Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, September 06, 2009


A new visitor's guide to this blog

Section 1: The silence of the media

On a Sunday morning in September 2004 – nine months after Lisa died – I was reading the Times Union and noticed that there were a lot of advertisements for Northeast Health. I found four of them that day, three of them in just one section, and all quarter-page announcements. And then it occurred to me that that I couldn’t remember when I had last seen a story about a medical malpractice lawsuit against Northeast Health, or any of the area’s other medical providers.

So I went to the computer and logged on to the TU’s own archives. Twenty minute later, I knew why I couldn’t recall a malpractice story.

There hadn’t been one.

Not for five years. It was as if not one of medical providers who advertised in the Times Union had been sued, even once, since 1998.

But a check of on-line court records showed dozens of such suits, many of them alleging deaths and serious injuries.

So I wrote to TU Editor Rex Smith and then-publisher David P. White, setting out what I had found and asking them for a comment.

There was no response.

Then I posted a column based on the letter.

TU ignores lawsuits

Later in another post I pointed out that the TU wasn’t refusing to print any stories about Capital Region medical malpractice lawsuits; only ones filed against its advertisers.

A tale of two deaths

In August 2009 Hearst Newspapers published the results of its investigation of medical errors. “Dead By Mistake” concluded that as many as 200,000 people – double previous estimates – are dying each year as a result of mistakes.

Other papers in the Hearst chain have run follow-up stories, but the TU has all but ignored the topic; Smith has not said a word about it in any of his columns.

The week “Dead By Mistake” appeared I posted an open letter to Smith, and sent it to him and publisher George Hearst III, asking for a commitment to follow up on “Dead By Mistake” by reporting at least some of the malpractice lawsuits filed against Capital Region providers.

Again, there was no response. And still the TU maintains its silence on local medical errors.

Smith open letter

The Cedeno tragedy

There was a time when the area’s media didn’t suppress local medical malpractice stories. In 1985, two doctors at Albany Medical Center Hospital made a terrible mistake that took the life of two people, a pregnant woman and her child. The case made news not just here but across the country. Here's how the story was recalled here:

Med error kills mother and child

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