Why I Founded APRA
By Ronald Liss.
In 2009 my mother suffered a major stroke and was rushed by ambulance to her local hospital, which was a designated regional stroke center. After being examined by an ER doctor blood was drawn and a CAT scan was done. She was then placed on a gurney in the ER area to be examined by a stroke specialist.
She lay there with her condition deteriorating while my father pleaded for help… but nobody came. Finally, after FOUR HOURS, a neurologist showed up to examine her. He said it was too late to administer tPA, the clot-busting drug that may have reversed or diminished her symptoms.
We later learned that there was nobody approved to treat emergency intake stroke victims at this regional stroke center when my mother arrived, which was during the day on a weekday. At five hundred beds this was not a small hospital.
The hospital refused to apologize, accept any responsibility or even discuss the matter. And they gave no indication that others would be treated any differently.
My mother was treated in the hospital for three months and then released, with the left side of her body totally paralyzed. She died three years later, never having recovered.
She was a great mother, a kind, gentle person and the glue that held my father, sisters, brother and me together. We were devastated. I vowed that she wouldn’t die in vain, so I began an investigation into what had happened and why. It ended up to be a multi-year experience that really shook me.
I was rebuffed by hospitals and doctors who refused to talk about how or why a patient who was totally dependent on others to provide safe care could receive such poor treatment. But eventually, I learned why such information is being withheld by hospitals, doctors, insurers and even the federal government.
The horrifying truth is: anyone who is treated in a hospital can easily die or be seriously injured because patient safety is not a priority at most. That is why so many people who are not fatally ill or injured when they are admitted to a hospital are dying due to something totally unrelated to the injury or illness they were admitted for.
It’s All About the Money
Today, 80% of the hospitals in America are private and owned and operated by huge corporations, either for-profit or non-profit. They’re run as businesses with the main objective being to earn a profit (even nonprofit hospitals earn profits – called “surpluses” – the difference is how the funds are used, such as paying huge salaries to the CEO’s and administrators rather than dividends to shareholders). And usually it’s a very lucrative business. In fact, the boards of these organizations, which may operate dozens or even hundreds of hospitals, often pay the administrators of each an annual salary of $1,000,000 or more to ensure that their objective (to earn a profit) is met. But treating patients safely can cost money, so it’s not a priority.
As a result, preventable errors are happening at all hospitals big and small throughout our country every day, even major institutions. This is why doctors and nurses are frightened to be admitted to any hospital, or to have a family member admitted, because they know what’s happening.
According to medical experts, hundreds of thousands of people are being killed in our hospitals every year and millions are being injured, many permanently. But no one will take responsibility, no one is being held accountable, and there is little news about the preventable harm that’s occurring at every hospital every day. And most hospitals won’t do what’s needed to ensure that patients receive safe treatment because there’s no law requiring them to and no public outcry since the public doesn’t know what’s happening. As a result, preventable errors in hospitals are now the third leading cause of death in our country, after heart disease and cancer.
It’s an Epidemic
Hospital medical errors aren’t getting the serious attention they need and deserve, even though everyone who visits a hospital for treatment is at risk. The federal government doesn’t recognize medical errors as a cause of death. Medical error as the cause of death isn’t even offered as a choice on death certificates. Only a few states require hospitals to report medical errors. But even in those states, few hospitals report the errors and preventable deaths that are occurring. As a result, those causing preventable harm can’t easily be identified and the actual number of patients dying due to medical errors is difficult to determine – and that’s the way that the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association like it.
Patient safety experts are calling this an epidemic and there are estimates that it’s costing our country billions of dollars a year. And unless something is done it’s going to get much worse as Baby Boomers suffer from the diseases of aging that require hospitalization. But most hospital patients and their families are never told when a preventable error occurs, in order to protect the hospital, since there’s no law that requires hospitals to inform them. Hospitals generally won’t even provide their patients with information about how they can protect themselves from preventable harm, because they don’t want to increase their risk of liability or be held accountable when harm occurs. Plus they don’t want to lose any additional revenue from treating complications that result from medical errors, a huge conflict of interest. And hospital inspections are generally performed by an organization that is paid by the hospital (the Joint Commission), or by the state, which inspects infrequently and with advance notice.
