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Book and Media Reviews
December 26, 2012

Killed by Care: Making Medicine Safe

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, and VA Connecticut Healthcare System, New Haven (daniel.federman@va.gov).

JAMA. 2012;308(24):2627-2628. doi:10.1001/jama.308.24.2627

A newborn in Canada dies after cardiac surgery. After 11 other infant deaths in the same unit, the persistence of the survivors' families leads to the shutdown of the surgical unit and to national, if not international, attention. A subsequent inquest reveals that no one checked the young surgeon's references or monitored the unit's performance, despite earlier complaints filed by one of the staff nurses, who was called “overemotional.”

So begins Killed by Care: Making Medicine Safe, a 47-minute production from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, released by Icarus Films—a provocative video that explores how medical errors can occur and their effects on patients, families, physicians, and health care systems. Although, as pointed out in the film, an estimated 10 000 to 24 000 Canadians die of medical mistakes annually, the number in the United States has been estimated to be 44 000 to 98 000 annually, more than the number attributable to motor vehicle crashes, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or breast cancer.1