Articles Posted in Hospital Malpractice

Peninsula Regional Medical Center, located in Salisbury, Maryland is the latest Maryland hospital involved in medical malpractice suits arising from unnecessary stent procedures.

Last month, cardiologist John R. McLean, M.D. was convicted of health care fraud offenses after implanting cardiac stents in more than 100 patients who did not need them. McLean was found to have performed unnecessary tests and made false entries in medical records when he submitted insurance claims for the stent procedures.

Despite its attempt last year to be dismissed from the case involving McLean, which was denied by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Peninsula Regional Medical Center agreed to pay $1.8 million to settle the case in early August. The allegations set forth in the suits against Peninsula Regional Medical Center were that it failed to act to prevent the unnecessary procedures even though it were aware of McLean’s behavior. There were fifty-two parties named as plaintiffs. Additionally, under the settlement, the hospital must also repay the money it received from federal health benefit programs while the unnecessary medical procedures amounting to fraud were going on.

Baltimore Washington Medical Center, located in Anne Arundel County Maryland, was recently fined by the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) a result of medical malpractice. The settlement agreement reached between the MDE and Baltimore Washington Medical Center stemmed from an error in which the hospital administered an improper dose of radiation. The MDE became involved because radiation doses are supposed to be limited to levels as low as reasonably achievable, pursuant to the Maryland Radiation Act. A copy the article can be found here. .

As a result of the self-reporting system, the hospital notified officials, as well as the patient, about the error in which the patient was exposed to radiation inconsistent with the treatment plan. While it’s likely that the medical mistake will not result in any negative effect on the patient, radiation doses that are too high can kill cells while those that are too low can damage or alter the DNA within the cells.

As a result of this mistake, and in addition to the $14,000 fine, hospital officials will have a radiological health official present at each of their next four radiation safety meetings to make sure the hospital is in compliance and to provide guidance if necessary.

In a Maryland medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff seeks punitive damages against a doctor for conducting an unnecessary procedure, is the employer hospital vicariously liable for punitive damages?

In general, Maryland has uniformly applied a broad rule for punitive damages and held an employer vicariously liable for punitive damages for its employee’s tortious acts. Embrey v. Holly, 293 Md. 128, 137-38, 442 A.2d 966, 971 (1982). The nature of punitive damages is such that a punitive damage award may be apportioned between multiple wrongdoers depending upon the degree of culpability and the pecuniary status of each. Embrey, 293 Md. at 141, 442 A.2d at 973. In Embrey, which was a defamation case, the Court held that it was entirely proper to permit a jury to apportion punitive damages among multiple defendants, the speaker of the defamatory language and his employer radio station. Id. at 143, 442 A.2d at 974.
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In 2002, ten years after being born with among other things, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and developmental delay, a newborn, through her guardian, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against University of Maryland Medical System’s University of Maryland hospital. The newborn, through her guardian, alleged that hospital was negligent because it made the mother wait before conducting an emergency c-section, which resulted in severe injury to newborn. A jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City initially entered a verdict in favor of hospital. On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the Circuit Court. A copy the judicial opinion regarding the case can be found here.

The underlying issue in this medical malpractice case was a factual dispute regarding culpability on the part of the University of Maryland Hospital for the newborn’s injuries. The mother stated that after arriving at the University of Maryland hospital, she waited for approximately five hours, without any treatment, before the c-section was performed. The University of Maryland hospital, on the other hand, denied that it was negligent and stated that the woman did not arrive at the hospital until minutes before the emergency c-section was performed.

The c-section only took three minutes to perform but when the newborn was delivered, she was without a heartbeat, she was having difficulty breathing, and she had low Apgar scores. Apparently, a placental abruption had caused the need for the emergency c-section, and the newborn’s disabilities. The doctors at the University of Maryland hospital inserted a breathing tube and placed the child on a ventilation machine, after which she was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Earlier this month the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office of Health Care Quality published a report regarding medical malpractice in Maryland hospitals. The report is a review of the safety and care provided to patients in Maryland hospitals. The report compiles information collected by the OHCQ in 2010 relating to serious adverse events that affected patients or their families. A copy of the report can be found here.

The adverse events that hospitals are required to report include a rather long list of mistakes that are possible because of hospital error, medical malpractice (negligence), or inattention. Patient falls are the most frequently reported event. In 2010, there were 88 reported cases resulting in serious disability or death. Of these 88 reported cases, 10 resulted in loss of limb or function of limb, 52 required surgical interventions, 20 required medical intervention and 6 resulted in death of the patient.

Hospital-acquired pressure sores / ulcers, which are associated with high morbidity (medical complications) and mortality (death) once they reach Stage 3 and 4, were reported 59 times in 2010 making it the second most frequently reported event. However, none of the reported cases in 2010 resulted in death.