Little Legal Help or Local News
Ninety-eight percent (98%) of people who’ve been harmed in a hospital won’t be able to find an attorney to take their case, because of insufficient potential reward for the attorney. And local news media won’t investigate or report on their local hospitals because they earn big bucks from the huge advertising contracts. So the general public has no idea that there’s a deadly epidemic of preventable harm occurring at their local hospital which threatens the life of everyone who is admitted there. As a result, no one is held responsible for the harm that is occurring and nothing changes.
After learning all this I realized that everyone in our country is being victimized by our medical system, our legal system, the complicit media, and our state and federal governments. I knew things were bad… but I didn’t know HOW bad. Something needs to be done. But change often occurs only when large numbers of people become concerned about something that affects them. And this epidemic threatens everyone! So I founded the American Patient Rights Association, a nonprofit organization for patients by patients, to advocate for safe, fair, transparent, affordable health care. Our mission is to save people from being killed or bankrupted by our broken medical system. You can help by joining our organization for free today and/or supporting our cause with a donation (any amount will do). Thank you.
Ronald J. Liss, Founder
American Patient Rights Association
WHAT’S WRONG WITH OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM?
Our medical system is broken. More and more people are dying due to preventable harm yet the medical industry only institutes change by reacting to legislation that affects its bottom line, mainly by revising its tactics rather than making any change that could improve patient safety or reduce the cost of health care.
As long there is no effective disincentive to the current way that medicine is practiced there will be no true change, more lives will be lost and costs will continue to rise.
Americans have few legal rights and no reasonable recourse with respect to any matter that involves their medical care. Our federal, and most state, governments have failed to pass any law which could serve to protect consumers from preventable harm caused by our healthcare system because the medical lobby is the strongest in the country. And according to numerous experts, people are at undue risk of harm, both physical and financial, whenever they seek medical treatment.
We need and deserve better.
The American medical system no longer deserves the unquestioning faith and trust of patients. The problem is generally not with the medical professionals providing care. Most are honest, decent, caring people whose primary interest is in healing their patients. Problems arise due to constraints and demands that our legal system and health insurance industry place upon them, as well as governmental regulations and the manner in which they are reimbursed.
The American medical system is based on capitalistic principals, but a free market system often lends itself to ruthless, immoral, and occasionally illegal business practices.
Too often when people seek medical care they are being harmed due to lack of treatment, over-treatment, denial of treatment, incompetent or poor treatment. Medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in America and there is compelling evidence that preventable medical errors may be the number one cause of death.
Even with Obamacare, often only those who can afford and have the right health insurance coverage benefit from the best that our healthcare system offers.
People who are in need of urgent medical attention but don’t have any, or adequate, health insurance coverage, risk financial ruin, or even death, due to the business practices of many hospitals.
Those who do have adequate insurance coverage may not receive the best available services in their market area for their medical condition because of a lack of transparency and competition between hospitals for paying patients.
They may also be subjected to unnecessary medical tests and procedures simply because their insurance will cover the cost, or they may be denied services because the insurer does not wish to pay.
Often people are at risk of financial ruin or death due to the unconscionable cost of medications.
Consumers need and deserve a voice, not just in their personal medical treatment but in the institutional health-care services in their local communities, and in health-care policy at the state and federal levels, that directly affects their lives.
WAKE UP AMERICA
It’s unfortunate that an organization seeking safe, fair and transparent health-care services and reasonable patient rights should be needed in America. But it is. It’s unconscionable that our country allows its medical industry to place its’ own self-interest before the health and well-being of patients. But it does.
I have seen, heard and read about too many people who have risked and lost their health or life due to unnecessary, inappropriate, incompetent or callous medical treatment, or their life savings due to outrageous fees charged by hospitals that bill for unnecessary tests or duplicate charges, insurance companies that employ reprehensible tactics to deny valid medical claims for sick and injured people who are unable to adequately fend for themselves due to their condition and pharmaceutical manufacturers that charge prices for their medications which are far higher than in any other country. Government information and statistics bear out the reality of those stories. This is the worst of America and it must stop.
American citizens should not have to risk their life or life savings when they seek medical care. Private hospitals should not be allowed to charge fees so unreasonable and outside the norm that they can leave middle-class people indigent and homeless.
