Dennis Quaid recounts twins' near-death experience

LOS ANGELES - Actor Dennis Quaid, whose newborn twins nearly died in hospital last year after being given an accidental drug overdose by staff, is on the warpath against medical mistakes.

In an interview with the CBS news program 60 Minutes, scheduled to be broadcast in the United States today, he said as many as 100,000 Americans are killed in hospitals by medical mistakes.

"These mistakes that happened to us are not unique ... they happen in every hospital, in every state in this country," Quaid, 53, in his first TV interview on last year's events that was made available before broadcast.

"It's bigger than AIDS. It's bigger than breast cancer. It's bigger than automobile accidents and yet, no one seems to really be aware of the problem."

His claim echoes the findings of a 1999 report by the US Institute of Medicine, which asserted that "good people are working in bad systems that need to be made safer."

In the Quaids' case, staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near Beverly Hills gave their two-week-old twins, Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace, 1,000 times the recommended dose of the blood thinner heparin last November.

"It basically turned their blood to the consistency of water, where it had a complete inability to clot. They were basically bleeding out at that point," Quaid said.

Making matters worse, the hospital did not notify Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, that anything was wrong until the next day. Compounding the insult, the Quaids told the Los Angeles Times in January that they believed someone at the hospital leaked information about the error to the news media.

The twins, who were delivered by a surrogate, are now doing well, with no apparent ill effects.

Quaid and his wife Kimberley Buffington are suing the drug's manufacturer, Baxter International, which has said the product was safe but that the label was misread by a hospital staffer.

Quaid, star of such films as The Parent Trap and The Rookie, acknowledged as much during the 60 Minutes interview, saying "the nurse didn't bother to look at the dosage on the bottle."

- REUTERS

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