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Heart patient died while doctor slept

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08:16 CET+01:00
An anesthesiologist who was asleep wearing earplugs while on-call at a Swedish hospital is facing disciplinary action after missing an alert that a patient's heart had stopped.

Back in March, staff at the hospital in Motala in central Sweden tried in vain to page the doctor after the heart of an 85-year-old female patient stopped beating.

As attempts to revive the woman began, two separate pages to the anesthesiologist were went unanswered. Staff then attempted to reach him on his mobile phone but were still unable to reach him.

After 20 minutes, resuscitation attempts were called off and the 85-year-old woman was pronounced dead.

Shortly thereafter, a nurse and a guard went to the anesthesiologist's office and were forced to unlock the door from the outside after receiving no response to their repeated knocking.

They opened the door to find the doctor in a deep sleep with earplugs in his ears.

Beside him on the table lay his pager and mobile phone, both displaying the number to the section of the hospital which had called to alert him to the emergency.

The doctor claimed he had fallen asleep because his sick child had deprived him of a proper sleep for several nights in a row. He added that the earplugs wouldn't have made much difference because they were old and didn't function very well.

The hospital first suspended and later fired the anesthesiologist following the incident.

Last week Sweden's Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) issued a report on the matter, finding the doctor's behaviour “unacceptable”, and recommending that the he be disciplined by the country's medical responsibility board (Hälso- och sjukvårdens ansvarsnämnd – HSAN).

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