A Massachusetts family has received a $15 million jury award because the anesthesiologist and a heart surgeon who participated in a botched surgery that led to the family son’s death deliberately falsified medical and surgical records to cover up mistakes.
To a very small extent, a few medical and surgical errors are inevitable simply because no person, no procedure and no technology is perfect. Refusing to take ownership of those mistakes so the errors can be prevented in the future cannot be excused. The members of the jury who heard the case involving the Fox family and Drs. James A. DiNardo and James Lock of Children’s Hospital Boston correctly recognized these truths.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans get injured of killed each year by mistakes made by doctors, surgeons, nurses and pharmacists. The mistakes range from unavoidable to regrettable to inexcusable. I cannot know into which category the mistakes DiNardo and Lock made fall. I can unequivocally state that the doctors’ proven actions after making those mistakes were inexcusable.
Each mistake can and should serve as a learning opportunity. For instance, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices encourages anonymous and voluntary error reporting by health professionals across the nation. ISMP regularly publishes case reports on errors and offers recommendations for eliminating those errors. It may make sense to have similar, but mandatory, programs in place. States other than Virginia do have reporting requirements; nationwide rules would be even better.