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Silent Epidemic More Devastating Than 9/11
As we Americans mourn the anniversary of 9/11 and the 2,973 people who were murdered on that day 5 years ago, an even more insidious homeland terror is scourging our nation. Every year in this country, more than 98,000* people die from an attack taking place in our local hospitals. This senseless terror is caused by medical negligence.
The silent epidemic goes unnoticed because its perpetrators are not wearing kefiyahs and carrying AK-47s. Instead they wear white lab coats, carry stethoscopes and masquerade as medical professionals. The 268 deaths they cause each and every day occur individually in thousands of hospitals, as opposed to the 2,973 deaths from that one horrific mass attack. And the medical community has succeeded in keeping its dirty secret out of the daily headlines. Healthcare providers do not inform patients or their families about medical errors, even when the result is death.
As a registered nurse, Iíve worked on the front line witnessing this atrocity and the devastation it causes victims and their families. As an attorney and legal nurse consulting educator, Iím acutely aware of the billions of dollars in unnecessary healthcare expense to the American public. It frightens me how easily the average person submits to a doctorís or nurseís decision without question, when you consider that for each day youíre in a hospital getting drugs pumped into your body at least one medication error will occur.** Startling, isnít it?
Americans must be vigilant healthcare consumers. Our lives depend on it. Individuals need to research their own illness, be persistent in seeking specialists and insist that a friend or relative is always at their bedside. They should make sure their healthcare provider is not prescribing a drug or recommending a medical device based on incentives from the manufacturer. When hospital patients suspect something is wrong with their treatment, they should go up the chain of command all the way to the chief of staff, and if that doesnít work, then to risk management.
Itís time to demand more accountability from our healthcare providers. Just as we demand that our armed forces keep the country safe from terrorist attacks, we need to also demand that our healthcare industry police itself and practice competently.
* To Err is Human; Building a Safer Health System, Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press: Washington, DC, 1999.
** Preventing Medication Errors, Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press: Washington, DC, July 21, 2006.
About the Author: Inc. Top 10 Entrepreneur Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD is the founder and president of Vickie Milazzo Institute, the oldest and largest legal nurse consultant certification company. Pioneered the legal nurse consulting profession in 1982. She is the author of the self help book for women, Inside Every Woman.