While various news outlets have described the death of Congressman John Murtha’s (D-PA) as resulting from “complications following gallbladder surgery,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the “complications” involved an error by Murtha’s surgeons.
Mr. Murtha was first hospitalized with gallbladder problems in December. He had surgery Jan. 28 at the National Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He went home, but was hospitalized two days later when complications developed. According to a source close to Mr. Murtha — confirming a report in Politico — doctors inadvertently cut Mr. Murtha’s intestine during the laparoscopic surgery, causing an infection.
Congressman Murtha is not alone. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 98,000 people die each year in the US from preventable medical errors. And, this number does not even include the countless other people who are injured by medical errors. Rather than reforming the legal system that provides protections to these injured patients, we must focus on reforming the medical system in this country to prevent these errors from ever happening in the first place.