Recent reporting by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer highlights important differences in how Washington and Oregon treat the reporting of medical errors. The article focuses on Washington, where hospitals are required to report their medical errors to state officials. It notes, however, that there are many holes in the system – notably concerning definitional questions. It also adds that such problems can be even worse in the 23 states where the reporting of hospital errors is not required by law.
Oregon, unfortunately, is one of those states. As the Oregon Patient Safety Commission’s website notes, its mission is to “establish a confidential, voluntary serious adverse event reporting system in Oregon.” Because reporting is voluntary, it is difficult to tell whether the 32 deaths from “preventable errors” in 2009 reported by The Oregonian earlier this year represent the sum total of deadly Oregon medical errors, or whether the problem is more serious than indicated by the available data.
In this regard the example of Washington is sobering. According to the Post-Intelligencer, even in a state where the reporting of serious hospital incidents is mandatory loopholes can allow obvious errors to slip through the system. The article I link to below tells the story of a Yakima man who went into the hospital for routine shoulder surgery, suffered brain damage due to nursing errors and died two days later. The newspaper reports that because the victim did not die within 24 hours of the surgery, however, the events were not considered to be related for incident reporting purposes. It took a complaint by the victim’s family for the incident to be formally logged and the hospital to become subject to disciplinary action.
The fact that Oregon’s medical error reporting laws are not as strong as they ought to be should give all of us pause. It also makes it all the more important that families of Oregon medical malpractice victims review their options with the assistance of an Oregon medical malpractice attorney at the first possible opportunity. A Portland lawyer with specialized experience in the field of medical errors can be your most important ally in the struggle to obtain justice in the wake of an Oregon hospital accident.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Despite law, medical errors likely to go unreported
The Oregonian: Preventable errors killed 32 patients in Oregon hospitals last year
Oregon Patient Safety Commission