Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Nearly twenty years ago, a patient in Missouri underwent a hysterectomy with lymph node dissection. Shortly after this procedure, she developed lymphedema, or swelling of the legs. This condition required her to undergo physical therapy and medical monitoring for more than a decade. Several years after she was released from monitoring, the patient began experiencing pain in her left leg and foot again. She proceeded to consult several doctors about the pain, and eventually saw an orthopedic surgeon. The patient described her symptoms as numbness, tingling and redness in her foot. The orthopedic surgeon diagnosed her with lymphedema again and other related neurological issues, and recommended she follow up with her neurologist.

The patient followed instructions and underwent several neurological studies and continued to see numerous physicians regarding her condition. However, after about one year, the pain did not subside and she visited the hospital again. At this time, she was diagnosed with phlegmasia cerulean dolens, a severe form of deep vein thrombosis – commonly known as a severe blood clot in her leg. Due to this condition, and the length of time that had passed without treatment, the patient’s left leg required amputation from above the knee down several days after this diagnosis.

The patient initiated a medical malpractice suit against the orthopedic surgeon for failing to diagnose or treat the condition, and for failing to refer her to a vascular surgeon who may have been able to treat the blood clot. Specifically, the medical malpractice complaint alleged that a doctor who saw the bluing and other conditions around the patient’s foot, coupled with her severe pain and decreased ability to move her foot, should have referred her to a specialist for further evaluation. By failing to do so, the patient argued, the orthopedic surgeon was negligent and did not exercise the degree of care ordinarily used by a member of the profession under these circumstances.

The Maryland Court of Appeals just issued its decision in the Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia case regarding whether to abandon the doctrine of contributory negligence (if a plaintiff is the least bit negligent, the plaintiff loses) in favor of the doctrine of comparative negligence (if a plaintiff is negligent, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s negligence). Those on the victims’ side will say that this decision is a refusal to move from an antiquated doctrine to a modern doctrine. Those on the corporate and insurance side will consider this a win.

As set forth in the decision, contributory negligence traces its roots to 1809 in England. Almost all states in the U.S. subsequently adopted the doctrine contributory negligence. But over the years, all but four states and the District of Columbia have adopted comparative negligence. Those states that have abandoned the doctrine of contributory negligence have done so on the basis that is not fair to prevent a plaintiff from recovering when the defendant is negligent and the plaintiff is only 1/10th of 1% negligent.

In the Coleman decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals recognized that it had the authority to change from contributory negligence to comparative negligence since it was that court that originally adopted contributory negligence. However, the court said that for such a change to take place the Maryland legislature should make the change.

Despite the continued national focus on patient safety, medical malpractice (medical errors) and other adverse events occur too frequently in Maryland hospital admissions. Hospitals in Maryland are required to report serious adverse events that occur to the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality (MOHCQ). MOHCQ then issues a yearly report regarding those reported events. In its recently-released report for fiscal year 2012, the report revealed that major adverse events (medical malpractice) still occur at an alarming frequency in Maryland.

Level 1 adverse events, which are the unexpected incidents that cause death or serious disability, were the most serious reported adverse events. Maryland hospitals reported 286 level 1 adverse events, a figure that is down from 348 in 2011. As in previous years, ulcers and falls were the most common incidents, accounting for 75 percent of all the reports in 2012.

The findings of the MOHCQ report include:

So far, I have carefully selected about a three medical malpractice cases against Dr. Mark Midei and St. Joseph Medical Center. In each of these cases, the client contacted me either after getting a letter from St. Joseph Medical Center stating that he or she received an unnecessary stent or after reading articles in the newspaper about Dr. Midei and St. Joseph.

To date, there have been seven articles about this fiasco in the Baltimore Sun, consisting of the following:

1/15/10 Patients learn they might have unneeded stents.

Today, MSNBC ran a story about Operating Room fires. The article states that the latest data reveals about 600 cases annually. These fires, sometimes called surgery fires or surgical fires, are completely preventable occurrences.

I have successfully handled a number of these cases, including operative room burns and unintended surgical burns. In these cases, the patient caught on fire because the surgeon did not keep the cautery device away from the oxygen that was being given to the patient during the surgery. The patient also received oxygen at too high a concentration, thereby contributing the likelihood of fire. Doctors and hospitals have known for decades how to prevent surgical fires, yet they still occur. I would say that any time a patient catches on fire during surgery it is a clearly due to medical malpractice and should result in a malpractice lawsuit.

We handle cases like these all of the time in my practice.

This past weekend, there was a fascinating story in the New York Times about doctors who say “I’m sorry” when a medical mistake is made. A copy of the article can be found here. According to the article, some of the leading hospitals in the country are instituting policies that encourage doctors to apologize when a medical mistake is made. What a novel idea!

In my experience, one of the most frequent reasons that people contact my office to investigate a potential Maryland medical malpractice case, is because their doctor will not tell them what happened when something went wrong. These new steps should help doctors avoid medical malpractice cases.

Interestingly, Maryland recently enacted legislation that makes apologies by doctors inadmissible at trial in medical malpractice cases, furthering the goals stated in the New York Times article.

Contact Information