Alcohol Drinking Surgeons

The JAMA Network published a story in June 2012 on doctors’ personal lives interfering with their professional lives. Such interference could affect the welfare of patients and lead to medical malpractice or wrongful death.

Around 52.5 percent of surgeons in a study reported a work-home conflict, burn out, depression or drinking alcohol.  The study was discussed in the Archives of Surgery. The doctors who suffered work-life challenges were more likely to cut hours or leave their practice, resulting in inadequate patient care.  Inadequate care could lead to medical liability or wrongful death.

With wrongful death, losing a loved one can be a painful experience, especially when the loved one’s death was caused by negligent or reckless behavior. The study involved more than 7,000 members of the American College of Surgeons.  Seventeen percent of doctors surveyed with conflicts stated they were dependent on or abused alcohol, compared to 14.4 percent who did not have work-home conflicts.

Doctors averaging 60 hours per week, spending 16 hours in the operating room and on call two nights of the week, seem to have a history of conflicts, especially among females, younger doctors, surgeons with children, and doctors who do not work in private practice.

Besides symptoms of depression, abusing alcohol, and being dissatisfied with their relationship with their significant other at home, doctors were more likely to cut their work hours or move to another place of employment, commented survey authors.  Researchers wrote that the doctors leaving the workforce contributed to the problem of the surgical workforce already being inadequate.

The study suggests that physicians’ home life can affect the doctors’ employer organization:  “Practice turnover and the associated costs of recruitment/replacement (which can exceed half a million dollars for surgical subspecialists), as well as disruptions to patient care and professional and personal upheaval, may be at least partially owing to surgeons seeking employment opportunities elsewhere regarded as having potential for less [work-home conflict].”

The survey researchers suggested organizational and individual responses to reduce stresses for doctors. Researchers suggested autonomy in scheduling, job sharing and on-site child care to decrease the inadequate surgical environment, which may lead to malpractice and wrongful death claims.

Contact a personal injury attorney in the Philadelphia, PA area if you contemplate filing wrongful death claim.