Sleep Deprivation Study for Doctors Is Putting Patients At Risk

  • Sleep deprivation study for docs is putting patients at risk

    Imagine being wheeled into an operating room for emergency surgery — one where your life hangs in the balance.

    But there’s something not quite right about one of the doctors in the room.

    He’s yawning. His eyes are bloodshot. He can barely stand up.

    And, believe it or not, he’s been working for 30 hours straight!

    It’s hard to picture any hospital ever allowing this to happen. But since last year, thousands of American patients — including maybe you or someone you love — have been lab rats in one of the most unethical medical experiments ever conducted.

    One that seems designed to see how long doctors can stay awake before they start killing people.

    And it’s our own government that’s behind it.


    Asleep at the switch

    Talk to just about any doctor, and he’ll brag about the long hours he worked as a hospital resident.


    You’ll hear all about the marathon shifts and the nights spent grabbing 10-minute naps on a cot in the changing room.

    But there’s nothing macho or nostalgic about it to Sidney Zion. His 18-year-old daughter, Libby, died under the care of an exhausted, overworked resident.

    Libby’s death brought big changes to how long residents in New York can be on duty. Even the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which oversees residency programs nationwide, put in a 16-hour cap — which is still way too long.

    But the federal government has been quietly working behind the scenes to get rid of these limits for good. And they’re putting countless patients like you right in harm’s way.

    It started last year when the National Institutes of Health and around 160 hospitals across the country launched the FIRST trial to see what would happen when surgical residents worked shifts of 30 or more hours.

    Are you kidding me? That’s like seeing how many beers a pilot can drink before he flies a passenger jet. Don’t these people realize that lives are at stake?

    “A resident working a 36-hour shift is in no condition to make any kind of judgement call — forget about life-and-death,” said Sidney Zion.

    That sounds like plain old common sense to me. But it looks like common sense is a pretty tough sell to the Feds.

    Because even though the FIRST results haven’t been made public yet (the study wrapped up in June), the NIH is doubling down with another dangerous experiment on 30-hour shifts.

    This study is called iCOMPARE (I guess they’re comparing sleeping to not sleeping) and it will involve internal medicine residents at hospitals affiliated with 63 institutions. And it’s one that the NIH hopes to keep going until 2019!

    And trust me — these overworked docs aren’t just going to be tired. They’ll practically be hallucinating while trying to give you an IV!

    There are two things we all need to do right now to keep ourselves and the people we care about safe.

    First, check out this map from the NIH to see if a hospital near you is participating in iCOMPARE. And do everything you can to steer clear.

    And second, send an email to NIH and demand that they put an end to these studies — ones that we’re paying for — once and for all.

    Because once that happens, I think we’ll all sleep better.


    “Outrage of the month: Unethical human experimentation in 2015 and our broken system for protecting human research subjects” Michael Carome, M.D., Health Letter, December 2015,

    “Some new doctors are working 30-hour shifts at hospitals around the U.S.” Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post,