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Ninety Deaths a Day from Mistakes in Italian Health System


Deaths induced by medicine have increasingly come under public scrutiny in the last few years. Now there is also a report on medical deaths in Italy, which is being examined today by the first Consensus Conference on Risk Management in health care in Ostia, Rome.

According to the Technical Commission on Clinical Risk, which was set up by the Ministry of Health, there is a problem with medical and hospital errors and it is estimated that these errors cause up to 50,000 deaths a year.

National newspaper Corriere della Sera has a piece on this:

Ninety Deaths a Day from Mistakes in Italian Health System

(original published on 17 September 2004 in Corriere della Sera)

Research by specialists and medical journals: 50 % of the deaths were preventable. Call for a group to monitor risks issued

ROME - A piece of information and a public event are reason for discussion. Medical errors are causing more victims than automobile accidents, heart disease and many tumors. It is estimated that 90 deaths occur every day in Italy by reason of medical mistakes, wrong drugs administered, mistakes in dosages of drugs and oversights in the operating room.

The data are widely different, they range from 14,000 (according to the association of anesthetists) to 50,000 (according to Assinform, editor of journals dealing with risk evaluation in the area of health care) every year in Italy alone: 50 % were preventable errors. And 320,000 persons are damaged, with a cost that reaches 1 % of GNP, no less than ten billion euro a year. This heavy casualty report will be discussed by experts, medical doctors and representatives of patients' organizations during the first Consensus Conference on Risk Management in health care, on 23 September at the Finance Office building in Ostia, Rome. The objective is to constitute a group to monitor health care risks and a medical errors database, which does not yet exist in Italy.

THE INQUIRY - "Risk containment initiatives in health care", said Cesare Cursi, Undersecretary for Health, during the presentation of the initiative, "have to cover all areas where errors can occur during a stay in hospital, such as diagnosis, treatment and general assistance to patients." A first report about mistakes in hospitals has been made by the Technical Commission on Clinical Risk, which was set up by the Ministry of Health. The largest number of mistakes happens in the operating room (32%), during a stay in hospital beds (28%), in the emergency ward (22%) and in out-patient treatment (18%). The four most at-risk medical specialties are orthopedics and traumatology (16.5%), oncology (13%), estetrics and gynecology (10.8%) and general surgery (10.6%).
Also, there are between 12,000 and 15,000 legal cases every year for alleged medical errors, although it is estimated that two thirds of the doctors are absolved in the end. According to Ania (the association which represents insurance companies), there are damage claims of 2.4 billion euro a year.

THE REPLIES - "No one can know with certainty how many causes there are, we're only dealing with estimates, explained Maurizio Maggiorotti, president of Amami, the association of medical doctors, who are accused of malpractice (so-called medical errors) injustly, commenting that the data which point to 90 deaths a day from errors in Italy. He says all the complaints are going into the same category of death and damage, like traffic deaths. The association has asked the presidents of the courts to extrapolate these data, but without result." But in this area everything is foggy. Each type of damage claim takes different routes, penal, civil or extragiudiciary. "It is estimated", added Maggiorotti, "according to the opinions of the magistrates, that about two thirds of accused are absolved."

Paradoxically, doubts about the research also come from the minister of health Gerolamo Sirchia, who through his ministry has been the promoter of the initiative of the observatory on health care risks. According to Sirchia, the estimates on medical errors are "exaggerated".

"Unfortunately, the risk in medicine will never be zero but with our engagement, we have to bring it close to zero", explains the Health Minister, "with systems of management which assure the quality of service. In any case, the errors range from slight to very serious but one cannot call them all very serious cases", even those which may cause death.

17 September 2004

See also related:

Medical system is leading cause of death and injury in US

Medical error - tip of the iceberg

Modern Medicine Pushing Poisonous Drugs - Says Doctor

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