MEDICAL ERRORS: House Opens Discussion of Options
The House yesterday commenced hearings on the "high visibility" issue of medical errors, which kill an estimated 44,000- 98,000 Americans each year, CongressDaily reports. Unlike the Senate, the House will move more cautiously on the subject. "To say medical errors kill people is akin to saying diseases kill people and we should cure all diseases," said Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) at a joint hearing of two House Commerce subpanels and the Veteran's Affairs Health subcommittee. Norwood, sponsor of last year's patients' rights bill, is concerned that members want to add a medical errors bill to his legislation. He said, "We should be very leery of any quick fix solutions that may be proposed." Noting that the Institute of Medicine's report on the issue is old data, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) said, "The question is whether or not we really have a figure that reflects what's going on." However, Donald Berwick, one of the IOM members that produced the report, disagreed and noted that "while the data is old, new drugs and new technologies likely would have made the problem of medical errors worse." Berwick said, "We find American health care is unacceptably unsafe today. If we simply fired every health care worker who was involved in errors, and substituted a new person, our future error rates would not change at all. Blame won't help" (Rovner, 2/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.