SHU hosts speech on medical errors

Students, staff and faculty alike filled the Walsh Gymnasium on Wednesday night to hear a moving speech by Sorrel King, founder of the Josie King Foundation.

Heads were shaking with disbelief as the audience heard the mother’s riveting story of how medical errors led to the death of her 18-month-old daughter, Josie King. After being admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital, Josie was nearing the end of her pediatric stay and was being readied for discharge in the hospital’s progressive care, or “step down,” unit. When Sorrel King noticed that her daughter was showing signs of being thirsty, she begged nurses and doctors to pay attention. After superficially treating Josie’s thirst, a nurse gave the 18-month-old a dose of methadone. Earlier, a doctor had informed King that her daughter would not be given methadone.

King explained that after receiving the methadone, her daughter did not wake up as a result of losing her brain stem function. “It was complete chaos,” said King. “[The doctors and nurses] couldn’t look me in the eye.”

On Feb. 22, 2001, Sorrel King lost her daughter to what she called a breakdown of communication. According to King, within a 24 hour time span her family went from planning a welcome home celebration to planning a funeral because of the lack of communication among the hospital staff.

King appeared at Seton Hall as part of the School of Health and Medical Sciences’ Interprofessional Perspectives Speaker Series. Her address was titled: “How to Save a Life: Speaking Up to Prevent Medical Errors.

After wrapping up the moving story of her daughter, King went on to inform the audience that Josie’s case was not a singular occurrence. She said that more than 98,000 people die of medical errors each year and 70 percent of sentinel events are caused due to a breakdown in communication.

King said that since Josie’s death, she has worked to prevent other patients dying from or being injured by medical errors. This has become the mission of the Josie King Foundation, which King established along with other programs such as the Josie King Patient Safety Program.

This presentation was aimed directly at students who are going into the medical field.

“A movement like this can only happen when the culture is ready and doctors and nurses are demanding it,” King told the audience. “Take this story with you throughout your education, your career, and your life.”

Erica Szczepaniak can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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