#209 ‒ Medical mistakes, patient safety, and the RaDonda Vaught case | Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H.

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Marty Makary is a surgeon, public policy researcher, and author of the New York times best-sellers Unaccountable and The Price We Pay. In this episode, Marty dives deep into the topic of patient safety. He describes the risk of medical errors that patients face when they walk into the hospital and how those errors take place, and he highlights what amounts to an epidemic of medical mistakes. He explains how the culture of patient safety has advanced in recent decades, the specific improvements driven by a patient safety movement, and what’s holding back further progress. The second half of this episode discusses the high-profile case of RaDonda Vaught, a nurse at Vanderbilt Hospital convicted of negligent homicide after she mistakenly gave a patient the wrong medication in 2017. He discusses the fallout from this case and how it has in some ways unraveled decades of progress in patient safety. Furthermore, Marty provides insights in how to advocate for a loved one in the hospital, details the changes needed to meaningfully reduce the death rate from medical errors, and provides a hopeful vision for future improvements to patient safety.

We discuss:

  • Brief history of patient safety, preventable medical mistakes, and catalysts for major changes to patient safety protocols [0:12];
  • Advancements in patient safety and the dramatic reduction in central line infections [14:55];
  • A surgical safety checklist—a major milestone in patient safety [23:03];
  • A tragic case stimulates a culture of speaking up about concerns among surgical teams [25:19];
  • Studies showing the ubiquitous nature of medical mistakes leading to patient death [29:42];
  • The medical mistake of over-prescribing of opioids [33:48];
  • Other types of errors—electronic medical records, nosocomial infections, and more [35:43];
  • Importance of honesty from physicians and what really drives malpractice claims [40:26];
  • A high-profile medical mistake case involving nurse RaDonda Vaught [47:31];
  • Investigations leading to the arrest of RaDonda Vaught [59:48];
  • Vaught’s trial—a charge of “negligent homicide” [1:05:16];
  • A guilty charge and an outpouring of support for Vaught [1:12:09];
  • Concerns from the nursing profession over the RaDonda Vaught conviction [1:18:09];
  • How to advocate for a friend or family member in the hospital [1:20:22];
  • Changes needed for meaningful reduction in the death rate from medical errors [1:26:42];
  • Blind spots in our current national funding mechanism and the need for more research into patient safety [1:31:42];
  • Parting thoughts—where do we go from here? [1:35:48];
  • More.

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