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The AMA Study On Surgeons’ Performance

In many industries there are guidelines as to how long you must go without drinking before you are able to perform your job. For instance, commercial airplane pilots must abide by the “bottle to throttle” rule. This rule prevents pilots from flying within eight hours of their last drink. Unfortunately, there are no such comparable guidelines for doctors and surgeons.

In a recent study surgeons were instructed to drink until they felt intoxicated. The following day they were asked to perform simulated operations using a virtual reality program. Before the simulated surgery the surgeons were breathalyzed. Most had no alcohol in their system, and only one surgeon was over the legal limit to drive. It was determined that the surgeons made more errors as late as 1 p.m. the day following drinking than when performing the same simulated surgery before drinking. A partner study, which used surgeons in training, had similar results. The surgeons in training did significantly worse than those who abstained from drinking and from their results the previous day. http://archsurg.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/146/4/419.

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