6 lessons for US hospitals from the UK baby murder cases

The case of Lucy Letby, a neonatal nurse at Countess of Chester Hospital in Northern England who is now a convicted serial killer, has many wondering how to prevent and catch bad actors, an Aug. 29 editorial from the Chicago Tribune said.

On Aug. 18, the 33-year-old Ms. Letby was convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others between June 2015 and June 2016. She has become known as the worst serial killer of children in British history. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Ms. Letby's managers are being blamed for ignoring staff complaints about her behavior and the number of deaths in infants under her watch. The concerns were dismissed and some colleagues were pressured to apologize to Ms. Letby, an editorial from The BMJ said.

Here are six things hospitals can learn from this case to prevent similar situations:

  • Whistleblowers should be heeded. "Both avoidable delay in recognition and refusal to acknowledge serious problems are almost universal findings in major organizational safety failures, regardless of underlying cause. Whether families or clinicians raise the alarm initially, the result has all too often been denial, deflection and cover-up," The BMJ wrote.

  • Whistleblowers should not be punished for bringing forward problems. In many industries, reporting safety incidents is celebrated and encouraged, but in medicine, many whistleblowers risk threats of disciplinary action, their livelihood and professional standing, according to The BMJ.

  • Improve early detection with technology that identifies unusual patterns, according to The BMJ.

  • Enable medical teams to work together to identify and report malevolent colleagues, according to the Tribune.

  • Give full disclosure to family members about what happened to their loved ones while medical professionals are present, according to the Tribune.

  • Medical directors and administrators should have open-door policies to encourage whistleblower complaints, according to the Tribune.

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