Thousands of deaths from hospital superbugs are going unreported, research shows
The system, which is supposed to protect the public, is breaking down left and right. Here’s the latest example, reported by Melody Petersen in the LA Times:
Many thousands of Californians are dying every year from infections they caught while in hospitals. But you’d never know that from their death certificates.
Sharley McMullen of Manhattan Beach came down with a fever just hours after being wheeled out of a Torrance Memorial Medical Center operating room on May 4, 2014. A missionary’s daughter who worked as a secretary at Cape Canaveral, Fla., at the height of the space race, McMullen, 72, was there for treatment of a bleeding stomach ulcer. Soon, though, she was fighting for her life.
On her medical chart, a doctor scribbled “CRKP,” an ominous abbreviation for one of the world’s most lethal superbugs, underlining it three times.
Doctors tried antibiotic after antibiotic. But after five weeks in the hospital, mostly in intensive care and on morphine because of the pain, McMullen died.
Her death certificate does not mention the hospital-acquired infection or CRKP, however. Instead, her doctor wrote that McMullen had died from respiratory failure and septic shock caused by her ulcer.
The doctor’s conclusion outraged Shawn Chen, McMullen’s daughter.
“It should say she died of an infection she got in the hospital,” said Chen. “She was so hardy. She would have made it through if it wasn’t for this infection.”
Dr. Yasmeen Shaw, who treated McMullen in the ICU and filled out the death certificate, said she was following directions from health officials by recording the underlying cause of death, which in her opinion was the perforated ulcer.
“Everything that happened to her health is a consequence of the initial condition she came in with,” Shaw said. “Had the patient not have had a perforated ulcer they wouldn’t have been in the hospital in the first place.”
An epidemic of hospital-acquired infections is going unreported, scientists have found.
University of Michigan researchers reported in a 2014 study that infections – both those acquired inside and outside hospitals – would replace heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in hospitals if the count was performed by looking at patients’ medical billing records, which show what they were being treated for, rather than death certificates.
“Even if one person dies from a hospital-acquired infection, it’s one too many,” said Dr. Chesley Richards, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Health Statistics and who met recently with a group of families to discuss the misleading death certificates.
California does not track deaths from hospital-acquired infections. And unlike two dozen other states, California does not . . .