Senators Introduce Patient Safety Bill Based on Recommendations in 1999 IOM Medical Error Report
Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.) yesterday introduced the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, which would implement many recommendations suggested by the Institute of Medicine on reporting medical errors, CongressDaily/AM reports. In 1999, the IOM released a report stating that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical mistakes, prompting members of Congress to consider legislation that would create systems to monitor, analyze and prevent such errors. The Breaux-Frist-Gregg-Jeffords bill would establish patient safety organizations to allow health workers to voluntarily and confidentially report medical mistakes. The organizations would analyze medical error data and make recommendations on medical mistake prevention. Previous efforts to pass medical error measures have "foundered," particularly because of disagreement on whether medical error reporting information should be available for use in lawsuits. Democrats such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have been "reluctant" to allow confidentiality for workers reporting errors in cases where a patient has serious injuries or dies because of a mistake. Under Breaux-Frist-Gregg-Jeffords, medical error information reported to the patient safety organizations would not be subject to criminal, civil or administrative subpoenas, nor would it be available through the Freedom of Information Act or legal discovery proceedings. Kennedy has not endorsed the measure, but a spokesperson for the senator said that Kennedy still is "hopeful" that an "acceptable" bill can be agreed upon. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the House (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 6/6).