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Failure to Rescue

April 11, 2008

Before Code Blue: Who’s minding the patient?

High-profile medical errors such as operating on the wrong body part or receiving a mistaken dose of drugs should take a back seat to a far more common and insidious mistake, a new report reveals.

For the fifth straight year, an analysis of errors in the nation’s hospitals found that the most reported patient safety risk is a little-known but always-fatal problem called “failure to rescue.” The term refers to cases where caregivers fail to notice or respond when a patient is dying of preventable complications in a hospital.

Between 2004 and 2006, failure to rescue claimed more than 188,000 lives, amounting to about 128 deaths for every 1,000 patients at risk of complications, according to the latest report from HealthGrades, a health care ratings organization.

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