Dead by Mistake

A collaborative effort by a group of journalists from the Hearst newspapers and television stations, spearheaded by Phil Bronstein, Editor-at-Large, Hearst Newspapers and the San Francisco Chronicle, has resulted in a series of articles and a website to expose what they call a, “critical and neglected health care issue that dramatically affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.”

The website and articles are called “Dead by Mistake” and can be seen at the following address: as well as on many Hearst publications. The Dead by Mistake website itself contains several articles with many interesting facts. They report that 200,000 people die each year from medical errors and infections in hospitals. Even with this high toll less than half of all states require adverse medical event reporting. When states do mandate such reporting, consumer access to hospital-specific information is either extremely limited or not available at all.

The series of articles started on August 9, 2009 in the San Francisco Chronicle with 2 articles titled, “Secrecy shields medical mishaps from public view”, and “DEAD BY MISTAKE – Avoidable errors kept out of view”. These articles and the subsequent ones by the team of investigational reporters not only reported on a series of tragic deaths caused by medical error, but also noted some glaring deficiencies in the system.

The authors of the reports note that experts acknowledge that there are some 98,000 deaths per year from known medical errors and an additional 99,000 from infections in hospitals. For some perspective, this means that more Americans die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The authors admit that these numbers are not absolute, but that part of the problem is that there is no definitive study or system of reporting to track the carnage.

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