On the heels of the highly publicized story of Dennis Quaid’s newborn twins’ near fatal accidental overdose of Heaparin, a newly released study in the April issue of Pediatrics journal, claims that nearly one of every fifteen children suffer from a medical error, accidental overdose or bad drug reaction while hospitalized.
This number is much higher than anticipated and along with the Quaid incident implies these types of mistakes are much more common than people think.The study, conducted by the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality, found that there were 11 drug related harmful events for every 100 children who are hospitalized. Based on traditional detection methods, the initial estimate predicted 2 events per every 100 hospitalized children. This new statistic translates to approximately 540,000 children per year.
According to patient safety expert, the problem is probably more wide spread than the study suggests since it involved only a review of selected charts. Additionally, the study didn’t include general community hospitals, where the majority of children in the US requiring hospitalization are treated.
Some hospitals are now using trigger methods similar to the study’s methods. One of the triggers on the list is the use of the drug Naloxone, used as an antidote for a morphine overdose. Symptoms include breathing difficulty and very low blood pressure.Other triggers are the use of Vitamin K, used as an antidote for an overdose of Coumadin, a blood-thinner, a lab test to identify blood clotting problems indicating an overdose of heparin and use of a blood test to detect insulin overdoses.
What can you do to protect your child while in the hospital? Be an educated consumer. Do the research on any drugs or treatments you don’t understand. Keep asking questions. Ask your doctor to clarify anything you don’t understand. You have to right to a second opinion. You have the right to question to every caregiver that enters your child’s room, whether he/she is a doctor, nurse, or medical technician. You have the right to fight for your child’s safety.