Woman’s death prompts Chicago hospital to focus on safety

When it was discovered that a patient at University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago had died after a series of medical errors, the hospital and the victim’s family made a promise to focus on improving the safety of patients. Since the woman’s wrongful death in 2008, efforts have been made to change policies at UIC and to focus on the concerns of consumers in order to better prevent other fatalmedical mistakes from happening.

The 39-year-old woman died after a surgery that had been performed at UIC. She was under anesthesia while surgery was being performed to replace a temporary stent in her liver. While in surgery, the woman suddenly stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. The incident caused the woman to lapse into a coma. She died nine days later, leaving behind two young daughters.

At first the victim’s parents thought that their daughter had died from normal complications during surgery. However, the family became furious once they discovered that their daughter had not been properly monitored while under anesthesia and that the death should have been prevented.

In many cases of hospital negligence or medical mistakes, the staff and doctors involved often attempt to deny or cover-up the mistakes that were made in an effort to preserve the reputation of the hospital and to avoid legal consequences. But after UIC officials learned of the tragic incident, an investigation was immediately conducted and the family was offered a settlement for their daughter’s wrongful death.

Since the fatal incident, the victim’s family has been able to work through their anger and they have shifted their focus toward preventing this from happening to other Illinois families. The woman’s parents and her sister joined the hospital’s safety review committee and now offer hospital officials a unique perspective on the concerns everyday patients and consumers share.

Together, UIC and the safety panel work through analyzing past errors and the concerns of consumers in order to find ways to better avoid and prevent other medical mistakes from happening. In response to the woman’s death in 2008, UIC now requires that an anesthesia specialist be present for specific surgeries including the type of surgery that the 39-year-old woman later died from.

Fatal medical errors are not uncommon in Illinois or throughout the entire U.S. According to the Institute of Medicine, it is estimated that more than 95,000 Americans die each year as a result of a medical mistake. Although thousands die from medical errors each year, the victim’s family hopes that their efforts will help to save the lives of others.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Family of woman who died after a medical error joins hospital’s safety panel,” Deborah L. Shelton, Oct. 7, 2011

Hospital Negligence


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