Can Patient Safety save a President?

As part of TSPER2014, we were able to read some fantastic books/articles/stories. They opened my eyes to the consequences of failing to make patient safety a priority.  I’d like to add another to the list (and give a recommendation for anyone looking for a good read).

Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard is the story of James Garfield, our 20th President of the US. Garfield is often forgotten as a president, perhaps because his legacy was cut short by his assassination in the middle of his Presidency. This book goes into the details of that story and what could have happened if he hadn’t been shot.

But what does that have to do with patient safety? The truly interesting part of Garfield’s story is the medical care he received after being shot. At the hands of his doctors, a very survivable trauma became 11 weeks of torture and pain. It was so bad that his assassin claimed as a defense at his trial: [I didn’t kill him] “General Garfield died from malpractice,”  When we talk about the cultural change we need to happen in medicine, I can understand why it’s such a hard change to make. We’ve been harming patients for hundreds of years, and it kills people every day: sometimes children; sometimes mothers, sometimes, Presidents.

Helen Haskell mentioned in the video that the only place her son wasn’t safe was the hospital. If he had been anywhere else, he’d be alive. Look at Garfield: his doctors did more damage than the man who was purposefully trying to kill him.

To learn a little more about the story, and about the book: