Medical Errors: How do you know when it happens to you?

Most of the time you (or your family if you are no longer around) know if medical negligence has occurred because the unanticipated injury is obvious or the patient has unexpectedly died.  However, this is not always the case which brings me to a recent article in the Roanoke Times reporting on all of the efforts made at Carilion Clinic to prevent medical errors. The article reports how every weekday morning, a 20-member team gathers at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital to talk about everything that went wrong the day before. Not to be snarky, but I imagine that is often a long meeting.

From my perspective, this was a “feel good” public relations article pushed by Carilion Clinic and Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

If Carilion really wants to improve the quality of care, it should conduct and disclose the results of post-accident investigations of bad medicine and bad outcomes.  Do they?  No.  Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (and all other hospitals in Virginia) hide behind a state law which prevents patients from learning the results and conclusions of those very investigations?  The investigations are required by the Joint Commission, an independent body which accredits thousands of health care facilities across America.  It would not take a genius to figure out who was behind the passage of this law which hides the results of those very internal investigations required by the Joint Commission.

Let’s say a patient is given the wrong medication or the anesthesiologist made an error in monitoring an operative patient’s vital signs which results in a brain injury due to lack of oxygen.  As the patient, or the family of that patient, wouldn’t you want to know what happened…why it happened…and who is responsible?  I would but, hospitals like Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, fight us every time we go looking for the results of their own internal investigations…and Virginia law allows them to do so.

Dan Frith

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.