Next time you are in a teaching hospital, consider this: The doctor-in-training swho are attending to you may be so exhausted that they are a danger to you and others.

Medical residents work shifts as long as 30 hours as frequently as three times a week. Extensive research shows that this leads to car crashes (they fall alseep at the wheel after leaving work), depression, needle sticks and pregnancy complications.

Enough is enough. The federal government is so concerned about the relationship between fatigue and safety that it limits the work hours of people in other industries, including long-haul truckers, pilots, barge captains and railroad engineers. Doctors should be similarly protected.

So say Public Citizen, the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare, the American Medical Student Association and several experts. Together, we petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration today to limit medical resident work hours.

OSHA responded quickly, issuing a statement later in the day acknowledging the link between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors and motor vehicle accidents.

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