Hospital Horrors

We’re still catching up on some of the news we missed during last week's all-consuming convention coverage. A few days ago, a study found 195,000 Americans die of medical errors a year – the 6th leading cause of deaths. The story drew many stories from listeners today and inspired some of these emails. Let us know what you think.

We need to improve the caring and diligence of medical staff. How is this possible? My father was just in a "top" NYC private hospital for a week. My mother, brother and I were always there, and we are all educated and asked many questions. Still, there were hours of delays, lost tests, confusion about who was doing what, and when we tried to get my father care and attention, we were made to feel that we were imposing, ignorant of medical ways, and annoying. This is inexcusable, it made my father more frustrated and thus stressed and weaker. We got the clear impression that we were just a number on a list, there was no human compassion, and kept wondering what would've happened to my father if we were not there and he was not aware of what was going on. This is a chronic, systemic problem.

Clearly what the health care system needs is an army of John Edwards-like personal injury lawyers to sue the industry to its needs and end human error.

The example of aircraft safety is a good one. I've noted that doctors, from the time they are interns, are conditioned to be on duty for very long hours with no sleep. Many doctors and surgeons keep truly incredible schedules. In the airline industry, things like time on duty are carefully limited and regulated, because it is well known through many studies that pilot errors rise inexorably with fatigue, regardless of how good the pilot is. I do not understand why such simple and well known rules do not apply to doctors.

Patients should be careful not to have their names confused with somebody else's. It is a good idea to use middle initials to prevent being given treatments that are meant for somebody else, including surgery.