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Alison Mynick, RN, Esq.
Alison Mynick, RN, Esq.
Contributor •

New Year's Resolution: Keep Count

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Today the Editor of the Boston Globe closes out 2007 with a list of 39 deaths from domestic violence. Senseless, needless, unjustified death. The Globe brings honor to itself, and the deceased, by humanizing these wrongful deaths. This is- no question-a generous and excellent use of a 6 x 18 inch space on the Globe’s editorial page. Keeping the issue front and center is part of bringing change, bringing down the number in 2008.

But, horrible as it is, 39 is a number that shrinks to microscopic when compared to the 98,000 deaths each year in the United States from medical negligence. These deaths, too, are senseless, needless and unjustified. These 98,000 deaths, too, leave behind the stunned and tearful children, fathers, sisters, friends, cousins, husbands and wives of folks just like us. When we lose someone to medical malpractice we are in the worst position to marshal our resources, find out what happened, gather evidence and right the wrong.

And the insurance companies are in the best position to keep the facts concealed.

Everyone talks about the “cycle of violence” that is perpetuated by sweeping domestic violence under the rug. Hold that thought, and apply it to the shameful secrets that are hidden in medical records, “peer review” reports and quietly filed away autopsy findings. This is the cycle of needless medical death.

Death from domestic violence isn’t simply the result of love gone awry. It’s more complicated than that. Similarly, 98,000 medical deaths per year aren’t simply the result of indifferent doctors or cash hungry hospitals. It’s a question of stopping the cycle of death by owning up to the existence of dangers in our system of medical care so that we can prevent medical accidents. And, as with domestic violence, it’s a question of letting each family know that their loved one actually counts.

If the Boston Globe printed a list of everyone in Massachusetts who died from medical negligence it wouldn’t fit on the editorial page. It would take a “special supplement”. But, like today’s editorial, it might make you think about the deaths as having happened to real people. And it might make you think about prevention.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Wrongful Death.