Recently, the New York Times published an article telling the story of Scott Jerome-Parks. Jerome-Parks was diagnosed with tongue cancer, and doctors recommended radiation therapy to treat his cancer. Jerome-Parks agreed to this treatment, but little did he know that during his treatments the computers would be programmed improperly which would result in an overdose of radiation. This overdose occured on three consecutive days, not just in one single incident. The tragic error exposed Jerome-Parks to seven times the intended treatment. By the end, the treatment left him deaf, struggling to see, unable to swallow, burned, with his teeth falling out, with ulcers in his mouth and throat, nauseated, in severe pain and finally unable to breathe. He died in 2007 at the age of 43, only not from the diagnosed tongue cancer, but from the radiation overdose.
In the case of Jerome-Parks, there were opportunities to catch the mistakes, but operators failed to notice the preventable errors. While opponents of health care reform have proposed distractions, like limiting the rights of injured patients, this horrible tale shows just how wrong-headed a proposal that is. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable medical errors kill as many as 98,000 people every year at a cost of $29 billion. That’s like two 737s crashing every day for a whole year.
Instead of focusing on so-called "tort reform" and limiting the rights of people like Jerome-Parks, patient safety must come first. I understand that doctors are human, and that humans make mistakes, but when you have been professionally trained to heal the sick, and are devoting your life to making sure your patients survive their ailments, there is no excuse for letting a mistake this severe go unnoticed for three days in a row.
If you discover an improper drug administration hurt you or a family member, please call a lawyer who specializes in such cases.