Reprimanding individuals may be necessary in medical malpractice cases but this is only part of a formula for reducing medical errors in a substantial way. Senator Boxer's report, if acted upon, may lead to widespread change
Los Angeles, Ca. (PRWEB) May 14, 2014
United States Senator Barbara Boxer of California recently called attention to a troubling fact about the number of deaths in U. S. hospitals resulting from medical errors. The report, "Medical Errors," was prepared by the Senator's staff and was released in April of 2014. The Senator's report relies heavily on information gathered by the federal government's "Partnership for Patients" initiative. The initiative has the goal of significantly reducing the number of preventable deaths and injuries occurring annually in the nation's hospitals. The number of deaths attributed to medical error each year in hospitals, according to the report, is between 210, 000 and 440, 000.
"Federal, state and local governments certainly play a vital role in reducing medical errors," Los Angeles Medical Malpractice Attorney Jin Lew of Michels & Lew says. "But even when legislation is passed and enforcement is robust, lawsuits that demand justice and compensation for victims are often the only message hospitals and their insurers understand. Holding them financially responsible for medical errors is supposed to provide victims with fair compensation for losses and pain and suffering. But forcing health care providers and their insurers to pay fair compensation also encourages them to re-think their practices and to put a greater emphasis on safety. Hopefully the Senator's report does the same."
"Medical Errors" puts a spotlight on one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Medical error in hospitals is only behind heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of death in the nation. "Medical error is particularly tragic because patients and their families are putting their trust in healthcare providers and those providers are failing far too often," Lew says.
Senator Boxer unveiled the report at a press conference held in Los Angeles on April 25, 2014 and with a subsequent press release. At the press conference she stated "We have the opportunity to save not just one life, but to save hundreds of thousands of lives." In the report, several recommendations are made to help hospitals improve care but most of the report focuses on the causes of death to call attention to the unsafe conditions and what Senator Boxer's report labels a need for "cultural change to focus on system-wide fixes."
Jin Lew expands on the point, saying "on many occasions a single individual may be solely responsible for a medical error, but in an overwhelming number of medical malpractice and medical error cases, failures at multiple levels throughout a healthcare provider's purview are to blame. Staff may not be properly vetted, workers may not be monitored appropriately, a hospital may be understaffed, protocols designed to keep dangerous drug interactions from occurring are ignored. Misdiagnosis, poor decisions during child delivery, preventable infections...the list is very long for how a medical error can occur. Reprimanding individuals may be necessary in medical malpractice cases but this is only part of a formula for reducing medical errors in a substantial way. Senator Boxer's report, if acted upon, may lead to widespread change."
The report indicates many system-wide problems: "Alarm Fatigue" in which healthcare workers become desensitized by the many medical equipment signals they hear throughout their work shifts; urinary-tract infections caused by poorly sterilized catheters and blood stream infections caused by poorly sterilized central lines; obstetrical adverse events, blood clots, pneumonia and falls were also cited as leading causes of preventable death in hospitals.
"By issuing this report and putting the power of her office behind it, the Senator is encouraging the public to take notice and ask detailed questions about the safety of their loved ones in hospital care. Perhaps new safety protocols will be adopted, aggressive oversight will be conducted and medical errors will cease to be such a massive problem. But while medical errors continue to cause pain and suffering, Michels & Lew will be standing on the side of victims and their families."