Family tragedy leads to new mission to prevent medical errors

Louise Batz's family believes her death was preventable.
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It's estimated that around 500 Americans die every day from preventable medical errors. One family's tragedy has motivated them to prevent it from happening in the future.

Louise Batz was just 65 years old, a wife and mother who was getting ready to welcome her fourth grandchild into this world.

When she went in to have a routine knee replacement surgery, daughter Laura Batz-Townsend said it went well.

That night, Batz-Townsend says she and her father were told the medication Louise was about receive.

"Morphine, Demerol and Viserol - two narcotics and a sedative - we thought that's a lot of medication," said Batz-Townsend.

The family asked she only receive morphine if she needed it, but she was still given all three.

"By the time those drugs were given to my mom and nobody was there and there was no monitoring of my mom and we weren't there, a catastrophe happened," said Batz-Townsend.

At 3:15 am the hospital called.

"She was lifeless. I thought she had already died. I had just left her, told her I loved her and she was fine," said Batz-Townsend.

Louise Batz was revived but died 11 days later.

"She was my hero. She was my best friend," said her daughter.

The family channeled its grief into learning what happened.

"We very quickly realized my mother had suffered from a preventable medical error," said Batz-Townsend.

Too much pain medication caused her mother to stop breathing

"We looked into how often does this happen. Is it on an isolated basis? We found out it happens a lot," said Dr. Charles Holhouse, Louise's brother.

One study found as many as 550 people die every day in the United States from preventable medical errors. It's staggering. The night after her death, Louise Batz's family wrote out a mission statement for a foundation in her honor.

That mission is better communication between doctor's, nurses, hospitals and the patient and their family.

"We asked a thousand questions. We didn't get lucky and ask the right one," said Batz-Townsend.

With five doctors in the family, they thought their odds would have been better.

A little more than a year ago, Louise's family published the Batz guide, an educational tool to help you ask the right questions.

"You know patient safety is really a team sport. It's doctors, nurses but also families and patients need be included," said Dr. Ken Davis, chief medical officer, Methodist Health System.

"The evidence is indisputable that if you engage patients and family, outcomes are better," said Patti Toney, nurse.

That guide will be available through iTunes as an app next month. (Do a search for "Batz Guide" in the app store.)

Download a hard copy here.