ProPublica Wants to Raise Awareness on Medical Harm

May 16, 2016
todays headlines

Voices of Patient Harm

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, May 16, 2016 ~ Please help ProPublica put a face on patient harm. The nonprofit news organization, one of the few that has successfully continued reporting online, continues to explore topics of medical harm and patient safety.

The group reports more than one million patients suffer harm at the hands of doctors and hospitals in the U.S. every year.

Voices of Patient Harm is the latest project.

The numbers of patients harmed by mainstream medicine keeps rising. First reported in November 1999 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) "To Err is Human" concluded there are about 98,000 patient deaths each year from preventable medical errors. The Journal of Patient Safety in September 2013, reported the preventable harm to patients led to more than 400,000 patient deaths.

The San Francisco Chronicle did an extensive report in 2009, Dead by Mistake (which has since disappeared from its website), that found most hospitals and states have failed to adopt the recommended steps in the IOM report to keep patients safe.  One of the steps was a mandatory nationwide reporting system.

In the latest accounting, the British Medical Journal (here) in May 2016 reports medical errors that are not captured by code are not captured. If they were, medical errors would be the third leading cause of death at 251,000 annually in the U.S. conservatively, the data suggests. We spend money on cancer and heart disease but do not even recognize the third leading  cause of death, says researcher, Martin Makary in a radio interview.

That is where good journalism comes in and you can help.

voices of patient harmed


ProPublica, journalism in the public interest, is connecting more than 1,000 stories from patients harmed across the U.S.  Patients feel abandoned and they are not getting the answers they deserve. What’s worse, without acknowledging there is a problem, it is bound to happen again. The first step to correcting a problem is to understand its scope, including medical providers, hospitals and doctors.

Of the 1,000 stories collected so far, surgical, infection and device problems lead the types of harm. Disability and death sometimes result. Many readers of Mesh News Desk already know their injuries are not being acknowledged by their health care providers.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of medical providers and facility didn’t acknowledge the harm done in the reports collected so far.  Overwhelmingly, they do not apologize and the medical establishment does not face any consequences.

The head in the sand approach to medicine does not work.

Summarize your harm for ProPublica survey here.

See the results here. You have a chance to be heard.

Marshall Allen, ProPublica patient safety reporter
Marshall Allen, ProPublica patient safety reporter

Marshall Allen, who covers patient safety for ProPublica tells MND, "The information remains confidential unless people give us permission to share it. If we have permission, we share the patient stories with other journalists who might want to cover these topics or with researchers who want to study the reports from patients who have been harmed. There are places in the questionnaire where people can opt-in to allow us to share the info."

The Problem

Instead, the majority of hospitals still do not provide patients with information on hospital error.  When the IOM and the Chronicle reports on patient preventable medical harm were issued,  then President Bill Clinton sought legislation requiring hospitals make reports on its errors public.  Instead the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association opposed the push lobbying to derail it.

Legal settlements require a gag order so details of malpractice are not revealed.  Unlike airline crashes, where there are lessons learned,  medical errors hide behind a wall of silence.

About ProPublica

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that exists through foundation support, a small amount of advertising and donations. It opened its doors in 2008.

It mission is investigative journalism with a staff of about 45 and headquartered in Manhattan, it serves the public at a time when journalism is suffering in its search for new business models.

Image, Linda Nylind for The Guardian
Image, Linda Nylind for The Guardian

According to its website:

"ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
"Investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations have increasingly come to see it as a luxury. Today’s investigative reporters lack resources: Time and budget constraints are curbing the ability of journalists not specifically designated “investigative” to do this kind of reporting in addition to their regular beats. New models are, therefore, necessary to carry forward some of the great work of journalism in the public interest that is such an integral part of self-government, and thus an important bulwark of our democracy."


British Medical Journal, May 2016, radio interview with Johns Hopkins researcher (here), Responses to article by medical community here

IOM, To Err is Human, 1999 (here)

Institute of Medicine, July 2006, medication errors top 1.5 million a year here

Journal of Patient Safety, September 2013, here

Dead by Mistake, Hearst papers, August, 2009 here

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