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News1991September › Cardiacs : gps at fault › September 1991

Cardiacs : gps at fault

More reasons to stay out of hospital

More reasons to stay out of hospital.

Harvard Medical School decided to follow all the patients hospitalized in 1981 at Boston's Beth Israel hospital to determine how many of the hospital's cardiac arrests were due to doctor's errors.

Of 203 total heart attacks that year, 28, or 14 per cent, were due to doctor errors, of which 17, or nearly two thirds died. Of these 28 cases, 18 heart attacks might have been prevented by "stricter attention" to the patient's history, physical exam and lab data, said the study.

Nevertheless, the most common causes of these potentially preventable arrests were either prescribing errors or the toxic effects of the drugs (44 per cent).

In 28 per cent of cases, doctors didn't respond quickly enough to clinical signs and symptoms.

"Rapid, appropriate response to abnormal drug levels, to electrocardiographic signs of adverse drug effects, and to signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure or toxic effects from digoxin might decrease the incidence of cardiac arrest among hospitalized patients," the report said. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 5 June, 1991).

Another Harvard study in collaboration with many other American institutions examined 31,000 medical records from 51 New York hospitals in 1984. In an average of a quarter of the cases, "adverse events" occurred as a result of medical treatment, in many cases negligence.

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