Expert Testimony about # of Deaths, Medical Errors & Patient Safety in U.S.-Excerpt: Joanne Disch, PhD, RN , Professor ad Honorem University of Minnesota School of Nursing

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On July 17th, 2014 the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held an important hearing on “Over 1000 Deaths Per Day is Too Many:  The Need to Improve Patient Safety“. Six experts testified and shared pdf. files of their reports including citations.

To download all of the experts’ complete testimonies  or listen to the hearing go here.

To get links to all expert excerpts published in Confident Voices in Healthcare Blog go here.

Excerpt from: Joanne Disch, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor ad Honoremjoanne disch
University of Minnesota School of Nursing
Minneapolis MN
July 17, 2014

Chairman Sanders and the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging are to be commended for examining the current crisis of preventable deaths (PDs) that occur each year in the United States and for developing the compelling title of this hearing.  The estimate by James (2013) that possibly  400,000 PDs  occur each year is more accurate than the previous Institute of Medicine (IOM) projection of 98,000/year (1999).  However, I would respectfully suggest that the title of this hearing understates the problem – and the title of the hearing should be
changed to ‘More than 1000 preventable deaths ‐ and 10,000 preventable serious complications a day ‐ is too many…”  While PDs are certainly to be avoided, I would note that serious preventable complications (SPCs) can result in a quality of life that might be comparable to death for some, such as the woman from Minnesota who, approximately 10 years ago, underwent a bilateral mastectomy for cancer, only to find out shortly after surgery that there had been a mix‐up in the biopsy reports – and she had not had cancer.   

My points are three: (1) the impact of preventable events – death and serious preventable complications ‐ is even more extensive than the gripping title of this hearing suggests (James, 2013);  (2) it is possibly the most bi‐partisan issue that exists today – since many, if not most, of us here have likely had the experience of being a patient or family member who experienced one of these events, or will in the future; and (3) it is one of the few issues that money alone2 can not solve.  As I have often said when lecturing on this topic:  “Even Bill Gates cannot
guarantee safe care for himself or his family.” 

To read my open letter to the Senate Subcommittee  in response to the hearing go here.

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