Dennis Quaid takes on hospital errors

Oie_800px_dennis_quaid_dn_sc_04_1_2Hospital patient safety has a new celebrity advocate in Dennis Quaid, whose twin newborns received a massive overdose of a blood thinner last year at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center while being treated for infections.

While his twins bled profusely, Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, were met by a hospital risk management team, who instead of offering an apology and explanation, provided half-truths and excuses, Quaid told hundreds of journalists Thursday at the annual Association of Healthcare Journalists Conference in Washington D.C.

The Quaids’ experience has been widely covered in the press, and he and his wife recently started The Quaid Foundation to shine a spotlight on the 100,000 people who the Institute of Medicine estimates die annually from preventable hospital errors.

"Unfortunately this tragic secret in the medical industry will continue until the medical community overwhelms a conspiracy of silence and demands public accountability,” Quaid said. "I do realize that because I’m a known person, we have an opportunity to get the word out."

Quaid said he would testify about patient safety at Congressional hearings, and he has filed a lawsuit against Baxter International, Inc., which manufactures Heparin, the blood thinning drug that a nurse gave his twins at 1,000 times their prescribed dose. Baxter failed to recall its Heparin medications after a similar error killed babies in Indiana.

Quaid has not yet sued Cedars-Sinai, which, he said, also violated his family’s privacy. The California State Health Department has fined Cedars-Sinai $25,000 for putting patients in grave danger. As for the hospital bill, Cedars-Sinai told the Quaids not to worry about it.

Quaid said he applauds the hard work of individual health care professionals, but said the medical system is inexcusably broken. As a pilot, he offered up the airline industry as one the medical system can learn from, using the oft-quoted analogy that the number of people who die from preventable medical mistakes would be "equivalent to one commercial airline crash every day of every year."

Airplane crashes are dramatic, and thus attract public attention, which then demands accountability. Unfortunately, most patients who die unnecessarily in hospitals from medical errors, do so silently with only their family and friends as witnesses, he said. He plans to end the silence.

“Public accountability spurs innovation,” Quaid said.

SEE ALSO: "Dennis Quaid’s Kids: Are VIPs safer?" by Bob Wachter.