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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I should be an indignant patient-plaintiff: Apology for drug interactions and other medical errors

Amy Silverstein’s story:
For the many errors that I have witnessed as a heart transplant patient at a well-regarded New York City hospital over the last 20 years, there has been only one doctor with the courage and character to say "I'm sorry."

I should be one of the "indignant" patient-plaintiffs who send legal costs and insurance rates soaring, but I am not. Money cannot heal the ways that I – and many other patients – have been damaged.

It does not take the surgical removal of the wrong kidney or arm – the stuff of lawsuits – to bring about the kind of injury worthy of a hospital's attention. A patient fills a prescription written by her doctor, only to be warned by the package insert that the drug interacts dangerously with another medication prescribed by this same doctor, and there is error, destruction of trust and near loss of life. And no one pays attention.

Even without the threat of lawsuit, a wronged patient deserves some long, hard thought among doctors and hospital administrators.

The writer is the author of "Sick Girl," a memoir.

Advice: Read the package insert after you pick up your prescription.

Read a celebrity’s fatal drug interaction story.

Thanks to Amy for her source letter to the editor, printed in the May 26 issue of the New York Times.

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