Dead by Mistake: Medical Errors Kill More Americans Monthly than on 9/11

Dead by Mistake – an investigation undertaken by the Hearst Newspapers and a Columbia University graduate journalism class – sheds light on the miserable state of health care in the United States.

According to the report, “more Americans die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

Dead by mistake, the comprehensive story you see on this web site, is the result of two things converging: a team of skilled and dedicated journalists from across Hearst newspapers and television stations, and a critical and neglected health care issue that dramatically affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

The idea for the story first came in an informal discussion among reporters and editors from several papers; we were looking at topics to investigate that would have a significant impact on people’s lives. We decided that focusing on the plague of fatal but preventable hospital errors would be a public service.

Our team, which during the course of the project involved over 35 people – and an entire class of graduate journalism students at Columbia University, read thousands of pages of documents, disciplinary files, lawsuits, governmental, medical and other public and private reports.

Dates of birth, death certificates, “adverse events” statistics and whispered hints of information were reported out, studied, reviewed and translated into verifiable fact.

We conducted several hundred interviews across the country, concentrating on a half dozen states. Journalists 3,000 miles apart coordinated their work and their findings.

Part of the problem in seeking some solution to the unrelenting number of preventable deaths each year was that there was no comprehensive reporting of medical errors around the country. We set out to gather information not available and/or accessible to the public, or even to health care professionals.

In the process, we compiled and analyzed collectively nine databases, including hospital discharge records in four states, hospital administrative penalties, healthcare project research and whatever other available information we could find for the most comprehensive look at the issue undertaken to date.

Television and print reporters – like those at the San Francisco Chronicle and KCRA-TV in Sacramento — worked with each other, exchanging their findings and helping one another with their individual stories. Different areas of expertise in different places were knitted together to provide the most effective approach.

Photographers documented the victims. Designers for both print and this website illustrated the issue in a variety of dynamic ways to provide additional dimension.

Dead By Mistake, both in newsprint and on this site built to help people both understand and act, is the result of this uniquely collaborative effort.

We urge you to inform yourself about a subject that either has, or is likely to deeply affect your life, or the life of someone close to you. Please take advantage of the resources and action steps listed here to help fix this problem that has already been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of close to two million people in the last decade.

Click here to read more on Dead by Mistake.


One response to “Dead by Mistake: Medical Errors Kill More Americans Monthly than on 9/11

  1. Although digital records will help–not least because they are readable, adequate staff and a work culture that values patient care over speed is a huge safety net.
    Many errors are prevented because someone knows the patient.
    When the staff is so stretched that the patient never sees the same worker twice, when the nurse has no time to just listen for a few minutes, we are in a danger zone.

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