Reviews TV

Can stories of personal tragedy spark a healthcare revolution?

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 26 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:924
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, medical journalist (
  1. New York

    Remaking American Medicine is much more than a four-part television series. It is part of a continuing campaign to improve US healthcare, as described on its website. In the period leading up to the broadcasts, a national outreach campaign used healthcare providers and patient advocates to spread the word and maximise the television audience to a goal of around 100 million Americans.

    Many of the improvements described in this series grew out of personal tragedies that led parents and partners to work for changes in the system rather than filing malpractice suits. The key message is that when it comes to remaking American medicine, patients are as important as health professionals.

    The first programme, Silent Killer, is about medical errors—in this case the failure to notice a child's deteriorating condition. Sorrel King's 18 month old daughter died from dehydration at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, despite her parents' attempts to alert nurses and doctors to her deteriorating condition. Mrs King and her husband insisted that the hospital make changes, not …

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