Fatal Medical Error Leaves Son to Die in Front of Parents
Anyone who seeks to limit accountability when Americans are killed by preventable medical errors should be aware of Blake’s story. Blake was a 19-year-old college student from Blacksburg, Virginia. He was energetic, full of life, and had a great future ahead of him.
But in February 2007, he got sick, so sick that he was admitted to the hospital with a flare-up of ulcerative colitis (UC). UC is not a fatal disease, in fact, it is 100 percent treatable.
While in the hospital, he was placed on colon rest and had to have nutrition through a special IV line called a central line. Over the next month he improved and was ready to come home.
But on the day he was going to be discharged, an untrained nurse removed the central line incorrectly. Air entered his body through the IV site, cutting off the blood and oxygen to his brain, lungs, and heart. Blake struggled to breathe, turned blue, and lost consciousness. As his family watched helplessly, the nurse ignored the signs that Blake was in trouble.
On March 2, 2007, his mother and father did what no parents ever should have to do: they watched their son take his last breath and die in front of their eyes.
Blake is not alone. Preventable medical errors kill 440,000 Americans every year.
Patient safety must be priority No. 1 for hospitals and health care providers. If mistakes are made, patients and their families deserve answers right away and negligent health care providers must be held accountable so that those errors are never allowed to happen again. Patient safety also must be a top priority for our elected officials. Our elected officials need to be on the side of injured patients and their families and their efforts should be focused on making hospitals safer.
The civil justice system provides patients and their families an avenue to seek justice and accountability. It also serves as a powerful incentive for health care providers to improve patient care.
But too often we hear about legislation to take away patients’ right to access justice. Unfortunately, many states limit justice with one-size-fits-all caps on damages that injured patients can seek. These arbitrary laws shield health care providers that harm or kill patients from full accountability, and do nothing to protect those who must live with the tragic results.
Removing legal accountability will also remove incentives to improve safety and only further injure families like Blake’s family.