Help Prevent Medical Errors

  • by: Consumers Union
  • target: President Obama & HHS Director Kathleen Sebelius

When deadly medical errors are kept secret, the underlying problems that cause them don't get fixed. These errors, including hospital infections, kill an estimated 200,000 Americans each year, and cost us $51 billion. Yet they aren't required to be tracked or made public. By bringing medical errors to light, effective action can be taken to prevent them.

Consider the case of actor Dennis Quaid. His newborn twins almost died when they were injected with a massive dose of blood thinner because the adult version of the drug looked similar to the infant version and was put in the wrong bin. Quaid went public, and the hospital installed a computerized medication system to confirm the right drug and dose before it's given.

It's time we got serious about stopping preventable medical errors. Sign our petition to the Obama Administration to make error rates public so we know what to do to prevent them in the first place.

Dear President Obama & HHS Director Kathleen Sebelius:

In the past decade our nation has failed to prevent medical harm, and as a result, millions of Americans have died or been injured, and tens of billions of health-care dollars wasted on treating the resulting preventable illnesses.

The 1999 landmark Institute of Medicine report, "To Err is Human" documented an epidemic of medical errors plaguing the U.S. health care system and suggested methods to make patients safer. The report called for increased public accountability, better training in patient safety for doctors and nurses and aggressive action to prevent medication errors. But attempts to measure progress, if any, in error reduction have been frustrated because basic information is not collected and publicly reported.

Mandatory public reporting of health care-acquired infections and preventable medical errors will spur quality improvement. But the IOM call a decade ago for disclosure of these serious, harmful events has been largely ignored. Voluntary, confidential reporting systems have failed to improve patient safety.

We urge you to initiate action to make the 10-year old IOM vision a reality by producing the evidence we need to mark our nation's progress. These common-sense measures will save countless lives and dollars, and put our nation on a path toward safer health care that Americans expect and deserve in 2009.


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