intensive care unit. She admits critically ill patients to the unit from the ER and from the hospital's general wards, as well as caring for patients in MICU.

By definition, the patients in an intensive care unit are experiencing serious medical difficulties. The prospect of having them cared for by a doctor struggling to complete a 30-hour shift is controversial even within the medical community.

Those who have been harmed by a negligent doctor or hospital staff often have severe health issues as a result. A Huntington attorney experienced in medical malpractice litigation can help them pursue full and fair compensation from physicians and medical facilities.

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