Articles Posted in Hospital Malpractice

The New York Times recently ran a fascinating op ed by Joanna Schwartz, a professor at UCLA. The subject was a study that Professor Schwartz did on the value of medical malpractice litigation in reducing medical errors. Professor Schwartz’s conclusion was that medical malpractice claims and lawsuits actually don’t result in doctors and other health professionals hiding problems and, in fact, such suits actually encourage improved practices.

In order to reach her conclusions, Professor Schwartz surveyed more than 400 people who are responsible for hospital risk management, claims management and quality improvement in hospitals in the U.S. She found that, although hospitals used to handle medical errors and lawsuits by taking an adversarial and secret approach, hospitals have begun changing that approach. Now, she reports, hospitals are more open with patients. In fact, she found that over 80 percent of hospitals that she surveyed now actually have a policy of apologizing to patients who are victims of errors. Most importantly, she found that most hospitals are willing to discuss and learn from errors with staff. This is a dramatic shift form the old days when health care providers kept from patients the fact of medical injury. A copy of the op ed piece can be found here.

A number of news organizations are reporting today that lawyers in Baltimore are racing to the courthouse to file lawsuits against Dr. Nikita Levy and Johns Hopkins Hospital. When I heard that, I sadly chuckled. The only thing that these lawyers know now is what the media is reporting. There is no other information available from Dr. Levy’s family, Johns Hopkins, the Baltimore County Police who executed the search warrant, the Baltimore City Police who are leading the investigation or the FBI which is assisting the Baltimore City Police with the forensic evaluation of the electronic evidence.

My firm and I are taking a different approach than rushing to the courthouse; we believe that it is better to conduct a thorough and detailed investigation rather than run the courthouse simply to be the first to file a civil lawsuit. Accordingly, I issued a pre-lawsuit deposition notice and subpoena to Johns Hopkins today seeking to determine what it knows and where documents and other evidence are located. A copy of the Deposition Notice can be found here. While I believe that ultimately a lawsuit is likely in these cases, such a lawsuit should be based upon a through analysis of the facts and not media reports.

Today, we also joined with a leading Maryland victims service organization, The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, Inc., to advocate for victims of this travesty. A copy of the letter can be found here.

Over the last few days, news reports have surfaced that a gynecologist / obstetrician who worked for Johns Hopkins, Dr. Nikita Levy, was improperly taking photographs and videos of patients. The Baltimore Sun’s report can be found here. WBAL’s report, which includes an interview I gave, can be found here. Apparently, a co-worked reported Dr. Levy to a supervisor at Hopkins on 2/4/13 which resulted in Dr. Levy being fired by Hopkins on 2/8/13 and Hopkins notifying the police.

The police subsequently searched Dr. Levy’s home and found a large amount of “evidence.” Presumably, this means that they found many photos and videos of his patients. After retaining a local lawyer, Dr. Levy committed suicide.

Surprisingly, patients are finding out about Dr. Levy’s misconduct through the news media instead of through Hopkins itself. Even the now disgraced St. Joseph Medical Center advised patients when its cardiologist Dr. Midei was found to have unnecessary implanted cardiac stents in hundreds of patients over years.

Johns Hopkins Hospital researchers recently uncovered a startling figure regarding hospital medical malpractice: 40,500 intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients die each year as a result of misdiagnosis, as opposed to life threatening conditions that cannot be treated. A copy of an article regarding the study can be found here.

The study, released September 26, 2012, found that patients in the ICU are fifty percent more likely to be misdiagnosed than patients in other parts of a hospital. Further, according to the study, the most common misdiagnosis involves the vascular system, often resulting in heart attack or stroke.

This is an important study because it shows that there is malpractice at many of Maryland’s hospitals. It also shows that even some of the best hospitals in the state, such as Johns Hopkins Hospital or the University of Maryland Medical Center, are still striving to improve quality of care and reduce the incidence of medical malpractice and wrongful death.

Numerous Maryland hospitals are currently in the process of testing almost 2,000 patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis C, a viral disease that typically affects the liver. A copy of an article can be found here.

David Kwiatkowski, an employee at as many as eleven hospitals nationwide, was arrested in July 2012 after authorities learned he had been injecting himself with syringes filled with stolen narcotics at the hospitals where he worked, and then leaving the contaminated needles to be used on other patients. Investigators believe Kwiatkowski may have had hepatitis C since at least June 2010, increasing the likelihood that he infected patients who came in contact with these syringes.

