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Denis Quaid Redux of Speech to ASHP

12/20/2009

Actor Dennis Quaid gave the key note at the recent ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting.   Initially I found it to be fantastic presentation.  Shortly after I felt cheated and conflicted.  Soon after the speech I ran into some folks that knew a lot of about the specific incident that brought Mr. Quaid to speak to the pharmacists organizations.  It turns out that he either took artistic license to embellish his presentation or out right lied about the details of the tragic medical error.   Either way, my respect for him was crushed.

His new born twins were victims of an awful medication error.  While the twins survived and are fine now, it was a horrible error.  This blog post does not mean to minimize the error.  As a father of twins, I was close to tears during the speech, and can not even imagine the emotional toll it must have had on him.

Mr. Quaid could have taken the large settlement from the hospital and rode into the sunset.  Instead he works to help bring attention to the issue of medication errors.  For that he is to be commended.   So why he would make up aspects of the incident is perplexing and disturbing.  I trust my sources of the details of the incident completely, therefore, believe them and not the details that Mr. Quaid recounted.  So here are some positive and negative specifics and selected commentary of the speech.

The complete speech can be downloaded here.
http://www.ashp.org/DocLibrary/MCM09/MCM2009-Dennis-Quaid.aspx

“You may have a nagging question – why is he here? He is not a pharmacist…he is an actor.”
–Exactly my thoughts.  It was sort of the “Entertainment Tonight” version of a scientific meeting.  Even though he will speak to many positive things, I am not sure of practicing “Actor based” medicine.

“(the nurse) mistakenly injected our twins with a massive overdose of 10 thousand units of Heparin, which is one thousand times the normal dose of 10 units of heparin our babies should've received. This happened while my wife and I were present in the room.”
— Awful.  While they where in the room?

“blood spurted six feet across the room and splattered on the wall. The twins continued to bleed all day”
— from 10 day old infants?   Other specifics seem to be in questions as well.

“Often the blame is laid at the feet of you fine people. A case in point is the Ohio pharmacist sitting in jail today because of predictable human error. Human error is rock solid predictable and we know that our systems will fail. We can no longer let our caregivers take the hit when bad things happen.”
— Hear, Hear!  UDaMan.  It is incredulous that our professional society, ASHP, has not spoken out on this as well.  Shameful.

“So, what needs to happen? I must say that after the near-deaths of our twins, that Cedars-Sinai has made great efforts to improve patient safety. We never wanted to make the hospital the bad guy.”
— Ok, I am sure the $700K settlement helped a little.

“(The Hospital) has spent $100 million on bar-coding from pharmacy to bedside”
— Not True, nor would this have prevented the error.

“The next big step, will be making all of this new technology inter-operable.”  
“By setting standards and making all of these systems interoperable, no matter who manufactures them, it will not only save thousands if not millions of lives over the course of time, but will save us all billions and billions of dollars.”
— Fantastic and insightful.

“Story power lies in the ability to change or reinforce behavior of others. The relatedness of rhetoric can change the course of a person’s destiny, the success of a team, and even the history of a nation.  
— This starts to explain things.

Consider Churchill, Gande, and even Jesus Christ as examples of story tellers whose words ever ring in our ears and impact our behavior.
— I am fairly sure that they did not make stuff up to enhance a story, I could be wrong.

“Communication scientists such as the brothers Heath and Heath of the best seller “Made to Stick” tell us that the most powerful stories have certain characteristics.”
— Is embellishment one of those?

“In my field we also are in the business of moving people through visual images and a relatedness so that the audience feels a part of the story.”
— Ah, reasons for embellishment come clear.

“In April of 2010 I will give a speech at the National Press Club”
— Let’s stick with the facts moving forward.

Again let me express my gratitude for what Mr. Quaid is doing.  We have all increased the dramatics of story to sound better.  Doing it on this stage just did not feel right to me and cheapened the whole experience. 

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