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Facebook Page Gathers Stories of Medical Harm

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 24, 2012

Robert Wachter, MD, a patient safety expert at the University of California in San Francisco and chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at UCSF Medical Center, thinks the site could be useful for healthcare officials. "One learns about medical mistakes through a variety of lenses, and this is another one," he says. "I suspect there'll be some interesting, useful information, a fair amount of ranting, and lots of people with painful stories they simply want to share with others. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out and whether it gets any traction."

ProPublica's team members monitor discussions and comment, posting relevant news or reference articles. As the site gets going, Allen says, "We want to do keynote question-and-answer sections with healthcare leaders and patient advocates, and whatever the topics are that audiences are most interested in, we'll try to provide useful resources."

I wondered how Allen's team will handle comments specific to named hospital facilities or physicians. "Let's say someone posts 'St. Augustine Hospital in Kansas City, MO killed my father when it gave him an overdose of morphine?'" I asked.

He replies that ProPublica will try to seek comment, "and to the extent we become aware of something we know is not true, we will take it down."

Allen acknowledges that the Facebook effort "is kind of an experiment, to be honest. We don't know how it's going to go or what direction it's going to take. We're trying not to control it too much, but let the members participate and engage one another and direct the direction that things take."

I know people at ProPublica personally, and the excellent reputation it has garnered in the last four years. If anyone can do this in a responsible way, surely this organization can, and highlight at a human level the harm that negligence and nonchalance can cause.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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2 comments on "Facebook Page Gathers Stories of Medical Harm"


Johneric Pate (5/29/2012 at 2:29 PM)
I agree with Joleen's comment.Myself and thousands of other patients have been harmed by "known" faulty plastic "temporary" pancreas and bile duct stents.These stents were proven to kill both dogs and pigs during FDA clinical trials.Why then use them in people?FDAclinicaltrials.gov has also done animal trials on biodegradeable pancreas/bile duct stents because"plastic stents have to be removed in a second ERCP."All research shows that after a 1st or 2nd stenting the patient will need surgery to correct the problem.I have had 6 ERCP's and NO surgery yet even with over 5 referrals saying that i need surgery to correct the problem.I was informed by many doctors/surgeon's that i need to leave the country to have surgery.Why leave to another country(something in which i can not afford)when the stent [INVALID]ions were here in the U.S.?The answer lies somewhere in between the lobbyist,speialist(doctors)who take kick backs from these faulty stents,and people in congress who take money form lobbyist for campaign incentives.The 510(k)process is a per(fact)example of this.As i die slowly because my liver and kidney's are failing from these faulty stents(in which a liver surgeon informed me that i never needed to begin with)thousands of other patients will meet their demise until something is done to correct the corruption.

Joleen Chambers (5/25/2012 at 9:45 AM)
It is easy for a consumer to pick out a good vacuum cleaner thanks to Consumer Reports-not so- for implanted medical devices! The IOM (Institute of Medicine) stated 7/29/11 that the FDA 510(k)method of clearing implanted medical devices (ICD's, surgical mesh, stents, hips, knees) is fatally flawed and should be scrapped. Yet the practice continues because the industry is so profitable and politically powerful. Patient harm (as a result of failed devices) in it's wake is fueled by poor federal public policy that does not require UDI (unique device identifiers) or post-market follow-up.