Frontiers in Hospital Management: Letting Patients Die of Neglect

Last Updated Aug 25, 2008 9:13 PM EDT

As we noted last week, some "safety net" hospitals are working to shed that label by building out expensive high-tech facilities in order to attract well-heeled -- and fully insured -- patients. Others, meanwhile, appear to be making do by ratcheting back services to the point that patients are simply dropping dead, often before they're even admitted:
Richard Fogoros of the Covert Rationing Blog has long argued that the U.S. healthcare system effectively rewards insurers and medical providers who figure out how to withhold care from those least able to pay. Although "DrRich" usually seems to be writing tongue-in-cheek, cases like these are enough to make me wonder. At the very least, they suggest how dehumanizing many of the nation's overcrowded and understaffed emergency and psychiatric wards have become -- which isn't exactly the sort of managment problem that can be solved with a few workshops. (It doesn't help that apparently the insured are also starting to turn to the ER in large numbers, often because they can't get a quick appointment with a family doctor.)

Of course, these are only the cases that happen to have gotten some national attention, not least because they were all caught on tape. (It certainly doesn't help to learn that in two of the three cases, hospital workers apparently falsified medical records to cover up their neglect.) So for a cheerful thought, just reflect on how many other similar cases might lie out there untaped and undiscovered as you check out the videos in question.

The Edith Rodriguez video:


The Esmin Green video:


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    David Hamilton is the assistant managing editor of CNET News. He has been writing and editing business and tech coverage for about two decades -- the majority of that at the Wall Street Journal in both Tokyo and San Francisco. He is a two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club award and has written for numerous magazines and blogs, including Slate, Science, VentureBeat, CBS Interactive's BNET, California Lawyer and the New Republic.