Dennis Quaid Recounts Twins' Drug Ordeal

(CBS) Hoping to draw attention to medical errors that kill as many as 100,000 Americans a year, actor Dennis Quaid gives a detailed account for the first time on television of the medical mistakes that nearly killed his newborn twins.

Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, speak to 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft for an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, March 16, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Quaid twins Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace nearly died last November at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles when they were mistakenly given a massive drug overdose.

Quaid believes such mistakes occur too often. "They happen in every hospital in every state in this country and…I've come to find out, there's 100,000 people a year killed...in hospitals by medical mistakes," he tells Kroft. "It’s bigger than AIDS. It’s bigger than breast cancer. It’s bigger than automobile accidents and yet, no one seems to be really aware of the problem," says Quaid.

The Quaid twins were mistakenly given the drug Heparin, an adult-strength blood thinner, instead of Hep-lock, a version of the drug a thousand times weaker that’s routinely used to clear IV lines in pediatric patients. It caused the infants, who were in the hospital for a suspected infection, serious hemorrhaging. "Our kids are bleeding from everyplace that they've punctured…They were working on Boone, whose belly button would not stop bleeding…blood squirted across the room…. It was blood everywhere," recalls Quaid. "It was a life-and-death situation."

The mistake occurred because the vials of Hep-lock and Heparin look alike say the Quaids, who are suing the drug’s manufacturer, Baxter International. A similar incident in Indiana resulted in the deaths of three infants, prompting Baxter to redesign packaging and issue a warning to hospitals. Says Quaid, "After these three kids died in Indiana, they did not issue a recall…. They recall toasters…trucks. They recall dog food that came from China last year. But they don't recall medicine that kills people if you give it in the wrong dosage…we think it's wrong."

Debra Bello, a senior director at Baxter, explains why the company didn’t recall the old vials still in hospital storage rooms, from which the Quaid twins received their overdoses. "Because the product was safe and effective, and the errors, as the hospital has acknowledged, were preventable and due to failures in their system," says Bello, pointing out that ultimately, the person administering the drug should have read its label.

Three staff members at Cedars-Sinai who handled the drug failed to notice it was Heparin and not Hep-lock.

Quaid is setting up a foundation that will look for remedies to human medical error. "We all have this inherent thing that we trust doctors and nurses, that they know what they're doing. This mistake occurred right under our noses…the nurse didn't bother to look at the dosage on the bottle," he says. "It was avoidable, completely avoidable."

Produced by Ira Rosen
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