At the age of 15, Helen Haskell's son, Lewis, died due to treatable surgical complications. Following a routine elective surgery, he developed signs of sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection. Like most patients in postsurgical distress, Lewis deteriorated slowly. As he became weaker and weaker over the course of many hours, his bedside caregivers downplayed the significance of his mounting pain and unstable vital signs. Finally, his blood pressure became undetectable and he went into cardiac arrest, from which he could not be saved. His death, like thousands of others, was preventable.
In this article, Helen discusses the erosion of patient safety reporting at the United States' CMS. Each year, CMS proposes changes to quality reporting programmes. Longstanding evidence-based patient safety measures, especially those used to detect harm to patients, are gradually being removed. These measures are largely extrapolated from hospital records and do not add to the workload of hospital staff. But they are embarrassing to hospitals, and hospital representatives lobby against them. The trend of downgrading patient safety is concerning.