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This is the first thing weve done right with this kid, argued Dr. Epstein, after I challenged his decision to alter my sons course of treatment. Just listening to this world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon admit to all the negligent care that hurt James and trapped us in the hospital for months terrified me. As Dr. Epstein rambled on about finally being on the right track with Jamess care, I wondered if Id ever get my son out of this hospital alive.
This unimaginable nightmare all began in August 1982 when my youngest son, James, was admitted to New York Cornell Hospital in Manhattan, New York. He was diagnosed and treated with radiation for a brainstem glioma (tumor). The doctors told us that James would probably die in less than a year. In 1985 James was admitted to NYU Medical Center in Manhattan, New York, for what the doctors said was a recurrence of his brain disease. James was expected to undergo one surgery to remove the tumor and return home in seven to ten days. As a result of repeated mistakes by doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, James was forced to undergo eight surgeries, including one surgery that was performed without our knowledge or consent. Nine months later, my son was discharged from NYU Medical Center, permanently injured and totally disabled. Sixteen years later we discovered that James never had a brainstem tumor.
Living Scared begins as a heart-wrenching memoir but quickly develops into a hard-hitting expos that probes indifference, complacent attitudes, reckless behavior, incompetence, eroding ethics, descending standards of practice, and widespread corruption in medicine.
Medical Negligence Is A National Crisis
Screaming newspaper headlinesdoctor operates on the wrong leg! or surgical instrument left inside patient!have become a commonplace occurrence as medical negligence spreads pervasively throughout our nation. What once was so shocking to people now hardly raises an eyebrow because allowed behavior has become accepted behavior. Sadly, we have no one to blame for this atrocity but ourselves because our society has come to accept the avoidable mistakes that occur in all hospitals as human error, and thats wrong.
An estimated 100,000 people die from hospital infections every year. Another 100,000 people die from medical negligence. Some 1.5 million people a year are injured as a result of medication mistakes. Hospitals rarely blame doctors or nurses for the medical mistakes that occur in hospitals. More often than not, hospital administrators invariably blame the system each time a patient is injured or killed as a result of a medical mistake. Disciplinary action against the doctor or nurse involved is rarely executed. An example of this: Chief Executive Sam Odle of Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis said, Whenever something like this happens [regarding a medication mix-up that killed three infants on September 23, 2006], it is not an individual responsibility; its an institutional responsibility. The truth is, human negligence is often responsible for a majority of the mistakes that occur in hospitals; but hospital administrators will never admit to this fact. Instead, they shrewdly manipulate the public and minimize public outrage by blaming the system each time a patient dies as a result of medical negligence. This strategy works very well because the system is intangible, and people dont seem to get as fired up when the system fails, as opposed to a living, breathing human who failed to do their job and was responsible for the death of a patient.
This nationwide crisis, approaching epidemic proportions, has prompted the U.S. government to issue a warning to all hospitals to clean up their act after a national survey showed that 47 percent of Americans were directly affected, or knew of someone af