Building collective expertise. I train patients and family members to support others in their hospitals or localities – how to consult with hospital directors in cases of medical error, how to request medical records, how to record the patient’s account of events, how to file for assistance at various agencies.
Engaging more allies within the medical profession. I hold workshops on patient safety for medical students in Bangkok and across Thailand. The Medical Students Association wants to know about medical error, despite strong opposition from some teachers. I also work with the Rural Doctors Association and the National Human Rights Commission, which raises the attention of practitioners and legislators.
Putting a human face to an invisible issue. I am telling life stories of victims from medical errors, to illustrate the gravity of this problem. These stories are being disseminated online through our Facebook group, and have caught media and public attention.
By equipping our members with the skills to raise public awareness around patient safety, we will be raising the capacity of patients to address medical error and negotiate with healthcare providers, even in distant rural areas. Our network spans across Thailand and is linked through mobile phones and the internet. Our cumulative experience will be shared with a large population at low cost.
The more allies we have, the more the Thai public understands that medical error is a public issue that can no longer be kept underneath the rug. I have high hopes for the next generation of doctors will be more sensitive to these issues of patient rights.
The personal stories will illustrate the gravity and permanence of damage caused by medical error. I believe these stories will touch people’s hearts, as my own story has touched many. A changed heart can bring a change of mind.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
Year 1 and 2. We are pushing for the draft legislation to enter Parliament for consideration. This legislation provides a mechanism to support victims and families affected by medical error, without having to struggle through ten years of legal battle. Patients will not have to sue doctors, but will receive the necessary financial support to cope with damages from medical errors. This mechanism also places no blame on individual doctors, thus will reduce doctor-patient conflict.
Year 1 and 2. Because our existing network consists of victims and their families, our members are already coping with physical, financial and emotional handicaps, and are not ready to take on much more responsibility. We are looking to engage more people, who understand our working philosophy and can help us set up more formal mechanisms to sustain and scale up our work, for example, setting up a database for our network, and increasing our capacity in disseminating public information.
Year 3. We have long planned to set up a Patient Safety Foundation. It may not happen this soon, but we will move closer to making it a reality. This Foundation will educate patients about their rights and best practices in medical services. It will also continue the prevention work on raising awareness among patients, medical students and the general public about medical errors.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
Some of our members, including myself, have received death threats. In one lawsuit, the victim and two witnesses were murdered. Despite continuing threats and harassment, I believe public attention is our most important safety measure.