Thursday, May 10, 2007
Greek physician Hippocrates swore," I will follow the system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischieves". "As to diseases, make a habit of two things--to help, or at least, to do no harm."
A landmark 1999 report by the National Institute of Medicine, "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, found that medical error is one of the leading causes of death and injury in America. Each year, an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 US hospital patients are killed by medical errors that could be prevented. This figure is almost certainly higher, since many patient go to outpatient clinics or surgical centers, or simply to the doctor's office, and never go to the hospital.
One of the most common forms of medical error has to do with medication mistakes. Hippocrates oath also states: "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked". But medical error occurs if patients are mistakenly prescribed wrong drug, wrong level of a drug, or a drug that has dangerous interactions with other drugs they are taking, or a drug to which patients are allergic.
Infamous cases, 1994, death from a chemotherapy overdose of Betsy Lehman, a nationally renowned medical reporter for the Boston Globe who was being treated for breast cancer at the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
She was the most informed and engaged patient imaginable, and Dana Farber one of the nation’s top cancer centers. Yet Lehman died of an overdose of a potent cancer drug. She was mistakenly given four times the daily dose of a powerful anticancer drug and died of heart failure.
Worse, she received the overdose for four straight days, even though another woman in the same ward had collapsed of a drug overdose less than a week before.
What you should do?
You can do a lot to reduce your risk of being a victim of medical error. You will be safer and healthier if you become more involved in your own health care. Just because the doctor is the expert and wears white coat doesn't mean you should stop paying attention to your own treatment.
The following advice is from the federal government's Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force.
1. Speak up if you have questions or concerns. Choose a doctor you feel comfortable talking to about your health and treatment. It's okay to ask questions and to expect answer you can understand.
2. Keep a list of all the medications you take.
3. Tell both your doctor and pharmacist about each one, including over-the counter medicines such as aspirin, panadol, and dietary supplements like vitamins and herbal products.
4. Bring the medications with you to show your doctor, to avoid medical errors that you may cause by not getting your own drug information right.
5. Tell your health care provider about any drug allergies you have. Make sure you can read your doctor's handwriting on the prescription.
6. And ask your doctor to write down the reason for the medicine right on the prescription.
7. Ask your pharmacist about side effects and what foods or activities to avoid while taking the medicine.
8. When you get your medicine, read the label, including warnings seriously. Make sure it's the medicine your doctor ordered, and that you know how to use it.
9. If the medicine looks different from what you expected, ask the pharmacist about it.
10. Support dispensing separation. HAHAHA...
Studies show that outcomes are better for patients who remain involved in their own care.But if you believe that an error has occurred, let somebody know, and not just your lawyer. It is important to report errors so they can be investigated and by doing so can often prevent further errors. Ask for help from your friendly pharmacist...hehehe....
(Sources: Risk, Houghton Mifflin, D. Ropeik, G.Gray.)