CNN.com reports on the story of a pregnant woman named Kerry who was given a CT scan of the abdomen when she went in to the emergency room after experiencing bleeding.
It turned out that the hospital made a mistake in giving her a CT scan. The scan was meant for another patient with the same first name. As a result, Kerry and her husband are now concerned for the health of their now 15-month-old son, as experts believe that a fetus exposed to radiation may develop physical and mental growth problems.
The hospital was very up-front about the mistake, which they realized and revealed to Kerry and her husband right after the CT scan took place, and the emergency room doctor apologized for the error.
The article then goes on to list ways in which patients can be part of ensuring that such errors do not happen. While it is important for a patient, when physically possible, to be aware of what is happening and speak up if he/she sees something that is wrong, the patient is not the one being paid to provide health care services. Medical providers and institutions are being paid to provide high-quality care.
Systems need to be put in place to prevent errors from happening. Rather than relying on the patient to say, as the article suggests, "My name is Mary Smith, my date of birth is October 21, 1965, and I’m here for an appendectomy,” it would be preferable to not have to rely on a patient who is vulnerable, scared and in intense pain, awaiting an appendectomy, to be the one to make sure the surgery is being done on the right patient. It should be normal procedure for medical providers to ask each patient “Are you Mary Smith?” “Were you born on October 21, 1956?” and “Are you here for an appendectomy?”
If these questions had been asked of Kerry, perhaps she and her husband would not have to live with the worry that their son may be harmed as a result of a serious error.
-Deborah W. Wachenheim