Mary McClinton, an Everett-area woman known for her community leadership and career in social service, died on November 23rd last year, 19 days after a routine medical procedure where she received an injection from an unlabeled container of the antiseptic chlorhexidine rather than radiological dye. Virginia Mason apologized at the time for the preventable medical error that resulted in McClinton's death and then instituted changes to its medication and solution labeling procedures. As part of the settlement, Virginia Mason has taken responsibility for this medical error and advocates that errors be addressed openly and honestly by all hospitals to make health care safer.
The McClinton family has found some solace, according to Kahn, in knowing that news of their mother's death will likely save many others by highlighting the dire consequences of failing to label medications. "We recognize how difficult this has been for the McClinton family," said Gary Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO. "Care at Virginia Mason has been strengthened as a result of this process. Virginia Mason is committed to the elimination of medical errors and improving patient safety each and every day."
A recent survey of 1,600 hospitals conducted by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found that only 41 percent of hospitals always label medication containers and solutions in operating rooms. According to the survey, an alarming 18 percent of the hospitals do not label containers at all and another 42 percent apply labels inconsistently.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a national body that sets patient safety standards for hospitals and other health care providers, recently adopted new labeling standards that underscore the importance of medication and solution labeling changes throughout the health care industry. The new standards require all accredited facilities in the country to label all medications, medication containers and other solutions used in operative settings. "This change in the accreditation standards has been needed for years." said Kahn. "We are pleased that medical professionals are taking this seriously. Doing so will save lives."
The specific amount of the Settlement Agreement is confidential. However, under its terms, Virginia Mason will use McClinton's case in an ongoing training program to maintain labeling protocols for all new employees including doctors, nurses and medical staff. Additionally, the hospital will contribute a substantial sum of money in McClinton's name over five years to the charity of the McClinton family's choice including the newly established Mary L. McClinton Foundation established to carry on her work.
CEO Gary Kaplan, M.D., Robert Caplan, MD, Medical Director of Quality, and Chris Anderson of Fain, Sheldon, Anderson & Van Derhoef represented Virginia Mason at the mediation. "It was clear to the McClinton family at mediation that Virginia Mason was truly sorry for this tragic mistake," said Kahn. "Dr. Kaplan sincerely expressed an ongoing dedication to patient safety at the highest level. After this terrible experience, I expect that Virginia Mason will follow through with its renewed commitment to patient safety," he concluded.
A tireless volunteer and civic activist, Mary McClinton devoted her life to helping others. Born and raised in Arkansas, McClinton was a professional social worker who worked in Alaska for almost 30 years, earning adoption by the Tlingit Tribe of Juneau and the name "Jin-Koo-See'e" or, in English, "Hands That Make Dreams Come True." While raising four sons, McClinton also foster-parented eight children and worked to help countless others as a steadfast advocate for the disabled, poor, and disadvantaged.
Virginia Mason Medical Center will honor Mary McClinton through support to non-profit organizations dedicated to educating the public about patient safety issues. Virginia Mason will highlight this case in patient safety trainings and nationally when speaking about the importance of eliminating medical errors in health care.