Consumer groups and individual advocates have sent letters to U.S. Senate and House members from Minnesota and others in Congress asking for their help in establishing a new National Patient Safety Board. The board would investigate errors in medical treatment. Copies of the letter were signed by several groups and individuals. While all members of the Minnesota delegation received the correspondence, it targeted Sen. Al Franken because he sits on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The HELP committee will hold a hearing Thursday at which the topic will be addressed. In addition to groups such as  Consumers Union, Minneapolis patient safety advocate Kim Witczak signed the letter. Witczak has urged Congress and regulators to improve oversight of prescription drugs since her husband committed suicide in 2003 after being given the antidepressant Zoloft to treat insomnia.

"Many in our group are patients and family members who have been directly impacted by preventable medical errors or healthcare-acquired infections," the letter states. "Others are physicians and former healthcare officials who are appalled that effective steps to eliminate medical errors and healthcare-acquired infections have not been implemented." 

The National Patient Safety Board they envision would operate on the same model as the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates airplane crashes to see what went wrong and how crashes can be prevented in the future. America has the safest airlines in the world, the letter states. "We should strive to make U.S.. healthcare the safest in the world."


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