Doctors' mistakes cause insurance 'crisis'
By JERRY SAGEN
MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE killed my
wife, Mary Sagen, in 1996. She was 45 years old. Her young
daughter, her mother, her brothers and I all miss her terribly.
An article in the Nov. 23 Commentary section by Dr. Glenn
Keiper, a Eugene neurosurgeon, rails against the legal profession,
the courts and "suit happy" victims for supposedly
increasing the cost of medical malpractice insurance in Oregon.
Keiper's column was glaring in its omissions, and it failed
to address the real issue: Needless mistakes kill and injure
a shockingly large number of patients.
Well-regarded studies reported in The Register-Guard estimate
that misprescribed and over-the-counter drugs alone kill more
than 100,000 Americans every year. Another 100,000 die in
hospitals each year because of preventable errors. Injuries
from medical negligence are estimated at 1 million.
With such an ongoing national crisis, one might hope doctors
would join in the outcry for accountability and for safer
medicine. What is the medical community doing to eliminate
needless mistakes, which would be the easiest and most obvious
way to cut malpractice insurance costs?
Medical safety advocate Dr. Sidney Wolf, director of Public
Citizen, and Thomas Moore, author of "Prescription for
Disaster," conclude that serious and fatal medical mistakes
could be reduced by half or more. Recommended actions include
mandatory reporting of all medical mistakes to the Food and
Drug Administration on who is getting hurt and why; computer
cross-checking at the pharmacy that could reduce drug interactions
and prescription errors; and doctor prescriptions that are
The FDA estimates that only 1 out of 10 deaths or serious
injuries are reported; however, many experts believe that
it is closer to 1 out of 100. With mandatory reporting, the
FDA would know more quickly which medical practices and procedures
are safe and which are not.
The medical community admits it is reluctant to report medical
mistakes to quality improvement groups such as the FDA, fearing
that this information might be used against them. This seems
like trying to justify a hit-and-run when involved in an auto
Complications from circumcision
are much higher than previously thought; over two-thirds of
penile trauma cases seen in hospitals are due to doctors'
mistakes during circumcisions a new study says.
"Fear, pain, crippling, disfigurement and humiliation
are the classic ways
to break the human spirit. Circumcision includes them all."
Not only is the patient's health in jeopardy, doctors are
liable for these mistakes. The most common doctor's mistakes
are damaging the urethra, removing too much tissue, and glans
Dr. George Denniston, director of Doctors Opposing Circumcision
"Circumcision is not risk free. It is too risky for elective
surgery. If parents knew how many times surgeons botched this
operation, they would keep their baby boys far, far away from
the circumciser's knives. Medical students often perform circumcision
unsupervised. Sometimes a circumcised boy is sent home without
the parents ever being informed of problems that occurred
during or as a result of the circumcision until penile dysfunction
becomes obvious years later. At other times, additional surgery
is immediately required and, in some cases, the boy is sexually
re-assigned as a girl."
"I will go to my grave hearing the screams of a tormented
baby in my ears,"
says Marilyn Milos, Director of the National Organizations
of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC) about
the first circumcision she witnessed in nursing school. "As
I watched in disbelief, I began to cry. The doctor looked
up at me and said, 'There is no medical reason for doing this.
' Surely, this pain and suffering is an unacknowledged complication,
More and more studies are showing that a host of complications
circumcision-not only physical trauma as illustrated in this
study, but emotional trauma and sexual dysfunction, too. All
circumcised men exhibit
one or more complications. Many of these men are suffering
from post-traumatic stress disorder because of circumcision,
while we wonder why they aren't emotionally available to loved
Liability for this surgery is increasing as more malpractice
lawsuits are being filed to compensate for complications.