An investigation by ProPublica found that kidney dialysis patients die or require hospitalizations each year because of catastrophic hemorrhages during the procedure, the nonprofit journalism organization reported. In fact, 1 in 5 dialysis patients die in the United States each year; that's nearly twice the mortality rate of other industrialized nations.
Seemingly simple mishaps such as dislodgements of the tubes that feed treated blood back into the body sometimes go unnoticed and result in death. But the larger problem, partially due to the fear of liability, may be the underreporting of such deaths or injuries.
Nurse and former dialysis clinic owner Tricia West explained the dynamics behind what she sees as a chronic lack of transparency:
"People don't want it out there -- it's liability, it's exposure. But we have to have transparency to learn from one another's mistakes."
Accidents happen, she acknowledged, "but it shouldn't be the same things over and over." Only a few states, including Georgia, require dialysis clinics to report incidents of unexpected patient deaths and injuries.
Having access to records of past incidents can help Atlanta malpractice lawyers prove a pattern of negligence in malpractice cases. More than half of states require such reporting for other facilities, including hospitals and birthing centers, but not dialysis centers.
That may change, though.
Dr. Donald Berwick, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' new administrator, is a revered patient-safety advocate who many believe will be more aggressive about dialysis center oversight.
When a needle gets dislodged or separated, both of which are relatively preventable, patients can literally bleed to death. Barbara Scott, for example, lost one-quarter of her blood to such a mishap and eventually died as a result.
Speak with an Atlanta injury attorney if you have been injured as a result of a physician's negligence.
ProPublica Report Slams Dialysis Centers (MedPage Today)
Consult with a Georgia Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
Man Wants Kidney Back: Divorce Claim for Kidney Donated to Wife (FindLaw's Common Law Blog)