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A few days ago, the Baltimore Sun reported on the under-reporting of serious medical errors, known by hospitals as “preventable adverse events,” and which, according to a recent journal article for doctors published in the Journal of Patient Safety, kill more than 400,000 Americans every year (and seriously injure 10-20 times as many).

According to the Journal of Patient Safety article: “[O]ur country is distinguished for its patchwork of medical care subsystems that can require patients to bounce around a complex maze of providers as they seek effective and affordable care.  Because of increased production demands, providers may be expected to give care in suboptimal working conditions, with decreased staff, and a shortage of physicians, which leads to fatigue and burnout.  It should be no surprise that [Preventable Adverse Effects] that harm patients are frighteningly common in this highly technical, rapidly changing, and poorly integrated industry.”

The Sun reported what we at SCBMA already know to be true: that because of the “mostly confidential” and broken system of error-reporting currently in place in Maryland and throughout our country, the truth about many patients’ injuries only sees the light of day once lawyers are hired and are able to investigate adverse medical events through our court system.  Indeed, we see this in our practice every day: patients who do not receive ordered medications, worrisome test results that are not properly transmitted or not properly acted upon, and unnecessary surgery that causes serious harm are only some examples of cases we are routinely asked to investigate.

As part of its investigation, The Sun interviewed Dr. Peter J. Provonost, the Vice President for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Hospital here in Baltimore.  Commendably, Dr. Pronovost commented: “The public should be screaming that we deserve better.”  Similarly, the authors of the Journal of Patient Safety article concluded that “[t]he epidemic of patient harm in hospitals must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed.”

We could not agree more.  Contact us if you believe a serious medical error warrants investigation.