Deadly Hospital Errors Go Unreported

In a series of articles and reports in the Hearst Newspapers entitled "Dead By Mistake," in spite of a decades old report by the Institute of Medicine noting 100,000 deaths from preventable medical mistakes each year, still no comprehensive system for reporting medical errors exists.

 

In a recent report by Hearst Newspapers/Houston Chronicle, according to the estimates there have been nearly 2 million people avoidable health-care-related deaths since 1999. In the article, Arthur Levin, president of the Center for Medical Consumers and an author of the report notes "There's a point at which you have to say, 'Is it ethical to allow preventable harm to continue to occur when you know how to prevent it? When do you say enough is enough?'"

 

The Hearst Newspapers/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that some states like Washington have laws that require mandatory reporting but enforcement is difficult. Further, hospitals are at times torn because they can be punished if they spend the resources to accurately report serious events, but hospitals who choose not to invest in reporting face few consequences. The article notes in some cases, hospitals like Virginia Mason in Seattle, report more errors than their competition, but may well be a safer -- "or at least more honest" -- facility).

 

The Hearst series, “Dead By Mistake,” involved 35 newspaper and television reporters, editors and other staff, as well as Columbia University graduate students.

 

(SOURCES: Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, http://kaiserhealthnews.org, August 10, 2009; Hearst Newspapers/Houston Chronicle, http://chron.com, accessed August 10, 2009; Hearst Newspapers/Seattle Post-Intellingencer, http://seattlepi.com, accessed August 10, 2009)