Richard Flagg’s days became numbered the instant a New Jersey (NJ) surgical team cut out his healthy lung instead of the one containing a bleeding tumor in 2000. That surgery error made Flagg dependent on oxygen bottles and wheelchairs until his death in 2003.
Flagg’s story is one of many told in a series of investigative reports done for Hearst newspapers and published this past weekend on the website Dead By Mistake. My colleague Rick Shapiro wrote yesterday how botched surgeries, hospital-caused infections, inappropriate prescriptions and other medical errors prove fatal to as many as 200,000 Americans each year. Not addressed only because Virginia does not have a Hearst newspaper, the situation is no better here in the Commonwealth.
I’m focusing on Flagg because he did not suffer silently. Rather, he advocated for his rights and the rights of other victims of medical and surgical malpractice and negligence. Flagg twice traveled to Washington, D.C. (DC), in the early part of this decade to block so-called “tort reform.” Once again put on the table under the rubric of health reform, tort reform means no less than a government-mandated limit on how much victims of mistakes by doctors, surgeons and pharmacists can collect.
The federal bill Flagg protested did not pass.
Patients harmed by malpractice and negligence require justice. The Hearst investigations and the courageous example of Richard Flagg make this more apparent than ever.