Attorney General Urges Stronger Investigative Power And Penalties For Hospital Errors

March 1, 2010

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today called for legislation requiring greater disclosure, investigative authority and increased civil penalties for medical errors at hospitals.

Blumenthal and Connecticut Center for Patient Safety Executive Director Jean Rexford testified along with people who lost spouses or experienced a medical error that will mark them and their families for a lifetime.

Senate Bill 248, An Act Concerning Adverse Events at Hospitals and Outpatient Surgical Centers, would require that the Department of Public Health (DPH) produce annual reports on adverse events in hospitals and surgical centers, including identifying the hospitals and centers where such events occur.

The bill would also require DPH to conduct random audits of health care facilities to determine compliance with the reporting requirements and to examine more closely reported adverse events. The proposal would also protect employees and others from retaliation for reporting hospital failures to comply with the law.

"The current law is a deadly and disgraceful failure, shielding hospitals and surgical centers from scrutiny and accountability and leaving patients in the dark," Blumenthal said. "Medical mistakes causing death and serious illness may go unreported, undisclosed and uninvestigated, undermining patient protection.

"Gaping legal loopholes keeping most hospital medical errors secret -- including more than 116 that resulted in death between 2004 and present -- are unconscionable and unacceptable.

"A prescription of public disclosure provides both cure and prevention from medical mistakes and a powerful incentive to hospitals and surgical centers to take the necessary, often simple and common-sense steps to forestall sometimes fatal errors."

Rexford said, "This bill provides simple solutions that will help the health care consumer. Transparency and accountability are key components of this legislation."

Currently, five states have passed laws requiring specific disclosure of adverse events -- Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington.

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