Physicians Work While Ill

MedPage Today and the Chicago Tribune reported in June 2012 that physicians have been showing up at work while sick, despite the risks of spreading infection to patients and colleagues, which can lead to wrongful death.  Doctors go to work sick because they want to appear present at work.

According to a 2010 study of 150 American College of Physicians members, more than half of resident doctors admitted to showing up at work with flu-like symptoms during the past year.  One-sixth of those polled stated they worked while ill three or more times in a year.

A person can easily die of infectious diseases.  Take the example of a 50-year-old male patient who died of infectious diseases involving ticks according to a AMFS case study:

“After being admitted to an emergency room, the patient was sent home, only to be admitted to the emergency room again.  The medical provider did not determine his illness, or ask the patient whether he suffered any incident involving ticks. No tests were completed for infections carried by ticks. The patient’s illness worsened.  He transferred to another hospital where he was properly diagnosed with infectious diseases carried by ticks. However, the diagnosis was too late to save his life.  He died from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Rickettsiae or Ehrlichia infection.”

Nearly 10 percent of the doctors surveyed in the 2010 poll thought they at least once transmitted sickness to a patient, according to researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital.  The poll was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  While hospitals may have policies to prevent medical workers from bringing infectious diseases to healthcare facilities, it is unclear how well the policies are enforced, the Chicago Tribune noted.

The reason residents gave for going to work sick was obligation to co-workers (57 percent), followed by obligation to care patients (56 percent). Some doctors said they worked when ill because they did not want their co-workers think they were “weak” (12 percent).  Some doctors showed up sick because they felt pressured to repay co-workers to cover if they were not at work (8 percent).

The poll focused on residents.  The study may apply to all medical providers, noted Medpage Today. Study authors indicated that physicians not feeling well are also less productive when they go to work. These doctors may also be more likely to make mistakes that lead to wrongful death.

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