The American health-care system should not be a gauntlet through which sick and injured citizens must run in an effort to find safe, fair, honest and competent healthcare services. Rather, such services should be provided and available as a matter of course.
Patients should not have to take legal action against medical practitioners, institutions and facilities that perform incompetent or cavalier acts that harm them, in order to obtain justice. Rather appropriate and effective patient rights legislation should be instituted to largely prevent such acts from occurring or to hold the responsible party(s) personally liable.
And insurers who fraudulently deny coverage of medical treatment or payment of claims should have their license immediately revoked.
Because the health-care market deals in a life-or-death product it cannot be left to its own devices, however, our federal and state governments have utterly failed to institute any effective controls. Rather our congressmen have allowed themselves to be influenced by well-funded private interest groups whose main interest is in earning greater profits from the sick and injured. And too many hospitals put their own interests before that of the health and safety of their patients.
It is time to start healing our sick and injured in a responsible manner and stop allowing them to be targeted as easy prey by profit mongers, or victimized as a result of paranoia, incompetence or indifference.
Wake up America. The need for action is well past due. The time to act is now
It’s a chilling, little known fact, that preventable medical errors in American hospitals are the third leading cause of death in our country, after heart disease and cancer. According to recent studies between 250,000 and 440,000 people a year are dying needlessly due to this problem. That’s more than the total number killed by guns or in car accidents, dying needlessly and helplessly in our hospitals every year.
But wait. That is just in our hospitals. It doesn’t take into account deaths due to mistakes in outpatient surgical centers, where much of the surgery now occurs in this country. It doesn’t take into account deaths due to mistakes in nursing homes and retirement communities where there is far less oversight. And it doesn’t take into account deaths due to mistakes made at medical clinics and doctors’ offices, which may be more common than in hospitals, where there is greater oversight and scrutiny by numerous health care providers.
If we add fatal adverse drug events in nursing homes (93,000 in 2012), fatal drug events in the outpatient setting (roughly 200,000 in 2012), and other healthcare harm in the ambulatory care setting, the total number of deaths attributable to treatment could exceed 800,000 a year, making it the number one cause of death in America. That’s an unconscionable and unacceptable disaster hiding in plain sight.
Millions of husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers would still be alive today if someone involved in their health care had done the right thing, rather than the quick, easy or profitable one. But what’s even more disturbing is the fact that the medical, health insurance and pharmaceutical industries would rather play with the numbers than do anything about them, and our federal and state governments have utterly failed to protect citizens, while more die each day. The American healthcare system has become a travesty visited on the American public.
There is no excuse for patients treated here in the U.S.A, the richest country on earth, dying because of poor medical care. It’s largely preventable – if there is the will to do so and responsible parties take the appropriate actions.
No hospital where a medical error may have harmed a patient should earn income from the treatment that caused the error or for treating any related complications until an investigation is made and an error has been ruled out. Any hospital that withholds or alters medical records related to a potential medical error should have its accreditation automatically and immediately revoked.
APRA is prepared to be the conscience of America for safe, fair, and honest healthcare services, on behalf of those who have been needlessly injured or have unnecessarily lost their lives due to our broken healthcare system; naming names and demanding change; pointing out what needs to be done but has not been, and not stopping until needed changes are made.
“Those who offer medical services or goods in order to profit, knowing those services or goods could cause harm but will not improve a patient’s condition, sell their soul to the devil.” – Ronald J. Liss
APRA is dedicated to the memory of Jean Liss, the beloved mother of the founder, who was the victim of a preventable medical error in a hospital.
“Success is not final. Failure if not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Sir Winston Churchill
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” – 1 Timothy 6:10 King James Version the Bible
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Health is not a human good but a universal right so access to health services cannot be a privilege.” – Pope Francis
“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” – from Sophocles’ play “Antigone”
“As long as the general population is passive, apathetic or diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who will survive will be left to contemplate the outcome” – Noam Chomsky
“The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. ” – Aaron Sorkin’s TV show character Will McAvoy in HBO series
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali
“If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” – Hillel the Elder
“When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson
”I would rather stand with God against man than with man against God.” – Aristides de Sousa Mendes
“I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed” – Robert H. Schuller
“The test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” – Pearl Buck
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” – Hubert Humphrey
“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, but vision with action can change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.” – Robert H. Schuller