Today, Sept. 17, is the first World Patient Safety Day, declared by the World Health Organization to draw attention to ever-present need – still – to reduce avoidable patient harm in health care settings.
And November marks the 20th anniversary of “To Err is Human,” the National Academy of Medicine’s 1999 report that estimated as many as 98,000 people die a year in United States hospitals. That widely publicized report called for a national agenda to improve patient care processes to make it easier for honest providers to safely treat patients and harder for them to cause harm. Continue reading
Death is not something most people want to think about, let alone read about in the local newspaper. Reporting on end-of-life issues takes sensitivity, sound editorial judgement, patience and tenacity to develop relationships with patients and families, to share their stories and for them to allow a virtual stranger into their lives during such an intimate time.
Luanne Rife, health reporter at The Roanoke Times, not only wrote extensively about these issues, she gave readers a close-up view of the process through intimate and memorable profiles. Continue reading
Sacramento Bee health reporter Sammy Caiola worked quickly to give her readers the story about the death of a young California father from complications of a dental infection.
Her reporting began at 10 a.m. on Jan. 31 when she found the kernel of the story in an email. By that afternoon, Caiola had tracked down and visited with the man’s grieving widow, interviewed a knowledgeable local dentist on the causes of dental deaths and located peer-reviewed research that added depth and context to her piece. Continue reading
Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk and his daughters in an undated family photo before his death after complications from a dental infection.
The recent story of a young California husband and father who died after suffering complications from a dental problem serves as a sad reminder of the important ties between oral health and overall health.
Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk, 26, a long-haul truck driver, was headed east to New York when he started feeling pain in the lower left side of his mouth.
“He pulled over in Oklahoma to see a dentist, who diagnosed an infection and prescribed antibiotics,” recounted health reporter Sammy Caiola in a Jan. 31 Sacramento Bee story. Continue reading
Maintaining an emotional distance when reporting on life and death issues can be challenging; even more so when you’ve been following a subject for months, waiting for him to die.
Tampa Bay Times reporter Lane DeGregory wanted to investigate the frustrations many terminally ill patients experience surrounding aid-in-dying laws. She connected with a counselor from Compassion & Choices who introduced her to the key players in her story, “Prince Vinegar’s Last Stand.” Continue reading
Are there different levels of death? Are you alive if you’re brain dead but on life support?
Many journalists and members of the public are unclear about the nuances of brain death. According to this new tip sheet from author and researcher Alan Cassels, this confusion directly affects issues such as organ donation rates.
Cassels notes that while a patient’s organs can be “kept alive” while awaiting transplantation, brain death is legally the same as cardiopulmonary death – death is death. It matters because the organ donor transplant list keeps growing. Continue reading