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Wayne Parsons
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Doctor Misdiagnosis Results In Alarming Number of Avoidable Injuries And Death

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Cathleen F. Crowley and Eric Nadler have published a blockbuster expose entitled DEAD BY MISTAKE that exposes the truth about what is wrong with American health care and it isn’t doctors being sued for frivolous matters. It isn’t lawsuit abuse, a fraud perpetrated by the insurance industry and the American Medical Association. The story hit the news stands on Aug. 10, 2009 in the afternoon. The introductory comments are dramatic:

Richard Flagg drowned in his own blood.

Stanley Stinnett choked on his own vomit.

Both were victims of the leading cause of accidental death in America — mistakes made in medical care.

Experts estimate that a staggering 98,000 people die from preventable medical errors each year. More Americans die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In addition, a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study concluded that 99,000 patients a year succumb to hospital-acquired infections. Almost all of those deaths, experts say, also are preventable.

Two other articles amplify the outrageous amount of avoidable injury and death in American health care:

Mistakes Made in Medical Care are the Top Cause of Accidental Death in America.

Hearst News Analysis Highlights Epidemic of Medical Errors By Cecelia Prewett of the American Association of Justice (AAJ)

DEAD BY MISTAKE is not just some spin from an author with an axe to grind. A multidisciplinary team of scholars and journalists put together a massive study of the true facts that the AMA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and insurance companies like MIEC and others that insure doctors and hospitals hope the public doesn’t learn about. Hearst Newspapers should be acknowledged for this courageous expose. Messing with Big Insurance and the doctors is taking on money and you can bet that the medical Establishment and the insurance behemoths will seek retribution. Patients know how dangerous it can be to point out a mistake to a doctor.

Here are the links to other aspects of the misdiagnosis crisis in the United States. It touches every state from Maine to Hawaii and it lurks as a threat in every hospital and doctor’s office from Washington D.C. to Honolulu.

The death toll from preventable medical injuries approaches 200,000 per year in the United States.

Ten years ago, a highly publicized federal report called the death toll shocking and challenged the medical community to cut it in half — within five years.

Instead, federal analysts believe the rate of medical error is actually increasing.

A national investigation by Hearst Newspapers found that the medical community, the federal government and most states have overwhelmingly failed to take the effective steps outlined in the report a decade ago.

Hearst also found that in states like California that have put some regulations in place, hospitals often ignore the rules without penalty.

Consequently, over that period, as many as 2 million Americans have died needlessly of preventable medical mistakes.

Rather than spend their time and money trying to reduce the death toll from bad medicine, doctors have spent almost all of their time on picket lines and in Congress lobbying for laws to bar claims against them when their negligence injures a patient. Ten years a go a study showed the same thing and a national call went out to the medical establishment to clean up its act. Instead almost no effort was made by doctors and hospitals and the situation has actually gotten worse.

To Err Is Human was published in November 1999 and it called for the medical profession to acknowledge the alarming amount of malpractice that was avoidable _ with almost no lawsuits being filed by patients _ and to do specific things to fix the problems.

The secrecy that the medical profession has built as a shield (I am NOT talking about doctor – patient privilege!) is a big part of the problem:

Secrecy built into the system has long kept both the scope of the crisis and the specific problem areas out of public view. Some of those lives could have been saved with innovations as simple as color-coding medical tubes to avoid confusion.

A Hearst data analysis lifted a corner of that veil of secrecy to show that in five states served by Hearst newspapers — New York, California, Texas, Washington and Connecticut — only 20 percent of some 1,434 hospitals surveyed are participating in two national safety campaigns begun in recent years.

Also, a detailed safety analysis prepared for Hearst Newspapers examined discharge records from 1,832 medical facilities in four of those states. It found major deficiencies in patient data states collect from hospitals, yet still found that a minimum of 16 percent of hospitals had at least one death from common procedures gone awry — and some had more than a dozen.

Hopefully President Obama, who has called the insurance industry out in the open and let them know that them know that 2009 is the beginning of Business Not As Usual for them and their spin doctors. Back in November 1999, the report titled “To Err Is Human” was issued with the highest of hopes. Its authors believed it promised the start of a revolution in patient safety. Most patients have a hard time learning about what went wrong as DEAD BY MISTAKE points out:

Deaths from medical injuries happen behind the doors of a hospital room. Unlike a national tragedy that takes hundreds of lives in an instant, these deaths are singular and often secret.

Doctors fudge death certificates, leaving out information that would point to medical error as a prime or contributing cause of death, according to court records and other documents examined by Hearst reporters and graduate students at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The story of Norine Zazzara, 81 is typical. Having gone to the hospital for an injection of diuretic for her swollen legs, she got the shot and also got a MRSA infection, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which led to pneumonia and death. Norine’s daughter Betsy found that the death certificate did not mention the infection and told him to correct the omission _ the greatest lie of all is the truth half told _ and his response was "does it really matter what the death certificate says"? I have written on MRSA infections before. Here are some good resources on MRSA:

Scientists Uncover How Staph Infections Change Our Immune System by Wayne Parsons

Swine Flu Crisis Involves Huge Health Controversy and Probably Another Cover-up

Hospitals May Not Be Doing Enough To Fight MRSA

Hiding MSRA infections from public view not only harms patients but it prevents accurate assessment of the crisis of medical negligence preventing corrective action.

The 22 authors of “To Err is Human” debated public disclosure and fears that it would create more lawsuits, feed the blame game and drive errors underground.

The authors, in the end, decided patients deserved the information.

“These are the kind of things the American public has the right to know about and that patients should know about when they are selecting a particular hospital or surgeon,” said Janet Corrigan, who was the lead staff writer of “To Err is Human” and is now president of the National Quality Forum.

The authors recommended creating a patient safety center to conduct research and oversee a nationwide reporting system, and they said the AHRQ was the logical place to house it.

Lawsuits are an important way to create accountability. If the police didn’t ticket speeders the roads would be much more dangerous. If you couldn’t sue an attorney who lost your case by not complying with court deadlines, or if you could only recover a fraction of what he or she caused you in losses because of one size fits all damages caps, the amount of legal injury would increase. They call it the "blame game" – I call it accountability. If we would all admit our mistakes without a lawsuit, and pay the injured party what they deserve, the need to affix blame would not be necessary.

Contributing to DEAD BY MISTAKE were Olivia Victoria Andrzejczak, Kyla Calvert, Ana Azpurua, Andrew Schmid and Emily Witt of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University; John Martin, adjunct professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Sarah Hinman, director of news research, Albany Times Union; Laurie Kinney, reporter, Hearst Television; Terri Langford, enterprise reporter, Houston Chronicle; Lance Williams, investigations editor and reporter, San Francisco Chronicle; and Don Finley, medical writer, and Kelly Guckian, database editor, San Antonio Express-News.

I invite any doctor who hurt a patient through an avoidable mistake to write in and tell us about it. In 30 years of dealing with medical negligence I have never heard such an admission. I would hope that there is a doctor out there who told the patient to truth and then made sure that the patient was compensated for the injury – without needing to hire an attorney and go to court. Anyone from the medical profession willing to do what we ask our kids to do?