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Thousands of Deaths From Hospital Infections Are Going Unreported, Research Shows

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Many thousands of Californians are dying every year from infections they caught while in hospitals. But you’d never know that from their death certificates.

The family of Sharley McMullen, who caught a superbug infection at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, from right: daughter Shawn Chen, husband Robert McMullen and daughter Lecia Rand. (Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The family of Sharley McMullen, who caught a superbug infection at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, from right: daughter Shawn Chen, husband Robert McMullen and daughter Lecia Rand. (Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Sharley McMullen of Manhattan Beach came down with a fever just hours after being wheeled out of a Torrance Memorial Medical Center operating room on May 4, 2014. A missionary’s daughter who worked as a secretary at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the height of the space race, McMullen, 72, was there for treatment of a bleeding stomach ulcer. Soon, though, she was fighting for her life.

On her medical chart, a doctor scribbled “CRKP,” an ominous abbreviation for one of the world’s most lethal superbugs, underlining it three times.

Doctors tried antibiotic after antibiotic. But after five weeks in the hospital, mostly in intensive care and on morphine because of the pain, McMullen died.

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