Houston man on a mission

August 13, 2008 6:12:36 PM PDT
A Houston man claims poor medical treatment caused the death of his son, and since then, he's made it his mission to make sure everyone knows their rights when it comes to health care. John James has a PhD In pathology. It's a degree that he's put to use professionally for decades. He never imagined it would help him uncover what he says were fatal mistakes doctors made in the care of his teenage son, who died suddenly five years ago and whose life is the inspiration for a movement James is hoping to start.

James first told us about his son, Alex, when we met him last October.

"He had been a healthy kid up until that event," said James. "And I really in hindsight felt that I didn't have any choice but to trust the doctors in that town."

An avid runner, Alex, 18, collapsed and after what James calls weeks of substandard care from a team of doctors, collapsed again and died

James says he soon learned he wasn't alone.

"A lot of mistakes are being made out there and patients are often not aware of those mistakes and a number of patients die," he said.

He first wrote a book that outlined his desire to see a national patients' bill of rights. And then last week, he published online the first of what will be monthly newsletters on the subject. James says he has a readership of some fifty people. But he expects that to grow rapidly and to help with his push towards what he says is sorely needed.

"I'm trying to create a place where people can go to find out the truth about their health care system, about the quality problems that exist there, and what they can do to fix it," said James.

James knows his work won't bring Alex back. But his hope is that the more educated people become, the more aware they will be of the medical world around them, so that they ask questions and learn and demand a written patients' bill of rights.

"So the Institute of Medicine writes it with patients, physicians, hospitalists, all sorts of people involved," said "Then we put pressure on Congress, we being the patient safety community, to pass that bill and make it the law of the land."

James says he knows the road to a patients' bill of rights will be a politically difficult one. But he says it is one he is committed to seeing through.

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