US Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Chief Deputy Whip, recently urged the US House of Representatives to work to prevent patient deaths. To view the CSPAN video, please click here.
98,000 people died from preventable deaths in 1998.
“In 1998, statistics show that about 98,000 people a year died from preventable deaths”, says Mr. Ellison.
Unfortunately, the number of preventable patient deaths has gone up since that time. Explains Mr. Ellison, “That number has grown. We are now at about 200,000 people a year who die in hospitals because of preventable death. That’s about 3,800 people every week. Basically, about two jumbo passenger airplanes crashing and killing all of the passengers.”
Mr. Ellison calls for coordination, saying that “it is possible to eliminate these deaths. It is possible through a series of measures to even eliminate them completely.”
In making this call, he cites the case of 11-year old Leah Coufal. Following surgery to repair a condition called pectus carinatum or ‘pigeon’s chest’, a fairly common condition where the sternum protrudes forward caused by an overgrowth of cartilage, Leah was in considerable pain and her doses of fentanyl were repeatedly increased to the point that it took three adults to hold her up. Tragically, Leah was not hooked up to any monitors following her successful surgery, and she was found by her mother in the early hours of the morning dead in her hospital bed.
Continuous electronic monitoring would have saved Leah.
To help eliminate preventable deaths, Mr. Ellison calls for continuous electronic monitoring of post-operative patients receiving opioids. As Mr. Ellison concludes, if Leah ”had been monitored continuously after surgery, hospital staff would have been alerted and Leah probably would have been rescued.”
As recently stated by Robert Stoelting, MD, president of the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), to prevent opioid-induced respiratory depression, “APSF recommends that monitoring be continuous and not intermittent, and that continuous electronic monitoring with both pulse oximetry for oxygenation and capnography for the adequacy of ventilation be considered for all patients.”
Eliminating preventable deaths is “something that we as a nation need to step forward and do something about,” says Mr. Ellison.
The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety applauds Mr. Ellison’s call for coordination to eliminate preventable deaths and continuous electronic monitoring of all post-operative patients receiving opioids.