Medical mistakes – the hidden truth

Case 1

Donald Adanich, a 69 year old Vietnam veteran, had gone to Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, for a dental implant surgery in February 2014.  It was a routine surgical procedure, one that the medical center had performed countless number of times.  However, post the surgery, Donald found himself feeling very sick, to the extent that Lyn, his wife, took him back to the VA center the very next day after the surgery.  Donald was admitted to the hospital complaining of stomach ache, and upon investigation was found with high fever and an equally high white blood cell count.  Doctors attending to Donald admitted to Lyn that they could not figure out what caused this infection.  Three weeks later, Donald was discharged from the hospital.  Donald still complained of feeling unwell and so Lyn decided to take a second opinion at another hospital.  What she was told by the doctor there left her shocked.

The physician at the second hospital obtained Donald’s medical reports from VA hospital.  The reports also included a document which stated that Donald had swallowed a surgical gauge during the dental implant procedure.  However, this only came to light when Donald was brought back to the hospital.  The doctors there removed the surgical gauge from Donald’s stomach, but did not inform Donald and Lyn about what had taken place.  Sadly, Donald never recovered from his illness and passed away six months later in August 2014.

 Case 2

At the age of 20, Lauren Wargo, then in college, decided to get a mole on her face removed through medical procedure.  In December 2006, she underwent the procedure, which left her with first, second and third degree burns, covering more than half her face.  What should have been a normal and simple procedure; went horribly wrong for her.  The doctor offered no explanation to Lauren’s parents on how this could have happened.

The Wargo’s took the doctor to court and that is when the truth came out.  During the procedure, the doctor failed to inform the anesthetist to switch off the oxygen, when he was using an electrical tool that was capable of igniting a fire.  This resulted in Lauren suffering horrible burns on most of her face.

The Issue

Most hospitals and doctors keep a careful track of medical mistakes.  However, this information is not revealed to the patients, their families or the public.  News Channel5 Investigators have now revealed how deep this culture of secrecy surrounding medical malpractice is.  According to their investigation, numerous government agencies regularly collect data and records of medical mistakes in hospitals.  This data, however, is not revealed to the public.  Nor is it possible for the public to find details about the number and type of medical malpractice cases against specific doctors or hospitals.

The US Congress ordered the creation of a data bank under the National Practitioner Data Bank, where hospitals are required to report any serious disciplinary action that has been taken against medical professionals by them.  The purpose of this data bank is to ensure that medical professionals, who lose their license in one state, cannot start their practice in another.  But, the names of the medical professionals and their employers are not revealed and kept private by law.

This effectively means that a person has no way of knowing if the doctor or hospital where he wants to be treated has been reported for any serious disciplinary action or medical malpractice.  For example, there were 2210 disciplinary actions reported in 2014 in Ohio.  However, the names of the medical professionals against whom these actions were taken are not known to the general public.  So, how does a person living in Ohio get himself treated by a doctor, without a doubt in his mind?

These two cases, are examples of how hospitals and doctors hide their medical mistakes, making it not only difficult for the patients and their families to know the truth, but in a lot of cases, also finding it difficult to get further proper treatment.

The Follow up    

NewsChannel5 Investigators approached the Cleveland VA Medical Center to enquire about Donald’s case.  The spokesperson of the hospital refused to take part in the on-camera interview.  However, he sent them this statement – “The Cleveland VA Medical Center offers our deepest condolences to the Adanich family for their loss.  We will forever be grateful for Mr. Adanich’s service to our nation.”  That is no solace for Lyn, who lost her husband due to the hospitals mistake.

Lauren and her family are still waiting for a simple apology from the doctor – which so far has not been offered.


References:

  1. “Culture of Secrecy”: NewsChannel5 Report Echoes Warnings of Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers. (2015, November 13). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from lewlaw.com: http://blog.lewlaw.com/blog/culture-of-secrecy-newschannel5-report-echoes-warnings-of-ohio-medical-practices-lawyers
  2. Buduson, S. (2015, November 11). EXCLUSIVE NewsChannel5 Investigation | Culture of Secrecy: How hospitals hide medical malpractice. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from newsnet5.com: http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/investigations/exclusive-newschannel5-investigation-culture-of-secrecy-how-hospitals-hide-medical-malpractice
  3. Kiernan, S. (2003, June 15). Breaking the Medical Malpractice Code of Secrecy. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from niemanreports.org: http://niemanreports.org/articles/breaking-the-medical-malpractice-code-of-secrecy/
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