As Boston dad John McCormack said good-bye to his 13-month-old daughter, Taylor, after she lost her battle with hydrocephalus due to hospital negligence, he made a solemn vow to be a voice for change in patient’s rights, according to a recent article.
Taylor needed routine surgery to relieve pressure on her brain. The McCormacks weren’t happy but decided to trust the hospital who postponed the surgery until 8 a.m. the next day. But around 6:20 a.m. Taylor stopped breathing.
Per Massachusetts law at the time of Taylor’s death in 2000, neither McCormack, nor his attorney, was allowed to participate in the medical hearings investigating the case, the article stated.
And so McCormack took up his mission “to make a wrong into a right,” he stated.
The good news for Tarrant County, TX residents: According to Jill Wiggins, public information officer for the Texas Medical Board, we already have similar legislation on the books, which went into effect Sept. 2002.
“The death of Taylor McCormack offers a window into the difficult, often painful process of finding the causes of medical tragedies,” said writer Anne Barnard. “Taylor should have spent the night in an intensive care unit for closer monitoring, the officials concluded in a report, which Taylor’s father provided to The Boston Globe.”
According to Barnard, the senior physician in charge of Taylor’s care, Dr. Craig van Horne, forgot that his pager was set to “vibrate” and fell asleep on his couch.
“In hindsight, the case required more rapid and intensive care,” write a doctor who reviewed the case for the report.
“To public health officials, the case is a classic example of how systems, not individuals, are mainly responsible for hospital errors, which a 1999 federal report blamed for 98,000 deaths a year,” writes Barnard. “At the same time, talking about systems does not capture how the death has devastated the people involved.”
The death has sparked policy changes and soul-searching at Children’s Hospital, which was named the nation’s top pediatric hospital for the 12th straight year by U.S. News & World Report and has been a leader in the movement to prevent errors in Massachusetts.
According to McCormack, Dr. Mark Proctor, who was called in to operate on Taylor after her respiratory arrest, told him and his wife, “Children’s Hospital failed you and they have to change their policies and procedures,” wrote Barnard.
The hospital plans changes in policies relating to communication between doctors, operating room scheduling, the settings of monitor alarms, and resident orientation, the report says.
For McCormack, there’s only one error that matters: his decision not to question the postponement of Taylor’s surgery.