Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Error or Negligence?

Error or Negligence: Does it Change the Families Right to Know?

The following news information was on a local
television news story this week; a woman was “being treated for lung cancer when she suffered an accidental overdose of radiation” at a Long Island hospital. The hospital, the family said in the news piece is calling “it human error," the family is quoted as calling it “negligence."

Human error or system failure, the patient died a painful death because of this medication error. The family is demanding the technician be fired but because the technician is protected with privacy, the public nor even the patient’s family know if any changes have been made, or what they are.

I recently heard a speaker at a hospital conference tell the story about a physician who made a terrible medication error. The physician went back for training, and did a paper on the situation that caused the error. My initial reaction was that because of this institutions reaction, this physician is probably the best person to treat patients with this condition and medication and of course should NOT be let go. But, unfortunately that family also will never know what the discipline process was to the physician.

In this case, the chances are the hospital did react but are not letting the public know. In the very least they should sit down with the patient’s family and explain what the process was for making sure this mother did not die without someone paying the consequences. The privacy issue to protect the medical professional is not doing much to comfort the public and until there is transparency not only in disclosing the error, but also in resolving the public’s trust, we still aren’t there yet.

1 comment:

Doug Hall said...

Isn't it interesting that the FDA has just now announced that they will require manufactureres of medical imaging devices to add safety controls to prevent patients from receiving excessive radiation doses.

CT scanners have no doubt saved many lives as a result of their better imaging than X-rays. However, they deliver much more radiation per procedure.

If a patient will need several CT's it would be wise to monitor the absorbed dosage per procedure and keep track of the accumulated dose by using an inexpensive alarming electronic dosimeter and discuss the risk/benefit of more radiation exposure with their physician.

CT's have been in use since the mid-1970's. Operator error and machine malfunctions have injured and killed untold numbers of patients. Now 36 years later the FDA is requiring a method to warn patients if they are receiving an excessive dose.

Ironically the $100. alarming electronic dosimeter worn by many healthcare providers to monitor for excessive exposure and to measure accumulated dose would have warned patients of the excessive dosages and also be able to inform the patient of their lifetime accumulated dose.

Get involved in your care to avoid injury. See the Joint Commission's SPEAK UP method to get started.

Doug Hall
PULSE of Florida