You may have already heard about this next medical malpractice horror story, but it’s oddly similar to a Nevada story we’ve been telling you about (here, here, here) and there’s an interesting article about its civil justice implications in today’s Denver Post, so we thought we’d add our two cents.
The story revolves around a Colorado heroin addict, Hepatitis C carrier, and (now former) surgery technician named Kristen Diane Parker. Long story short, Parker was in the habit of filling her used needles with saline solution, then taking them to work and swapping them out for syringes full of Fentanyl, “a narcotic 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.”
This went on for months, and then she was hired by yet another surgical center. Meanwhile, all told, some 5700 patients were exposed to Hepatitis C—and so far, 10 have tested positive for the incurable, often deadly liver ailment.
The real question is, how in the world, and why, did either of these hospital fail to detect that dirty needles were being used on patients? Here’s a thought. Colorado has some of the most severe restrictions on patients’ rights in the country. In 1988, Colorado capped medical malpractice compensation at $250,000, raising it only slightly to $300,000 in 2003. Like Nevada in the wake of their Hep C outbreak, recent attempts in Colorado to have the cap raised have fallen flat, despite the fact that the cap’s value is now about half of what it originally was in real dollars.
Of course, all of this is to say, as we often do, that the way to reduce malpractice, injuries, claims and lawsuits is to reduce malpractice, not make hospitals less accountable.