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Son Carries Father’s Legacy With Documentary on Medical Errors

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Sep 10, 2018

Medical errors happen all too frequently in the United States, and patients suffer serious personal injuries. An article in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ explained how medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death in our country, and hospitals need to do better when it comes to reporting these errors so that we can gain a better understanding of how to prevent them.

Yet medical researchers are not the only ones who are thinking about medical errors and prevention methods. According to a recent article in The Inquirer, a new documentary addresses the prevalence of medical errors and some of the work that has been done to make health care in the U.S. safer for everyone.

Eisenberg’s Documentary To Err Is Human Picks Up on His Physician Father’s Work

Michael Eisenberg, a 33-year-old documentary filmmaker, does not work in the medical field. However, his late father. Dr. John M. Eisenberg was among the first healthcare providers to address the prevalence of medical mistakes and to take steps to ensure that patients are not subject to unnecessary risks when they visit a doctor’s office or check into the hospital for a routine surgery. Eisenberg’s new documentary, titled To Err Is Human, pays tribute to his father’s work as the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The website for To Err Is Human explains that the film is “an in-depth documentary about this silent epidemic” of medical mistakes and “those working quietly behind the scenes to create a new age of patient safety.” Eisenberg relies on interviews with healthcare providers, and he tells the story of “one family’s compelling journey from victim to empowerment” while documentary patient safety efforts from multiple perspectives. The film’s title is derived from a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, which paved the way for research suggesting that medical mistakes result in around 440,000 preventable deaths each year.

Controversy Surrounding the Film’s Potential Polemic Qualities

The documentary was screened at the University of Pennsylvania, where Eisenberg’s father worked for decades. A panel discussion followed the screening, in which Eisenberg said recent figures that cite the hundreds of thousands of deaths linked to medical errors “is rather controversial.” As such, he and others behind the film’s production “worry that some might dismiss the documentary as polemic.”

At the same time, many healthcare providers emphasize that, regardless of the number of preventable deaths, there are far too many. Some commentators estimate that nearly 70 percent of hospital-acquired infections could be prevented with simple measures, while additional error-prevention strategies in hospitals could greatly reduce the rate of deadly surgical mistakes.

Eisenberg wants people to know about his father’s work at what is now AHRQ and the steps the agency has taken to help reduce medical error rates, but he also wants to underscore the importance of accountability. After the film screening, he said that accountability is one of the largest issues, but it is still difficult. Eisenberg emphasized that we should not punish those who make mistakes, but instead we should learn from them. The film is scheduled for a wider release in Fall 2018.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or someone you love suffered injuries as a result of a medical error, you should speak with a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer about your case. Contact the Law Offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth for more information.

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