'A Principled Approach to Medical Mistakes' To Be Addressed at 54th Annual International Congress for Respiratory Therapists

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 General News
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DALLAS, Dec. 9 Dr. Timothy McDonald, physician, attorneyand chief safety and risk officer for Health Affairs at the University ofIllinois Medical Center, will give the keynote address titled "The Legal andEthical Pitfalls in Respiratory Care," at the 54th Annual American Associationfor Respiratory Care (AARC) International Respiratory Congress at the AnaheimConvention Center on Saturday, Dec. 13 beginning at 10:15 a.m.

One of the issues Dr. McDonald will address is the legal and ethicalissues facing respiratory therapists (RTs) when they make a mistake whiletreating a patient. He gives RTs the same advice he recommends to physicians.With the context of a clear process of reporting and investigating adverseoutcomes, RTs should be empowered to admit and discuss their mistakes withcolleagues and patients, to apologize and do everything possible to correctthe problem as it occurs. By promptly disclosing medical errors, medicalprofessionals - including RTs - can restore and maintain trust with theirpatients.

"This is not a recommendation most malpractice attorneys would support,but it has proven to be the right and smart thing to do for both physiciansand patients," said Dr. McDonald, who received his medical education atIndiana University and law degree from Loyola University. "Patients want anddeserve to be treated honestly and fairly. With the context of an appropriateprocess, once a physician, respiratory therapist or any medical professionaltakes responsibility for an error and then works to correct that error, thelikelihood of a lawsuit significantly diminishes. It's the right thing to do."

Two years after the University of Illinois instituted their comprehensiveapproach to adverse patient events, the institution has actually seen areduction in lawsuits and has not seen the financial medical malpracticecatastrophe that many predicted with such a program that included apologyafter error. Respiratory therapists play a key role in both the investigationand process improvement aspects of their program.


This year, more than 6,000 respiratory therapists, managers, educators,physicians, and clinicians will be in attendance at the 54th Annual AmericanAssociation for Respiratory Care International Respiratory Congress. A fullschedule of lectures, poster presentations and educational seminars are postedat www.AARC.org.

This year's convention officially opens on Saturday, Dec. 13 with aplenary session at 8:30 a.m. led by Sam P. Giordano, executive director of theAARC. The exhibition hall will be officially opened at 11 a.m. with 2008 AARCpresident Toni Rodriguez joining incoming 2009 president Timothy R Myers in aribbon-cutting ceremony.

"One of the aspects of our industry that has evolved rapidly is how hightech we have become over the past decade, which will be evident by many of thedisplays in the exhibition hall," said Rodriguez, EdD, RRT. "Respiratorytherapists have always been technically savvy, but with new technologyintroduced to the profession, it has certainly taken that expertise to thenext level."

About the AARC

The American Association for Respiratory Care, headquartered in Dallas, isa professional association of respiratory therapists that focuses primarily onrespiratory therapy education and research. The organization's goals are toensure that respiratory patients receive safe and effective care fromqualified professionals as well as supporting respiratory health careproviders. The association continues to advocate on behalf of pulmonarypatients for appropriate access to respiratory services provided by qualifiedprofessionals. Further information about the AARC and how to become arespiratory therapist are available at www.AARC.org. The AARC also offers arespiratory patient information site at www.YourLungHealth.org.

SOURCE American Association for Respiratory Care

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