Medical residents are routinely scheduled to work shifts that last 24 hours or more, yet a study out this month suggests these sleep-deprived doctors are at high risk of making medical mistakes that can harm or even kill patients. ‘’Working for more than 24 hours is hazardous,” says sleep researcher Charles Czeisler at the Harvard Medical School. Scores of studies show that people who stay awake for 18 hours straight can have trouble thinking clearly and can zone out or nod off suddenly. In July 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, a Chicago group that accredits medical residency programs, limited work schedules to no more than 80 hours in a week. However, the rules still allow marathon shifts that last up to 30 hours.
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