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By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Frantic calls are made to 911 from people seeking urgent medical assistance. But for some, receiving a response may prove to be deadly.
The blood of helpless victims stains emergency and operating rooms at hospitals around the country. What was meant to be a routine surgical procedure or short-term visit have often resulted in a lifelong injury or even death.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.
"Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven't been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics," Martin Makary, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead researcher, said. "The medical coding system was designed to maximize billing for physician services, not to collect national health statistics, as it is currently being used. It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”
Some have suffered at the hands of doctors and nurses at the Detroit Medical Center.
Misdiagnosis, usage of dirty surgical instruments, medication errors, poor lighting and improper care has resulted in patients suffering from debilitating injuries and death.
A 71-year-old woman developed stage four bedsores in the ICU at Harper Hospital, which may have contributed to her death.
“I sat with my mother around the clock,” Denise Rogers said. “Nurses turned my mother about every four hours. I was told to leave the room, when they bathed her. No one made me aware of the bed sores, until I stayed in the room one day and saw blood dripping from her buttocks. I was horrified and in tears. They blamed it on poor nutrition, but no dietician came and spoke to me about neither the sores nor its cause. No one should have to suffer like that.”
A 10-year-old girl suffered weakness in her arms and legs and can no longer control her bowels or bladder, after receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital.
For Sharon Dumas, the doctor’s mistake during surgery at Harper Hospital affects her mobility, causing her to use a walker.
And, Henry Clark went in for a routine surgical procedure and was over prescribed heparin, causing him to bleed to death at Harper Hospital.
These are just a few of the stories we featured, but hundreds of complaints about medical errors and services received at the DMC are posted online. Most of the errors could have been avoided, if the organization had properly addressed past wrongdoings and issued harsher penalties on medical professionals. Yet, changes are yet to be enforced to prevent the mistakes.
“Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm,” Hippocrates, a Greek physician who is called the father of medicine and the author of the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors, is quoted as saying.
To better protect patients from experiencing harm, the following steps should be followed upon admission into a hospital:
• Inspect the skin upon admission and at least daily for signs of pressure injuries. The results of the assessment should be documented in your medical record.
• Provide medical staff with a list of all medications taken, both prescription and over the counter.
• Obtain the name of the physician handling your care and get a clear understanding of the diagnosis and treatment plan.
• Take notes and document every procedure being performed and changes in medication.
• Have a family member, private nurse or friend stay overnight with you in the hospital.
• Discuss medications with the doctors and nurses to determine its name, usage and possible side effects.
• For surgeries, make sure the correct side of the body is physically marked.
• Monitor hand washing to avoid getting an infection. Ask any healthcare worker that seeks to touch you if they have washed their hands.
• Speak up if you have questions or concerns.
Patients should also understand their rights during a hospital stay to avoid becoming a victim of a medical error.
“The more they know, the better,” Susan Fuchs, director of nursing at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, New York says.
Greater transparency is also needed at hospitals to expose medical professionals causing harm to patients.
“It requires organizational courage. It takes a belief in transparency, an ability to let go of fears of litigation, a willingness to walk the talk and be a true learning organization,” Diane Cottle said, who is a retired Director of Nursing and trains medical assistants in Detroit.
Rogers regrets that she didn’t fully understand her mother’s rights at Harper.
“I learned two days before my mother died that I could have refused to leave the room, when she was bathed. If I had stayed, I would have known about the bedsores early on. They wouldn’t have progressed to stage four,” she says. “Although I was there, I didn’t know that a dietician should have been monitoring how lack of nutrition was affecting her health. The doctors admitted their wrongdoing. But, the nurses lied and said they were turning her every two to three hours. It wasn’t even documented in her medical records, but I took pictures to prove it. I can’t change what happened to my mother, but maybe I can help someone else. No one should become the victim of a doctor’s mistakes.”
And, so we urge the community to be cautious when seeking treatment at the DMC, and don’t become a victim of one who is “licensed to kill.”