Patient Safety - Reality Check

Patient Safety Petitions

You don't want me to sign your petition. You don't want me even to look at it.

In the first place, I don't have time for the size of a job that it is to scrutinize one. In the second place, you don't want to hear what I have to say after I have.

I look at the text of petitions with a critical eye that is similar to patient safety symbol - a chalk outline of patientthe critical eye that legislators bring to them. What point would there be in looking at them any other way? If it doesn't pass their test, they are not going to pass it. What is the point of getting all those signatures for something that they are not going to pass?

The number of signatures required to petition a state government is a percentage of the state's population, percentage that ranges from 2% to 15%. The state requiring the fewest number of signatures is North Dakota where they need only 13,500 signatures. California needs over 500,000.

It takes 100,000 signatures to send a petition to the White House.

Unfortunately people usually write petitions that have no hope of getting passed. Their petitions often say things like "Stamp out Errors." That language is a problem and has no place in any bill. When I've suggested that to the creators of such phrases they have told me why it has to be in there.

When I have suggested that they need to spend more time researching how to write a bill, I've been told how hard they worked on writing it. I've been told that if they did what I'm saying and gave up then they might as well just crawl in a hole and die.

I've never told anyone to give up. I have told them why I think they are wasting their time, and everyone else's time, pursuing the specific petition they are circulating.

There is a downside in this for the community. Bills poorly thought out and badly written reinforce the image legislators and others have of patient safety advocates of being flakes if not wackos.

I've also seen them change the text of the petition change multiple times after signatures already had been collected. I've seen that done with no awareness that those signature had been invalidated by those changes because the bill no longer was what those people signed.

Sometimes the bills only are demands sor some legislative body to figure out what the problem is and write a bill that solves it, like "Stamp Out Errors." How? Pass a law saying that making mistakes is a crime? Like if you got a flat tire that error could subject you to criminal charges? To a legislator, the creator of that petition looks like a lunatic whose perspective is too far removed from reality to be worth a second glance. It reflects badly on the whole patient community that people signed that petition.

Even when petitions have none of those problems, even if written by lawyers working with experienced politicians to craft it so that it makes sensible legislation, legislators don't pass them. That's not me being negative. That's history. Generally, legislators don't pass things that have no support in the legislative body. That's not the way politics works. Lots of signatures does not equal support in a legislative body.

Even if they did pass those bills, the bills usually are based on the faith people have in legislation to regulate the behavior of care givers. Care givers don't obey the laws that already are on the books to govern their behavior. They already are required to reveal who your care givers were but just don't when they don't want to. They already lose records or falsify records when those records could be a problem for them. They already don't put in the record things they are required to report when they don't want to.

A petition to "Stamp Out Errors," or some similar demand, has no upside, but it does have downsides. I have been asked to sign many petitions. I no longer take the time to read them. I have yet to see one get passed. I have yet to see one that made sense to sign. I have yet to look at one and say anything short of what one would say to a child bringing his/her first drawing home from kindergarten without making enemies of the people promoting them.

So I don't look at them anymore. Please don't ask me to. I have work to do that I think eventually might help to make patients safer. There isn't time for the huge time-drain it is to scrutinize one of these, or for the acrimony that results from having done that.

Instead of asking me to read it, do some searches online about how to write petitions. Go places like this link and look their templates for writing petitions. And then see if you can find some recent history about petitions and see how seldom they are passed by legislative bodies.