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'A Principled Approach to Medical Mistakes' To Be Addressed at 54th Annual International Congress for Respiratory Therapists

DALLAS, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Timothy McDonald, physician, attorney and chief safety and risk officer for Health Affairs at the University of Illinois Medical Center, will give the keynote address titled "The Legal and Ethical Pitfalls in Respiratory Care," at the 54th Annual American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) International Respiratory Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday, Dec. 13 beginning at 10:15 a.m.

One of the issues Dr. McDonald will address is the legal and ethical issues facing respiratory therapists (RTs) when they make a mistake while treating a patient. He gives RTs the same advice he recommends to physicians. With the context of a clear process of reporting and investigating adverse outcomes, RTs should be empowered to admit and discuss their mistakes with colleagues and patients, to apologize and do everything possible to correct the problem as it occurs. By promptly disclosing medical errors, medical professionals - including RTs - can restore and maintain trust with their patients.

"This is not a recommendation most malpractice attorneys would support, but it has proven to be the right and smart thing to do for both physicians and patients," said Dr. McDonald, who received his medical education at Indiana University and law degree from Loyola University. "Patients want and deserve to be treated honestly and fairly. With the context of an appropriate process, once a physician, respiratory therapist or any medical professional takes responsibility for an error and then works to correct that error, the likelihood of a lawsuit significantly diminishes. It's the right thing to do."

Two years after the University of Illinois instituted their comprehensive approach to adverse patient events, the institution has actually seen a reduction in lawsuits and has not seen the financial medical malpractice catastrophe that many predicted with such a program that included apology after error. Respiratory therapists play a key role in both the investigation and process improvement aspects of their program.


This year, more than 6,000 respiratory therapists, managers, educators, physicians, and clinicians will be in attendance at the 54th Annual American Association for Respiratory Care International Respiratory Congress. A full schedule of lectures, poster presentations and educational seminars are posted at

This year's convention officially opens on Saturday, Dec. 13 with a plenary session at 8:30 a.m. led by Sam P. Giordano, executive director of the AARC. The exhibition hall will be officially opened at 11 a.m. with 2008 AARC president Toni Rodriguez joining incoming 2009 president Timothy R Myers in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"One of the aspects of our industry that has evolved rapidly is how high tech we have become over the past decade, which will be evident by many of the displays in the exhibition hall," said Rodriguez, EdD, RRT. "Respiratory therapists have always been technically savvy, but with new technology introduced to the profession, it has certainly taken that expertise to the next level."

About the AARC

The American Association for Respiratory Care, headquartered in Dallas, is a professional association of respiratory therapists that focuses primarily on respiratory therapy education and research. The organization's goals are to ensure that respiratory patients receive safe and effective care from qualified professionals as well as supporting respiratory health care providers. The association continues to advocate on behalf of pulmonary patients for appropriate access to respiratory services provided by qualified professionals. Further information about the AARC and how to become a respiratory therapist are available at The AARC also offers a respiratory patient information site at

SOURCE American Association for Respiratory Care
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