Friday, September 18, 2009

Woman Catches Fire During Surgery And Dies

In a previous post, I wrote about an Ohio woman whose head actually caught fire during a medical procedure (Patient's Head Catches Fire...And Case Gets (Wrongly) Tossed Out Of Court). Unfortunately, this has--unbelieveably--happened again. According to a recent news story, a 65 year old Illinois woman caught fire during surgery at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Tennessee and died.

This is a classic example of medical malpractice-- an unacceptable, preventable, known complication of surgery. The fact that it might be "rare" or a "known complication" is not a defense to the hospital in this case.

But, tragically, events like this illustrate a larger problem: that, despite safety systems and "policies and procedures" in place at the finest hospitals, medical negligence still occurs. Upwards of 100,000 people die each year due to preventable medical mistakes in hospitals. That's 60,000 more people than those who are killed on our nations' highways each year. A comparison of those two figures is mind boggling.

As politicians are debating "tort reform" and medical groups complain about "frivolous lawsuits," there are equally compelling cases of tragedies like this. What we really need is a culture of safety in hospitals that prevents mistakes like this from ever happening. Reducing malpractice means less patient injuries, and less lawsuits.

Currently, we are mired in a debate where medical groups and The Chamber Of Commerce are pushing for limits or caps on what malpractice victims can recover EVEN IN LEGITIMATE CASES. Punishing the victims and limiting the wrongdoers' insurance companies' liability rings hollow when you hear about needless tragedies like this one.

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