KHSC must examine past mistakes to prevent future tragedy

Photo: 
Mistakes are inevitable, even for medical professionals. But if hospitals aren’t willing to be held accountable and learn from these mistakes, future patients will pay the price.
 
The parents of a Queen’s student who tragically passed away in 2017 have sued the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), three of its doctors, and a nurse for negligence and malpractice. 
 
Frustrated by the Centre’s apparent unwillingness to acknowledge accountability for its failure to accurately diagnose their daughter, Paul Battista and Cheryl Smith have filed the lawsuit with the hope of ensuring that what happened to their daughter will never happen again. 
 
Leah Battista was only 20 years old when she suffered a pulmonary embolism after being discharged not once, but twice, from Kingston General Hospital’s (KGH) emergency room in a 12-hour period.
 
Doctors at KGH, a site of KHSC, noted that during her two emergency room visits, Leah had a heart rate greater than 100 and had recently begun taking an oral hormonal contraceptive: two distinct failures to meet the Pulmonary Embolism Rule-Out Criteria (PERC). 
 
The next step in the process should have been to rule out Leah’s symptoms as signs of a pulmonary embolism through a simple blood test. The test was never administered.
 
Leah’s parents point to the hospital’s failure to diagnose their daughter’s life-threatening condition as evidence that KGH must re-evaluate their screening process for pulmonary emboli. The hospital disagrees.
 
KGH serves a community including countless postsecondary students, particularly from Queen’s. These students, often seeking medical attention on their own for the first time, deserve to feel safe, should they ever require a visit to the emergency room. 
 
Considering the large volume of students KGH sees annually, the hospital is bound to provide care for a disproportionately large number of young women new to hormonal contraceptives and therefore at an increased risk for blood clots, just like Leah Battista. 
 
If KGH avoids accountability for their medical omissions before Leah’s death, they won’t be able to improve a screening procedure that already isn’t foolproof. 
 
An apology from the hospital would have been a good place to start—but concrete change to procedure is the only acceptable outcome remaining from this tragedy.
 
The KHSC and the hospital as a whole should review and improve their diagnostic processes when they prove broken. 
 
They have a responsibility—to all of the young people who will walk into the ER, and to Leah Battista’s family—to learn from misdiagnoses that can prove fatal.
 
Tags: 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.