AMERICAN CITIZENS AS GUINEA PIGS
By Kelleigh Nelson
June 28, 2011
Health Care Harm
Health care mistakes are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. A landmark 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine showed that 100,000 deaths occur in the US each year as a result of health care harm. A 2007 CDC Control report said that an additional 99,000 people die annually from hospital-acquired infections.
There have been more than 80 reported deaths in the United States linked to the use of contaminated Heparin (produced by Baxter International). Most of the deaths occurred among patients that were administrated with a contaminated batch of Baxter Heparin supplied by a Chinese facility. The contaminated Heparin caused a severe allergic reaction that led to many deaths. In February 2008, Baxter International recalled their entire Heparin supply.
In April of 2008 I traveled to Seattle, Washington to see renowned Thoracic and Esophageal surgeon, Dr. Ralph Aye. He performed the Hill Posterior Gastropexy on me, which is a surgery to correct severe acid reflux. It is not the more common surgery called a Nissen Fundoplication done by most general surgeon. The Hill requires a more skilled surgeon and is done laparoscopically. I spent only 24 hours in the hospital and had few if any side effects during the 6 week recovery. During the night of my 24 hour stay, the nurse came in three times to give me a shot of Heparin. Because my husband and I were well aware of the dangers of Baxter Heparin, we made sure that was not what the nurse was administering. Let me say that Swedish Medical Center was the finest facility I have ever been in and the care was top rate. I’ve been well ever since, thanks to Dr. Aye’s surgical skill. Sadly this is not the case in all healthcare facilities.
On the afternoon of November 17, 2007 actor Dennis Quaid and his wife noticed a sore on their twin son’s umbilical cord. Their daughter had a similar irritation on one of her fingers. The couple’s pediatrician sent them to Cedars-Sinai. (Remember I wrote about Cedars-Sinai and CT scans in Part 8 of this series.) Both children, only 12 days old, were diagnosed with staph. The parents would not leave their children’s sides. They even watched the next morning as a nurse dispensed a substance into their IVs. She explained that it was Hep-Lock, routinely used to prevent blood clots at IV sites. Without knowing it the new parents had just witnessed the first of two massive overdoses of heparin, another being given several hours later when the IV bags were changed. Finally that night the exhausted parents went home to rest. At 6 a.m. the next morning when they returned to Cedars-Sinai, they learned of the overdose. They rushed to their children and were intercepted by representatives from the risk-management division of Cedars-Sinai. The hospital was of course worried about liability rather than the health and welfare of the children. It outraged Quaid and his wife.