Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital commended after admitting to role in patient’s death

Admitting a mistake isn’t easy for anyone, but more hospitals are finding real benefits from taking a more up-front approach to discussing their own errors.

Timothy Harvey, 51, went to the emergency room at the Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, with what appeared to be a severe allergic reaction.

He was administered 0.3 mg of epinephrine, and his symptoms subsided. When they reappeared, he was given a second dose. Shortly afterward, he collapsed and died. Subsequent investigation showed the second dose was actually 10 times the normal amount.

Unlike the more typical circling-the-wagons reaction, the hospital spoke to the press about the mistake, admitting fault, expressing sympathy to Harvey’s family and outlining its efforts to prevent a similar mistake from occurring again. In response, a member of the state Department of Health and Human Services publicly commended Mayo Regional for how it handled the case.

Of course, it’s easier said than done to admit that a staffer, or you yourself, accidentally killed a patient. People reasonably fear litigation, professional discipline and the family’s reaction. But a handful of studies have shown that health care providers who immediately own up to the mistake actually face fewer lawsuits.

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