Medical residents in South Carolina are now required to wear identification tags in hospitals so patients can ask for more experienced physicians if there is an emergency, thanks to a new law that passed Wednesday without the governor's signature.
The Lewis Blackman Hospital Safety Act is the result of years of work by Helen Haskell, who lost her 16-year-old son in 2000 when Blackman bled internally over a 30-hour period. Residents at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, missed repeated signs of trouble and the hospital's insurer paid more than $900,000 to settle the case without going to trial.
Seeking doctor disclosure for other patients after her son's death, Haskell tried for three years to get the bill passed until she finally hired two lobbyists this year with some of her settlement money. That made the difference, she said."They were magicians. I could not have bird-dogged it the way they did, with their networks," she said. "They had the time and the expertise."
The bill went through dozens of adaptations to satisfy representatives of the South Carolina Hospital Association and the MUSC, which each have full-time lobbyists. The bill also ran into trouble on the Senate floor after Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) wanted an amendment saying evidence that a resident didn't wear proper identification could be used in a medical malpractice lawsuit, which the medical lobby would have opposed. Hutto was persuaded to drop his request.
The bill finally headed to Gov. Mark Sanford's desk earlier this month. On Wednesday, Sanford let the bill become law without his signature, saying he thought it was over-regulation and would drive up medical costs. But he said it may reduce medical errors.
"This wasn't about regulation," Haskell said. "This was about disclosure."