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Wouldn’t it seem like knowing a hospital’s previous medical mistakes might be important information to obtain prior to deciding to have a procedure performed at a particular hospital? Apparently lawmakers in Connecticut didn’t think so when they changed a law in 2004 that required hospitals to make mistakes, such as inadvertent cuts during surgery or serious falls, public information.

Lawmakers tampered with the law two years after Connecticut ordered hospitals to report adverse events. Specifically, Connecticut hospitals balked at the 2002 decision, thus prompting lawmakers in 2004 to react to the hospitals’ concerns by passing a provision that narrowed the list of adverse events that hospitals are required to report as well as keeping adverse event reports secret until after an investigation is completed. What’s particularly alarming about these “secret” reports is that 3 out of 4 of those reported events, some of which have injured or killed patients, are never investigated.

Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, has drafted legislation to repeal the so-called “confidentiality provision” which would require hospitals to report all adverse events—not just those that fit within a narrow list—as well as those that would have formerly gone “into investigation” for an unknown period of time. Furthermore, the state health department would be required to publicly identify the hospital where the event occurred and provide a summary of the hospital’s action plan to resolve the adverse event. Nevertheless, hospital officials maintain that more events will go unreported without the confidentiality, arguing that personnel will be more reluctant to comply with the law. This argument seems counterintuitive: instead, voluntary compliance as well as diligent attention to reducing medical errors would improve hospitals’ images, making it clear that they have nothing to hide.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Beth Leone

    I'm wondering how much lobby money went into the 2004 decision to keep adverse events secret? I'm afraid the almighty dollar wins over the rights and safety of others every time.

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