Who in the Health Cares? By Lenore Janecek
Patient Safety Week – March 2, 2014 to March 8, 2014
The first time I saw 15-year-old Lewis Blackman, hockey player and basic all around kid, his life size photo towered over me at the Telluride Medical Conference. I saw a child with such promise and zest for life. In his hockey shirt and holding his hockey stick, he looked so healthy and happy. His mother, Helen Haskell, brought the larger-than-life photo to our medical conference to tell us he lost his young life to a needless medical error. Over a weekend, he died from an overdose of medication given to him in error. There were many errors that happened during that weekend. Helen Haskell founded Moms Against Medical Error, a nonprofit for those who have lost children.
Many of us volunteer our time and our treasure to help prevent other families and loved ones the grief and pain suffered as a result of preventative error. In my case, the body parts taken on the surgical table did not have to be removed, nor did I have to live in pain and suffering the rest of my life. In 2001, I founded SAVE THE PATIENT, to educate, inform, and empower patients to make sound health care decisions.
For years, during Patient Safety Week, the posters come out; the speakers tell hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers how to prevent these needless tragedies. Yet, I share with you today, many of these efforts have not worked. Reported in 1999 by the Institute of Health Report, 99,000 lives were lost annually by needless error. Today, we now have 440,000 people annually who die needlessly from medical error, bringing the total lives lost in the past ten years to 2,915,000. This represents the entire population of San Francisco, Dallas, and Washington D.C. annihilated over this period as a result of preventative medical error.
How is this happening? Here are the facts: 50% of the medical community won’t wash their hands, or their equipment, or take out catheters, or operate on the correct body part, or hand out the right medications. Some will be infect patients with germs they have brought from hospital clothes worn out in the streets. Stethoscopes are taken into the community and sneezed on, placed on park benches or tables in the lunchroom, or brought home where there are sick family members. In turn, family members bring these germs to schools, locker rooms, and lunchrooms. How much money is spent because of these careless practices?
If it were not for the heroes/heroines in the patient safety movement, this horror would continue to be our deep, dark secret. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have lost children, spouses, moms and dads in this senseless medical holocaust and the many brave doctors, nurses, health educators and workers, pioneering hospitals, journalists and media.
An Office of Consumer Health Safety should be established immediately to protect and advocate on behalf of the American people for quality and safety in health care, foods, and toys. The health and welfare of the American people rest with the changes made by legislators and the President to the medical system in our country. To the millions of adults and the children who are no longer with us due to preventable medical error, and for those who will be, we dedicate ourselves to enacting legislation to protect and advocate for consumer health. Let’s have a Patient Safety Week where the goal next year is to lessen the number of lives lost. This blog is dedicated to children everywhere and to the one 15 year old who made it a calling, Lewis Blackman!