Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Lisa and the press

Two books examine medical errors

The staggering number of deaths and injuries caused by medical mistakes might not get much attention in American’s newspapers - Lisa’s case is still the only claim against Capital Region medical facilities to be reported by the Times Union in the past eight years - but under the surface there is a lot of information. Two books published in the past three years examine the terrible toll taken by medical errors.

The first is “Wall of Silence: The Untold Story of the Medical Mistakes That Kill And Injure Millions of Americans,” by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh.

The second is “Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America’s Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes,”

Both books describe just a handful of the hundreds of thousands of cases in which patients were killed or injured as a result of an error. Both suggest ways that the country’s healthcare system can be made safer.

The second book, "Internal Bleeding," is especially insightful and well written. Its authors are both doctors. Among the cases they describe is one in which a non-diabetic hospital patient who was about to go home went into convulsions and then into a coma. As hospital staff tried to revive her, they were stunned to be told that a blood test showed her blood sugar level was so low that it could not be detected. They pumped her with glucose, but it was too late: She had received catastrophic damage to her brain.

She died two weeks later, just after, in accordance with her previously stated wishes, life support was withdrawn.

An investigation showed that someone had meant to flush an IV tube with the anti-clotting agent heparin, but had instead grabbed a similar-looking bottle.

It contained insulin.

Both books are available at

A review of
Internal Bleeding will be posted here on February 5.