Paging Ben Casey: Surgeons Happy With Status Quo : Shots - Health News Surgeons don't like limits on their work weeks and they don't mind drug industry gifts, as long as they're not too extravagant.
NPR logo Paging Ben Casey: Surgeons Happy With Status Quo

Paging Ben Casey: Surgeons Happy With Status Quo


Unless you're of a certain age, or have a serious jones for old school medical dramas, you might not remember that Ben Casey was a neurosurgeon on the eponymous television show that ran in the early 1960s.

And judging from a couple of studies in this week's Archives of Surgery, it seems a lot of Dr. Casey's latter-day counterparts would be just as happy if some things in medicine changed a little less fast.

One study looked at new work-hour limits imposed in Switzerland in 2005, and another at how receptive doctors are to drug industry gifts.

Under the new rules, medical residents, including those studying to become surgeons, can work no more than 50 hours per week.

The good news: Nearly 60 percent of medical residents surveyed and more than 80 percent of their surgical teachers and supervisors said the shorter hours improved the residents' quality of life.

The bad news: the residents and senior surgeons also agreed that the shorter hours had a negative effect on surgical training (63 and 77 percent respectively) and patient care (43 and 70 percent).

In other words, concluded the study's authors, "despite somewhat improved resident quality of life, the work hour limitation for surgical residencies in Switzerland appears to be a failure."

By the way, surgeons in the U.S. aren't all that happy with the 80 hour limitation here, either.

The second study, meanwhile, surveyed doctors' opinions of drug and medical industry gifts and drug industry funding of medical residencies.

And of 600 physicians from across the specialty spectrum, surgeons came out as the most amenable to the practice.

The Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers who conducted the study say that may be because surgeons are the least likely docs to receive industry samples, gifts and payments.

Overall, most physicians had a positive view about industry-sponsored training materials, gifts, lunches and meetings —as long as they weren't too large, like over $50.

What else did the survey show? A majority of doctors thought OTHER doctors were more likely to be influenced by industry marketing. Not them.

A provision of the new health law doesn't ban such doctor gifts, but it does require that the givers — whether drug or devicemakers —  report any largesse towards physicians that totals more than $100 per year.

However, a handful of states and several medical specialist societies haven't been waiting around for Congress. They've done their own cracking down.