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Dennis Quaid, Health Activist

Actor Dennis Quaid takes on medical errors – and life with twins.

Dennis Quaid on Patient Safety

Patient safety advocates applaud the Quaids’ involvement. The actor brings “a face to the issue” and higher visibility to the problem, says Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation, which advocates bar coding and other measures. “The more awareness we raise, the more engagement we’ll get from patients, regulators, and policymakers.”

At the end of the at-times emotional interview in the Quaids’ sunny living room, Dennis flashes that famous grin. He’s relieved, of course, that his twins look and act healthy and are developing normally.

Watching them, though, both Dennis and Kimberly admit to a nagging worry that any parent would share: Are the kids really OK? “No one knows the long-term effect of the dose they received,” Quaid says in a somber tone. They’ve taken the high road, but anger, anxiety, and disbelief over what happened can bubble to the surface quickly.

Kimberly still tears up when she talks about the incident in depth. Dennis’s eyes get steely. Then he adds a dose of down-home perspective that reflects their shared Texas roots.

“It made the media because I am in the movies, but a lot of people responded. Because of how fragile [the twins] were, a lot of people really got it,” Dennis says. “I think maybe people felt if it happened to a family like ours, it could happen to anyone.

“These kids are going to change the world,” he is fond of saying. And if his movie-star status is what it takes to make hospitals and health care safer, he’ll work it for all it’s worth. “If celebrity is good for anything,’’ says Dennis, “this is what it’s good for, you know?”

4 Ways to Stop Medical Mistakes

  • Be there. Stay with the patient at all times. Never leave a hospitalized friend or relative alone.
  • Ask questions. Don’t worry about sounding nosy or seeming annoying. Memorize the ”five rights“ of medication safety: right patient, right drug, right dose, right route (such as IV, oral), right time.
  • Know your rights. These include the right to see your medical records.
  • Go with your gut. If it seems like the wrong time for a medication, or if the medicine suddenly looks different, ask questions before accepting it or before letting your friend or relative accept it.
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Reviewed on August 08, 2008

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