September 22, 2012

The tragic death of a woman who contracted an infection after having cosmetic surgery in a Baltimore medical facility [Metro, Sept. 20] highlights the urgent need for more transparency about the incidence of hospital-acquired infections. Government data reveal that hundreds of thousands of patients are so infected in our country each year, with the death toll for just one infection — C difficile — running at about 14,000annually. The two most common causes are unsanitary conditions that result from inadequate cleaning procedures and the overuse of antibiotics.

It is not easy to acquire knowledge about the incidence of infections in particular hospitals, though more state laws are requiring disclosure. Full disclosure would enable patients to comparison-shop before hospitalization and would intensify pressure on medical facilities to excel in preventive activities. Today’s conditions are a national tragedy, not just in death tolls but in agonizing stays in intensive-care units and crippling aftereffects.

Milton W. Hudson, Washington