WebM&M Cases & Commentaries
WebM&M (Morbidity & Mortality Rounds on the Web) features expert analysis of medical errors reported anonymously by our readers. Spotlight Cases include interactive learning modules available for CME. Commentaries are written by patient safety experts and published monthly. Contribute by Submitting a Case anonymously.
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Wendy G. Anderson, MD, MS; February 2012
An elderly man hospitalized with multiple medical conditions decided (with his family's blessing) on a DNR/DNI order. Following treatment, the patient was discharged home. Just days later a paramedic transporting the patient to the emergency department asked the family about advanced directives and they requested that "everything be done."
Rita Redberg, MD, MSc; December 2011
A patient with Guillain-Barré syndrome received more than the recommended number of plasmapheresis treatments. When the ordering physicians were asked why so many treatments were given, they both responded that the patient was improving so they felt that more treatments would help him recover even more.
Joan M. Teno, MD, MS; April 2008
Despite having a signed DNR (do not resuscitate) form, an elderly man brought to the emergency department with severe pain was rushed to the operating room for urgent abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
Stuart M. White, FRCA, BSc, MA; June 2007
Based on preoperative discussions, a patient undergoing knee replacement expected to receive spinal anesthesia; however, general anesthesia was administered, and the records did not note or explain this change. The patient suffered an unusual complication.
Jonathan S. Jahr, MD; Puya Hosseini; November 2006
An elderly woman underwent knee replacement, during which her airway was maintained with a laryngeal mask airway. However, she developed a fever and fullness in her neck, which a CT scan revealed to be retropharyngeal and mediastinal abscesses.
Bernard Lo, MD; September 2006
An elderly woman who had a DNR in place took a fall that required her to have surgery. Discussion with the patient's health care proxy led to the DNR order being suspended during surgery, with the understanding that it would be reinstated postoperatively. Several days later, a nurse noticed that patient remained 'full code' because the DNR had not been restored.
Mary K. Goldstein, MD, MS ; February 2006
Failure to enter documentation of a DNR order causes a severely ill elderly man to be resuscitated against his wishes. Shortly thereafter, the patient's wife confirms his wishes, and within minutes, the patient dies.
Neil A. Holtzman, MD, MPH; December 2004
A pregnant woman is offered genetic testing for herself and her husband. Although he declines, the next time he undergoes routine testing, the phlebotomist overrides the consent in the computerized record and runs the test anyway.
Darrell Campbell, Jr., MD; June 2004
Despite persuasion from a surgical resident that her mother's life was in danger, a patient's daughter refuses consent for surgery on her mother. This was wise, since the procedure was intended for a different patient with the same unusual surname.
Bryan A. Liang, MD, PhD, JD; May 2004
Understanding that she may lose her life without it, a woman severely injured in a collision rejects a blood transfusion for religious reasons. However, her parents persuade the physicians otherwise, and the woman lives.
Colin F. Mackenzie, MD; March 2004
Video monitors near the operating room reveal a patient's identity, and gossip spreads about a very private issue.
Albert W. Wu, MD, MPH; Peter J. Pronovost, MD, PhD; January 2004
A patient receiving end-of-life care, whose code status was DNR, encounters a potentially life-threatening medication error.
Marilynn M. Rosenthal, PhD; July 2003
An anxious patient awaiting ambulatory surgery is mistakenly put on the wrong operating table.
- Spotlight Case
Bernard Lo, MD; James A. Tulsky, MD; July 2003
A patient asks to be "DNR" because she misunderstood a vague discussion of resuscitation.