Children Victims of Many Medical Mistakes

In a report from the April 25, 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and reported on the WebMD web site, comes a truly alarming report of investigation on the high occurrence of medical errors effecting hospitalized children. Based on the study, researchers investigated 1,120 children admitted to two teaching hospitals throughout the spring of 1999. They evaluated almost 11,000 purchases for medications and identified 616 errors which results in a 6% error rate.

Based on the study, many of these mistakes were fairly small and as a result of clerical problems. On the other hand, alarmingly 115 of those may have possibly lead to harm, and 26 actually did lead to harm to the children. In as much as previous studies have shown an alarmingly high rate for medical errors overall, this recent study shows that the number of potential problems was three times higher in children as compared to a previous study of medical errors in adults.

Study author Rainu Kaushal, MD, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, states, "Children present unique difficulties. Unlike adults, just about all pediatric medication doses have to be specially calculated. Pharmacists frequently have to dilute stock solutions to make them suitable for children. When a mistake happens, very small, very sick children may not have the internal buffers needed to deal with even a small dosing error."

Leon Wyszewianski, PhD, an associate professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health commented on a solution, "Lowering the error rate is not just a matter of getting physicians to change their ways. We have to change the systems that surround them. We have to hold administrators and managers accountable for solving problems like this."

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