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New Study Links Inexperienced Medical Residents To Hospital Deaths

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Aired 6/3/10

A new study from UCSD suggests new medical residents may be dangerous to patients' health. The report finds fatal medication errors peak in July, at a time when thousands of aspiring doctors begin their medical residencies.

— A new study from UCSD suggests new medical residents may be dangerous to patients' health. The report finds fatal medication errors peak in July, at a time when thousands of aspiring doctors begin their medical residencies.

UCSD researchers examined more than 244,000 death certificates, for which the primary cause of death was a medication error. They found over a 28-year period, these errors peaked in July. And the spike was found only in counties that have teaching hospitals.

UCSD sociologist David Phillips says it appears newly appointed medical residents may be the cause. Phillips says he tried to come up with some other explanations.

"If this were merely a summertime effect, then you would expect an excess spike not only in July, but also in August, for example," Phillips says. "And we don't see any spike in August, only in July."

Phillips says his study suggests new medical residents may need closer supervision.

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