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Faces Of Medical Error: The Story Of Michael Skolnik

I was very sad and quite angry after watching a powerful video this weekend entitled ”The Faces of Medical Error: From Tears to Transparency.” It’s the story of Michael Skolnik. His mother, Patty, gave me the video when I met her recently. Michael had what may have been unnecessary brain surgery in 2001 and died three years later.

The Skolniks worked on this video as part of an educational campaign on medical error, and they created an organization now named Citizens for Patient Safety. Here’s a trailer to the video:

You can also watch a Today Show segment that profiled the Skolniks from a few years ago:

While much of the message is about medical errors and malpractice, the Skolniks also promote a message of the “critical need for shared decision-making.” In fact, I met Patty at a shared decision-making conference.

If you haven’t heard Michael Skolnik’s story, you should. And if you’re like me, you’ll need a tissue box close by for the sadness, and something else to help with the ensuing anger.

Thanks to Patty Skolnik for sharing the story and the video with me.

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Confronting The “Empty Cradles” Of Infant Mortality

empty_cradles_logo.jpgI have gushed praise for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a long time. (Disclosure: I cut my teeth in journalism as a Journal Company employee way back in 1973. No ties since 1976.) As a mid-market newspaper facing all of the same hurdles as other newspapers, it consistently demonstrates tenacity and creativity in tackling vital healthcare issues in this country. The latest: A project called “Empty Cradles: Confronting Our Infant Mortality Crisis.”

While there is a great health/medicine/science team in place at the Journal Sentinel, I believe that much of the credit goes to the top — to editor Marty Kaiser, who clearly understands that healthcare issues are among the most important his paper can report on in serving public needs. Kaiser writes:

“The Journal Sentinel today takes on an issue we have too long ignored — the death of children before their first birthday. Infant mortality is a crisis not just of public health, but of ethics and morality. The rate at which infants die in our city is unacceptable. In 2011 we will examine the problem and point to solutions.”

The project is off to a great start, taking a global picture and focusing it locally. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Sudden Death In Young Athletes And Routine Cardiac Screening

It’s the dog days of what seems to have been an unusually hot summer (though DrRich does not know whether it has been sufficiently warm to affect the global cooling trend we’ve been in for the past decade), and as is all too common at this time of year, we are seeing extraordinarily heartbreaking stories (like this one) about healthy, robust young athletes dying suddenly on the practice fields.

Most of these tragic sudden deaths are due to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often does not produce any symptoms prior to causing sudden death. But it can be easily diagnosed, before exercise-induced sudden death occurs, by screening young athletes with electocardiograms (ECGs) and echocardiography.

A couple of summers ago, the New York Times wrote about such an athletic screening program at the University of Tennessee. Based on the U of T’s results, “cardiologists and other heart experts say that the screenings could help save the lives of the 125 American athletes younger than 35 who die each year of sudden cardiac death.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Responsible Vaccine Advocacy: How To Make A Difference

I lost a patient this season, an infant, to whooping cough (pertussis). After falling ill, he lived for nearly a month in the intensive care unit on a ventilator, three weeks of which was spent on a heart/lung bypass machine (ECMO) due to the extent of the damage to his lungs. But all our efforts were in vain. The most aggressive and advanced care medicine has to offer couldn’t save his life. The only thing that could have saved him would have been to prevent him from contracting pertussis in the first place.

He was unvaccinated, but that was because of his age. He was part of the population that is fully dependent on herd immunity for protection, and that is exquisitely prone to a life-threatening course once infected. This is a topic we’ve covered ad nauseum, and I’m not inclined to go into greater depth in this post. Suffice it to say his death is a failure at every level. We, both as medical professionals and as a society at large, need to do a better job of protecting our children from preventable diseases. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

A Significant Pediatric Moment

I hate pediatrics. People who don’t understand the life of surgery may think this means I don’t like children, but in fact the contrast is true.

Surgery is suffering and heartache. Surgery is pain and misery. It’s stuff children aren’t supposed to experience.

Children are supposed to be caught up in the joys of life. They’re supposed to play and smell the roses along life’s paths. Pain will come later, but childhood is supposed to be a sanctuary, albeit temporary from the harsh realities of life. And when life gets harsh, they may need to come to me.

I once spoke about a very special boy who crossed my path. His death still haunts me, but there was another incident which drove the wedge between myself and pediatric surgery forever. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at other things amanzi*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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