In Maryland, Kwiatkowski is known to have worked at four hospitals including Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland General Hospital, Baltimore VA Medical Center and Southern Maryland Hospital. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, three people have tested positive for a hepatitis C strain the same or similar to Kwiatkowski which indicates their cases may be related.

After pushing hospitals to replace paper records with electronic ones, many policymakers now believe the next step in improving the quality of medical care is to reduce the number of errors made by doctors. One study recently found that putting a child’s photo in their electronic hospital chart reduced one type of medical error – a patient getting a test or treatment intended for someone else due to a doctor’s misplaced orders. An article about the study can be found here.

The Children’s Hospital of Colorado found that misplaced orders were the second-most common reason that patients received care not meant for them in a quality improvement program conducted in 2009. The hospital reacted to this result by changing its computer system so that each order for a test or treatment required an affirmative “verification” that the order was aligned with the correct patient which included a photo of the child.

The results reflected the success of this policy change: in 2010, the hospital had twelve incidents in which a child received care intended for another patient because of misplaced orders, but after implementing the photo policy, that number fell to three.

Research conducted by Johns Hopkins doctors has found that an estimated forty percent of hospital websites advertise the use of robotic surgery as superior to conventional surgery. However, there is a no evidence to suggest these statements are true. In particular, hospitals often exaggerate the benefits associated with robotic surgery while ignoring the risks.

A copy of the article about the study can be found here.

Johns Hopkins researchers warn that the lack of candor in promotional materials is potentially dangerous for various reasons. Much of the positive advertisement is provided by the surgical robots’ manufacturers, as opposed to independent analysis by doctors or hospitals. This is a concern because the general public relies on hospitals, including their websites, to provide honest and complete information. Essentially, many would consider the material on a hospital’s website to be as if it was coming directly from a physician.

In early 2010, the family of a 17-year-old girl with a rare genetic disorder brought a medical malpractice suit against the Johns Hopkins Hospital alleging that the Johns Hopkins doctors and nurses provided inappropriate treatment to the disabled girl.

The Baltimore City jury that heard the medical malpractice suit found the staff at Johns Hopkins negligent in restraining the girl in a manner that caused extensive bruising. The girl, a long-time patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was extremely frail as a result of her condition and required special treatment. The girl’s father alleged that following an overnight stay at Johns Hopkins Hospital on March 12, 2007, he noticed “numerous bruises” on the girl’s body in addition to a “large lump on her forehead.” Johns Hopkins Hospital staff provided no explanation for the bruises other than “spontaneous bruising” caused by her disorder. The girl’s father was not satisfied with this response, and brought the medical malpractice suit against Johns Hopkins Hospital. A copy of the article regarding the lawsuit can be found here. Ultimately, the jury found that Johns Hopkins Hospital was negligent and committed malpractice for the bruises awarded the girl $250,000.00.

A couple in Pennsylvania has filed two medical malpractice lawsuits following, what should have been, a routine organ transplant.

The couple alleges that the organ transplant went awry when, despite test results indicating the donor-spouse had hepatitis C, the hospital transplanted her kidney into her husband. Hepatitis C is an incurable infectious disease that attacks the liver causing a wide range of problems including damage, cirrhosis, cancer or failure. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here

The first lawsuit was filed against the hospital and various staff members. The suit, filed by the donee and the donor, alleges negligence. The couple states that the donor’s blood results were available months before the organ transplant, but that the hospital and physicians missed them. The organ transplant, which took place in April, was preceded by a blood test on January 26 which indicated that the donor had hepatitis C. The hospital never notified the donor of these results or disqualified her as an organ donor. Another test, which occurred weeks after the organ transplant, also indicated the presence of the infection. It was not until a month after the kidney transplant had taken place when the donor was notified of these results.

A Maryland jury awarded the wife and two children of a 59-year-old man $2.5 million in damages following his untimely death from medical malpractice at Montgomery General Hospital in 2007. The lawsuit alleged that the doctor attending to the man at Montgomery General failed was negligent in failing to recognize and diagnose that he was suffering from “hemorrhagic shock” and treat the same. A copy of the article regarding the settlement can be found here.

The man’s death occurred two days after he fell and fractured his pelvis. The family alleged that the primary care physician, who was the sole defendant in the medical malpractice case, did not realize that the man was suffering from internal bleeding. The family believes that had the doctor treated this condition when he first examined him, he could have saved the man’s life. Instead, the man ultimately died from multiple organ failure due to the internal bleeding.

While the primary care physician argued that the man died as a result of a side effect to medication that restricted his intake of oxygen, this theory was discredited because no mention was made of any such complication on the death certificate.