A Father’s Vow to Prevent the Preventable

After a medical error claimed the life of his young daughter, Christopher Jerry honors her short life by helping others.

A LIFE CUT SHORT: A blonde-haired, bubbly two-year-old, Emily Jerry was rendered brain dead because of a compounding error. Photo: The Emily Jerry Foundation

In 2006, when my daughter Emily died because of a preventable medical error, I immediately knew there would be no bringing back my beautiful little girl. However, I also knew there had to be formidable ways — through the adoption and implementation of technology solutions and best practices — to modify the internal systems and processes in medicine that would avert the same types of fatal medical errors from ever reaching the patient. 

According to recent studies more than 200,000 people a year die in the United States from preventable medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death in our nation, aside from heart disease and cancer. The foremost preventable errors affecting patients today are medication mistakes.

"Patient safety should not be the subject of budgeting. What price can be put on safety? Isn’t one life lost, too many?"

Making sense of the senseless

Ever since I began my full-time work as a patient safety and caregiver advocate, it has been extremely important to me — as Emily’s father and one who has been working very hard to effect positive change in medicine — to truly focus my efforts and the programming of The Emily Jerry Foundation on being an active part of the solution to preventable medical errors. My primary motivation has always been to find ways to prevent others from suffering a similar fate as Emily. 

It has always been my deep-seated opinion that when a medical technology is clinically proven to reduce the chance for human error in the course of a patient’s treatment, that the technology be adopted immediately by our nation’s medical facilities as a standard of care. Patient safety should not be the subject of budgeting. What price can be put on safety? Isn’t one life lost, too many? 

Gone too soon

Emily’s death was tragic and what made it even more heartbreaking was finding out that technology was available in 2006 that would have prevented the pharmacy technician from making the lethal compounding error that took my daughter’s life. I truly believe that once a technology’s efficacy is proven to reduce the chance for error, the solution should become a requirement for all facilities so that all patients receive safer healthcare.  Had these proven technologies been implemented into the clinical pharmacy workflow at the facility where she was treated, I am convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, Emily would still be with us today.

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