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Many people in Cleveland remember hearing about the heroic landing pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made on the Hudson River, but they may not realize that he has retired and taken up a new cause: medical malpractice. Sully has been working hard to make health care safer, an industry which claims the lives of up to 200,000 people each year. Though Sully is widely regarded as a hero, it remains to be seen whether he (or anyone) has the power to bring about significant change.

Sully has noted that there is very little agreement among legislators on how to reduce medical errors. One politician has even said that he wouldn’t trust the opposing party’s motives if they did come together on any health care bills.

While there is some debate on exactly how many people die from medical errors every year, it is unacceptable for up to 200,000 people to die each year. As Sully explains, that is the same as 20 commercial jets crashing each week. That would never be tolerated, so why are medical errors?

As lawmakers dawdle with health care legislation, Sully suggests raising public awareness to the cost of medical errors. If there was more reliable data available, especially data that paired with personalized stories of loss, injuries and frustration caused by medical malpractice, there may be more people pushing for safer health care, too.

Until there are better laws to protect patients against medical errors, it will be up to medical malpractice lawyers and lawsuits to hold negligent nurses, doctors and hospitals accountable for errors.