By Andrea Gerlin
The Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital is a typical teaching hospital. It is known for cutting-edge research programs, for training medical students and newly graduated doctors, and for providing advanced medical care.
It is also representative of modern American hospitals in another respect: In the last decade alone, records show, hundreds of MCP Hospital patients have been seriously injured, and at least 66 have died after medical mistakes.
The hospital’s internal records cite 598 incidents reported by medical professionals to the hospital administration in the last decade. In some of those cases, patients or survivors were never told that the injuries were caused by medical errors. None of the doctors involved in the incidents was subjected to disciplinary action.
For patients of all ages, serious injury and death caused by medical errors are well-known facts of life in the medical community. But they are rarely reported to the general public.
MCP Hospital’s records came to light only because of bankruptcy proceedings last year, when its new owner publicly filed a detailed account of the 598 incidents reported at the facility from January 1989 through June 1998.
Those numbers mirror what is happening across the country. Lucian Leape, a Harvard University professor who conducted the most comprehensive study of medical errors in the United States, has estimated that one million patients nationwide are injured by errors during hospital treatment each year and that 120,000 die as a result.
That number of deaths is the equivalent of what would occur if a jumbo jet crashed every day; it is three times the 43,000 people killed each year in U.S. automobile accidents.
“It’s by far the number one problem” in health care, said Leape, an adjunct professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Source: Philadelphia Online
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