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98,000 Reasons To Care About Patient Safety

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 11:50 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Tort Reform, AAJ, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Jury Caps, Pain and Suffering, Health Care Reform, Patient Safety, Medical Errors, Prescription Errors

Patient safety must be foremost as a way to cap rising health care costs, says AAJ in this campaign.


IMAGE SOURCE: 98000 reasons campaign Colin Gourley and his family

Like two 737s crashing every day

When that happens, do we blame the passengers of the airlines?

That is the call of a new campaign, 98000 Reasons by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), named after the number of Americans who die from medical errors ever year, which some believe is about half of the deaths when you include hospital infection.

The numbers are equal to two 737s crashing every day, says AAJ.

With medical errors the sixth leading cause of death for Americans, AAJ recounts some stories of injury that were largely preventable.

The AAJ campaign has been launched by the lobby for trial attorneys who see the first-hand effects of medical errors on patients every day, amid calls by Republicans for tort reform as a cost saver.

Tort Reform and Health Care Reform

Who knew patient safety was so controversial?

“Who will speak up for the patients?” asked Rep. Bruce Braley on the House floor during the reform debate Saturday night. He was shouted down with jeers and boos, all captured on a YouTube video. The Speaker of the House had to wait to bring members under control as they shouted “trial lawyer.”

Besides trial attorneys, which include Braley, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, in October 2008, reminded readers that the approval of prescription drugs and medical devices is an imperfect system made better by the checks and balances provided by the tort system.

“Thus, tort law serves in effect as a way to close regulatory gaps in the FDA premarketing approval process and to provide a mechanism for postmarketing surveillance. Moreover, litigation has been a rich source of information about how drug and device manufacturing companies behave, such as with off-label promotion, guest and ghost authorship, and reporting of safety findings. Without the information revealed by the public release of documents in tort liability actions, many of these behaviors would remain unknown, some drug manufacturers’ judgments about safety issues would be hidden from view, review, or oversight, and the FDA would not be able to uncover them either… “

What does patient injury cost?

And these errors are costing Americans $17 to $29 billion annually, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found a decade ago in its “To Err is Human” report.

Many instances of medical malpractice repeated by the same estimated five percent of doctors, finds Public Citizen.

The campaign reminds us that the most significant way to reduce the cost of medical malpractice is to increase patient safety.

Here are the stories of how patients are injured, part of the 98000reasons campaign.

· Blake Fought of Blacksburg, Virginia was hospitalized with an illness he was fed through an IV line placed through his neck. While his family waited by his bedside for the 19-year-old to be discharged, a nurse improperly trained, removed the line in a way that allowed a bubble of air to enter Blake’s blood vessels and travel to his heart. Blake asphyxiated and died in front of the nurses and his own parents. He was 19-years-old.

· Leslie Ray of New Milford, Connecticut was undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. In August 2006, she protested to the doctor that she felt pain in her right arm. He continued 36 radiation treatments despite the nurses’ protest. Ray suffered permanent injuries to her brachial plexus nerve and lost all use of her right arm. She blames the doctor because she repeatedly brought it her to his attention. “Somebody has to be accountable; I put my trust in him.”

· 29-year-old Quanisha Scott is totally dependent on her mother after a partial thyroidectomy, a small surgical procedure. She felt her neck tighten a blood clot was forming. Without being properly monitored, Quanisha suffered brain damage and her mother found her on a ventilator. It was later determined that a hematoma had developed at the site of the surgery. Today she is in a comatose state. “I trusted the doctors in the hospital” her mother says.

· Merlyna Adams from La Place, Louisiana had a kidney stone. The stone was too much to pass. She became more ill. After being transferred to four hospitals , the school principal went into sepsis , an infection of the entire body because the stone blocked the kidney, and also blocked the blood flow to her hands and feet. As a result, both hands and both legs below the knee were amputated. She cannot do everyday functions with help of another person. “If you make a mistake, please admit it and do what you need to do to make it better,” she says she’s always told her children.

· Colin Gourley of Valley, Nebraska is 15-years-old. Colin and his twin had to be born at 36 weeks because they were in distress, but it took all day for doctors to do an emergency C-section. By then Colin was born with cerebral palsy. He cannot walk and is visually impaired. A jury ruled Colin was a victim of medical negligence, but the Nebraska Supreme Court reduced his jury verdict to one-quarter of what he will need for the rest of his life. The family has to rely on state assistance.

· Jamie Pfeiffer of Bridgewater, Connecticut had a problem with her leg. After being told her leg was normal, Jamie went home. But a few months later she had persistent abnormal swelling in her leg. After two years of receiving assurances, she went to another physician who told her she had a tumor which had now spread to her entire femur. An above-the –knee amputation was required along with aggressive chemotherapy. Jamie is in a wheelchair and is in pain.

· Lauren Lollini of Denver, Colorado went into a hospital for removal of a kidney stone. Six weeks later, with her health deteriorating doctors found she had Hepatitis C. 35 other patients had become infected with hepatitis C at the same hospital when it was revealed a hospital staffer used hospital syringes and painkillers for her own drug use. Lollini’s case is pending. #

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