Online Program

Whistling in the Dark: The ethical dilemma of reporting medical errors to save lives

Monday, November 2, 2015

Karel Amaranth, MPH, MA, Amaranth Advocates for Public Health, Piermont, NY
Every day more than 1,000 Americans die in hospitals from preventable medical errors.  Death from medical errors is the third leading cause of death in the United States estimated at 440,000 a year and therefore a significant public health problem.  While efforts to reduce these deaths have focused on internal policies at hospitals and patient empowerment to report errors, the recent dramatic revelations of wrong doing leading to errors and the deaths of more than 40 patients, were brought to the attention of regulatory agencies and the public by whistleblowers who worked for the VA hospitals.  This exposure of wrong doing caused massive changes in the VA health care delivery system, but the whistleblowers suffered extreme personal and professional losses due to retaliation for standing up and telling the truth.  Whistleblowing  in any environment is extremely risky as indicated in recent high profile cases, but in health care there are clearly life and death issues at stake.  Based in theories of duty (telling the truth,) virtue (courage,) and ethics, this presentation will address:  the dilemma of reporting or not reporting; definitions of whistleblowing; a brief history of whistleblowers that changed health care and saved lives; retaliation; protections under the law and within institutional policies; how whistleblowers are and are not protected.  Hand outs will include a survey of the literature and resources.  A brief anonymous survey will be distributed and used as the basis of a discussion for participant participation.

Learning Areas:

Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Analyze the epidemiology of medical errors Explain theories of duty, virtue, and ethics as they relate to the reporting of medical errors and patient safety violations Discuss the dilemma of the risks and ethical responsibility to report Identify literature and resources for participant reference

Keyword(s): Ethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Karel R. Amaranth, MPH, MA, recently traveled to Uganda to facilitate a project she co-founded based on her epidemiological study of maternal mortality as a women’s rights issue; researched determinants of abuse of children with disabilities and developed the Moving Mountains project presented at conferences internationally; served with the National Center on Child Death Review, co-authored NYC legislation requiring a child death review team; served for 5 years on a hospital Quality Assurance Committee.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.