Medical error legislation draws U.S. Senate attention and that of opponents

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The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that opponents argue would make it "impossible" for patients to compare the quality of care among hospitals and physicians.

 Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is urging the U.S. Senate to reject the bill (H.R. 663), already approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate version (S. 720) has been forwarded to the floor by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

 Consumers Union alleges that the bills would keep patient safety data - such as hospital's infection rate - secret and that the definition of patient data is so broad that the outcomes on specific medical procedures also would be unavailable.

Lisa McGiffert, director of  StopHospitalInfections.org, said hospitals should cure people, not make them sicker. Making infection rates available to the public will motivate hospitals to improve conditions and guarantee patient safety.

According to the Consumers Union, hospital infections are the sixth-leading cause of deaths in the United States, as hospital infections claim approximately 90,000 lives per year, and approximately two million patients contract infections unrelated to their original condition during their hospital stay.