The surviving family of a 37 year old Alabama man has won a $3 million jury verdict from a local hospital. The man died a few days after surgery for a duodenal ulcer. The family claimed that the man bled to death after negligent surgery, and negligent follow-up care after discharge. Specifically, the family alleged that the man’s ulcer, a perforation in the first section of the small intestine, was large and not treatable by the standard surgical procedures. The family also alleged that the man was sent home after surgery with a very low blood count and was not adequately examined by his doctor before being discharged. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

I have handled many negligent surgery cases. The key to success in such cases is obtaining all of the relevant medical records, reviewing them carefully, getting a good expert witness and backing the case up with medical literature where appropriate. Also important in such a case is reviewing the medical records to make sure the post-operative care is within the standard of care and not negligent. Usually, this is done by checking the patient’s vital signs (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and temperature), and drainage.

I once handled a case a somewhat similar case of a woman who came into a hospital emergency room with a bleeding ulcer and bleed to death (called exsanguination) within hours. She kept bleeding in the hospital as evidenced by her blood test results which indicated that she was experiencing severe internal bleeding (her hematocrit level kept dropping), but the doctors failed to stop the bleeding. Eventually, her blood pressure crashed and they gave her many units of blood, but by then it was too late to do surgery and she died. That should not happen where there is enough time to operate and stop the bleeding.

Nine Maryland hospitals face financial penalties for having far too many patients contracting preventable medical conditions such as infections, pneumonia and bed sores. Those hospitals commtting medical malpractice are Prince George’s Hospital Center, Doctors Community Hospital, Laurel Regional Hospital, Union Hospital in Cecil County, Montgomery General Hospital, Civista Medical Center in Southern Maryland, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Washington Adventist Hospital and University of Maryland Medical Center. The penalties were handed down by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets rates that hospitals can charge. The evaluation and penalties are designed to improve patient safety and lower health care costs by linking hospital performance with their payments. A copy of an article regarding the penalties can be found here.

This is an important study because it shows that there is significant malpractice at many of Maryland’s hosptials. It also shows that even some of the best hospitals in the state, such as the University of Maryland Medical Center, still have far to go to improve quality of care and reduce the incidence of medical malpractice and wrongful death. In fact, it is interesting to note that, at the same time that this study came out, members of Congress were trying to further limit the rights of victims of medical malpractice by trying to limit damages to $25,000.

An Ohio jury has awarded $1.5 million dollars to a in a medical malpractice case against two doctors. The jury found that a doctor committed malpractice during a bone marrow biopsy in which a nerve was nicked and an artery was damaged. Apparently, the problem went undiscovered for five days and doctors had to remove two large hematomas from the hip and pelvis. The other doctor was called two days after the procedure but declined to examine the patient. The negligence caused the man to lose he use of his right leg below the knee, and resulted in chronic pain. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled a number of medical malpractice cases involving vascular injuries and nerve injuries. These can be difficult cases because the defense is that the procedure is done relatively blindly and injury to a blood vessels and nerves and this can happen, but there are procedures to minimize the risk of such injuries and they clearly were not followed in this case. Moreover, the failure of the subsequent treating doctor to see the patient was clear malpractice.

A Connecticut medical malpractice case has been settled for $5.25 million in favor of a woman whose left leg had to be amputated as a result of complications from spinal surgery performed at a local hospital. The lawsuit alleged that a doctor performed an elective “anterior transabdominal approach to the lumbosacral spine,” and then her doctor and the hospital staff failed to properly take care of her in the intensive care unit, causing the loss of the leg. While in the ICU, the woman suffered intra-abdominal hemorrhaging, post-operative bleeding, abdominal wounds, and other severe complications that the hospital staff did not appropriately diagnose or treat, resulting in a gangrenous lower leg that resulted in an above-the-knee amputation. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled a number of medical malpractice cases involving failed back surgery. Usually, they are caused by improper technique during the surgery, but sometimes it is the post-operative monitoring that is deficient. During the post-operative period, the surgeon and the nurses at the hospital must be alert for changes in the patient’s condition that require further testing and procedures. Usually, simply monitoring the patient’s oxygenation rate, pulse, breathing, responsiveness and blood work is sufficient. These functions usually tell how well a patient is doing. Any abnormalities must be promptly investigated. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.

The New York Times has just published a very interesting article on Long-term acute care hospitals and the medical malpractice / substandard care that goes on in many of them. According to the Times, these hospitals, have been springing up across the country since the 1980s, and specialize in the long-term care of seriously ill patients. Most of these hospitals are for-profit, which means that there is a strong incentive to provide minimal care. Once long term acute care hospital chain drew increased scrutiny, Select Medical Corporation, which reportedly had a rate about four times that of regular hospitals for serious violations of Medicare rules. According to the Times, Medicare inspection reports of many of these hospitals showed preventable patient injuries and deaths and inadequate staff numbers with high turnover. A copy of the article can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice cases involving care of the chronically ill. These patients are at risk for severe bed sores, major infections, falls and death. These people usually are almost totally dependent on others for their care. That makes it even more outrageous when they are not properly care for due to the profit motive.

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