17 infants get lethal heparin overdose

I've told you that hospital-acquired infections are a major factor in thousands of needless deaths every year. And now recent news has revealed yet another deadly secret of hospitals - ineptitude. Nothing highlights this more than the tragic story of the infants at a Corpus Christi, TX, hospital who were mistakenly overdosed with the blood thinner heparin - one of whom has died.

To recap the facts of this sad story, as many as 17 babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) received an overdose of the anticoagulant heparin (used to clean the IVs of patients and to prevent blood from clotting). Shockingly, this problem was not discovered until TWO DAYS after the overdoses had been administered. It's still early in the investigation, but the hospital released a statement saying that "the medication error occurred during the mixing process within the hospital pharmacy."

Naturally, the hospital has already begun the predictable legal backpedaling. The hospital's chief medical officer Dr. Richard Davis says that it's still unclear what role, if any, the heparin overdose played in the infant's death because the child was already seriously ill and being cared for in the NICU. That's like saying it's not clear what role being hit by a speeding car played in the death of an individual because he was already dying of liver disease!

Remember, these children were in the NICU - that's supposed to be INTENSIVE CARE, meaning that the patients are being closely monitored and watched. Especially since they're already in a tenuous health situation. For the chief medical officer of the hospital to actually say that it's unclear if the heparin overdose caused the death is outrageous. Even if it didn't DIRECTLY cause the death, ANY overdose could shake the foundation of an already fragile life.

Of the 16 remaining infants who were subjected to this overdose, three have been discharged from the hospital, 12 are in stable condition in the NICU, and one is still in critical and unstable condition (though the hospital claims that this has been the child's status ever since being admitted to the NICU).

There's a reason heparin may be ringing a bell with you. Last November, actor Dennis Quaid's 12-day-old twins were victims of a similar medication error. Quaid's children received - ready for this? - 10,000 times the prescribed dosage of heparin, and nearly died. There was a piece on 60 Minutes about this incident, and Quaid has since helped sound the alarm on the dangers of hospital mistakes. He has even testified before a Congressional committee on government oversight.

"We all have this inherent thing that we trust doctors and nurses, that they know what they're doing," Quaid said on 60 Minutes. "But this mistake occurred right under our noses the nurse didn't even bother to look at the dosage on the bottle." Indeed, as much as lazy hygiene habits can cause the spread of deadly infections in hospitals, lazy work habits on the part of hospital staff members (nurses, pharmacists, and even doctors) can be just as dangerous. Of course, in hospitals, when workers goof up, people die.

Keep your eyes out for the results of the autopsy on this unfortunate baby. And stay the heck out of hospitals whenever you can - no matter how old you are.

CDC keeps beating the vaccine drum

Once again, the pro-vaccine lobby has gotten a boost from Uncle Sam. The CDC recently reported that a new rotavirus vaccine has successfully blunted this year's rotavirus season.

"The changes appear to be greater than expected based on the protective effects of the vaccine alone," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC, adding that it's "possible" the current levels of the vaccination may be helping to lessen the spread of rotavirus to the "unvaccinated individuals in the community."

The vaccine in question is produced by the Big Pharma giant Merck, and is given at ages two months, four months, and six months (that's a lot of vaccine being shot into children over a short amount of time and for each shot, the folks at Merck hear the "ka-ching" of the cash register).

Merck is doubtlessly thrilled by the CDC's endorsement, but excuse me if I don't share their enthusiasm. It bothers me that the CDC is so willing to make these proclamations when they know full well that virus seasons are cyclical - some seasons are worse than others. So while the claim that the number of cases of rotavirus are down across the board may be true, it's a leap to link this to the new vaccine without some more careful analysis. But as you know, the pro-vaccine movement is strong, and statistics be damned: they'll do anything to promote those useless shots!

Just more proof that the battle against vaccines is always uphill. But we struggle on.