More than a decade after the Institute of Medicine estimated that each year 98,000 Americans die as a result of medical malpractice, a new study, entitled “A New Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care,” published in the Journal of Patient Safety, puts the number at more than 400,000. What is disheartening, even sickening, about this number, is that it would put malpractice related deaths third behind heart disease and cancer.
It is time that we recognize that safe medical care is a basic human right and demand of our hospitals and doctors that they do everything humanly possible to prevent unintentional medical negligence. For too long, mistakes have been literally and figuratively buried, and we as a society must stop this wave of harm by aggressively demanding action. One idea broached by the authors of this damning study is a “…national patient bill of rights for hospitalized patients that would empower them to be thoroughly integrated into their care so that they can take the lead in reducing their risk of serious harm and death.”
We must no longer rely on physicians and hospitals “healing thyself-” as they both spend too much time lobbying legislatures for laws limiting their responsibility or granting them immunity, rather than concentrating on preventable error.