A documentary airing tonight on HBO highlights the risk of medical errors during hip surgery, raising questions about hospital transparency and the health care system overall.
The documentary, “Bleed Out”, started as an effort by comedian and filmmaker Steve Burrows, to catalog what happened to his mother, who was left with brain damage and in a coma following hip replacement surgery in 2009. However, the end result was a 10-year effort to find out what really happened to his mother, a medical malpractice lawsuit, and this documentary.
Burrows’ mother, Judie, suffered a massive bleeding injury during her hip replacement surgery, losing half of her blood. As a result, she was placed in an electronic intensive care unit (eICU), which uses devices to monitor patients’ vitals, microphones and video cameras to allow hospital staff to keep tabs on the patient 24 hours a day.
However, Judie was in a coma for almost two days before anyone noticed, and Burrows found out that not only did no doctor go in to check on her, but they had turned off the cameras for patient privacy reasons.
As a result of her injuries, she lost her independence and ended up on Medicaid, lost her ability to speak, and is now in long-term hospice.
Burrows’ investigation involved recording, sometimes covertly, healthcare professionals involved in the case. What he discovered led him to pursue the medical malpractice lawsuit and ultimately make the documentary airing on HBO for the first time today.
Medical mistakes are estimated to be the third largest cause of death in the United States, resulting in the deaths of up to 440,000 people in U.S. hospitals each year, including problems like errors in drug dosing, undetected tumors or objects left behind during surgery.
A survey published in 2017 by researchers at the University of Chicago found that about one-fifth of all American suffer adverse events due to medical mistakes.
The study also found that the majority of medical errors occurred in outpatient settings, and that medical misdiagnosis and failures in communication between healthcare professionals and patients are the most common causes. Nearly 60% of those who say they had an experience with a medical error cited misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or a failure to diagnose as the problem.
Most of those surveyed felt that the healthcare system was generally safe and that care, overall, was improving, according to the findings.