Patients and families affected by medical errors organize a grass-roots movement

Victims of medical malpractice are mobilizing to help prevent medical errors and promote patient safety. Sorrel King created the Josie King Foundation to fund safety initiatives at hospitals in honor of her 18-month-old daughter who died after a series of medical mistakes. She also donated some of the financial settlement to the hospital where the errors occurred in order to start a children’s safety program. King launched a new web site,, with advice and information for patients and the medical community on how to increase patient safety and what to do if medical errors do occur.

Sue Sheridan’s son suffers from brain damage as the result of a birth injury, and her husband’s cancer went undiagnosed for six months. She is now a board member of Consumers Advancing Patient Safety (CAPS), a group working with the World Health Organization to help ignite a global movement promoting patient safety. Sheridan and Caps are now working with the WHO Patients for Patient Safety project. According to the organization, part of the United Nations, an average of one in ten hospital patients world-wide suffers some form of preventable harm that can result in severe disability or death.

Jennifer Dingman, who lost her mother to a series of preventable medical mistakes, co-founded Persons United Limiting Substandards and Errors in Health Care (PULSE). Related groups have emerged, such as Pulse of New York, which was started by Ilene Corina after her son’s death was caused by a surgical error. Cathy Lake’s mother died as a result of severe burns complicated by treatment errors so Lake initiated, a web site aiming to alert consumers to the risk of fires from surgical electric equipment. Medically Induced Trauma Support Services, a resource provider for families and medical professionals, formed the organization after she was almost killed by a routine surgery.

These groups have all had an impact on the promotion of patient safety, but sometimes parents and families are the only advocates patients have in a hospital. Patients, their loved ones, and medical professionals all need to work together to prevent medical mistakes. Victims of medical malpractice also need support, advice, and fair compensation. The work of these groups is just a start in a growing movement to raise awareness, and provide support and information. Visit any of the groups’ websites for more information.

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