Two Words Can Soothe Patients Who Have Been Harmed

Kaiser Health News, March 15, 2017

Programs to circumvent litigation by offering prompt disclosure, apology and compensation for mistakes as an alternative to malpractice suits are becoming more popular.

Programs to circumvent litigation by offering prompt disclosure, apology and compensation for mistakes as an alternative to malpractice suits are becoming more popular.

This article first appeared March 15, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Sandra G. Boodman

When Donna Helen Crisp, a 59-year-old nursing professor, entered a North Carolina teaching hospital for a routine hysterectomy in 2007, she expected to come home the next day.

Instead, Crisp spent weeks in a coma and underwent five surgeries to correct a near-fatal cascade of medical errors that left her with permanent injuries. Desperate for an explanation, Crisp, who is also a lawyer, said she repeatedly encountered a white wall of silence: The hospital and her surgeon refused to say little more than "things didn't go well." Crisp spent years piecing together what happened. "I decided I was going to find out even if it takes the rest of my life," she said.

Jack Gentry said he "went into the hospital a patient and came out a victim." In 2013, the retired Baltimore police officer suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury during disk replacement surgery at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital that left him a quadriplegic.

But unlike Crisp, Gentry and his wife, a nurse, were immediately told what had gone wrong by his surgeon, who apologized for the error. The hospital covered Gentry's rehabilitation and other major expenses and paid an undisclosed amount in compensation, all without litigation.

"When hospitals mess up, they need to do the right thing," Gentry said. "MedStar did."

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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