Stanley Stinnett choked on his own vomit.
Both were victims of the leading cause of accidental death in America—mistakes made in medical care.
Experts estimate that a staggering 98,000 people die from preventable medical errors each year. More Americans die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”
So begins the most comprehensive and compelling national investigative series about medical malpractice that any news organization may ever have produced. The series, Dead by Mistake, was generated by ” a team of skilled and dedicated journalists from across Hearst newspapers and television stations,” in conjunction with “an entire class of graduate journalism students at Columbia University,” that “read thousands of pages of documents, disciplinary files, lawsuits, governmental, medical and other public and private reports.”
It appears prominently in a number of Hearst’s publications, but you can catch the entire collection of stories here. The site includes in-depth statistical analysis, victims’ stories, slide shows, video, state-by-state analysis of "adverse event" reporting policies, and much, much more. Suffice it to say, it is a phenomenal source of solid information and its release couldn’t be have been more timely as Congress and the Administration grapple with medical liability issues in the health care bill.
Hearst’s investigative series is literally so sprawling there’s no way we can do it justice here—but as the report makes clear, medical malpractice is a nationwide epidemic—one that effects patients of every state, age, and income level. In just the last ten years alone, some “2 million Americans have died needlessly of preventable medical mistakes.” And those numbers are on the rise.
Needless to say, any fair reading of this report makes it clear: the problem with medical malpractice isn’t lawsuits—it’s the amount of medical malpractice itself. And this is no time to further insulate negligent health care providers from liability (especially since limiting patients’ rights will barely make a dent in overall health care expenditures).
Ironically, one person who knew that well was the aforementioned Richard Flagg. Richard was not just a malpractice victim. He was a tireless advocate for patients’ rights. Before his eventual death due to medical malpractice, Richard traveled twice to Washington, D.C. with the Center for Justice & Democracy, struggling to breathe, to ensure that the legal rights of patients were not limited with “caps” and other so-called “tort reforms.” His and others’ powerful messages ensured that Congress and the Bush Administration did not take away patients’ rights that year. Let’s hope his death was not in vain this year.