Articles Tagged with medical 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.

 

Contact Andrew G. Slutkin with further questions or inquiries at 410-385-2786

 

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.

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.

It is every medical patient’s worst nightmare. You go to the doctor to have routine tests performed. To your relief, everything comes back negative. You are in the clear. But, a few months later you begin to experience some health problems. Another doctor’s visit is scheduled, and more tests are done. This time the news is much worse. It’s cancer, and it has spread significantly. If you had received treatment earlier the options might be better, but now things look bleak.

Unfortunately, many families find themselves in this situation, and it is often connected to diagnostic errors. Medical tests are only as worthwhile as the work of the doctors reading and interpreting those tests. When those medical professionals make mistakes, patients may suffer serious injury or even death. That is particularly true in cases involving cancer diagnosis, because time of of the essence.

Fixing the Problem

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.

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.

In late June, one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Maryland was handed down by a Baltimore City jury against Johns Hopkins Hospital along with Johns Hopkins Health Systems Corp. The jury awarded the family of a child born with cerebral palsy and seizure disorder $55 Million.

The case stems from what was expected to be an emergency Caesarean section, but various medical mistakes and doctor errors resulted in a wait of more than two hours. The child was born with permanent and severe mental and physical disabilities as a result of loss of oxygen to the brain during the wait. Johns Hopkins Hospital continues to dispute any doctor error or medical malpractice and indicated that they will appeal the verdict.

The $55 Million verdict included a $25 Million award for future medical expenses based upon a life-care plan, $4 Million for future lost wages, and $26 Million for non-economic damages including thing such as pain and suffering. Although the award will be reduced as a result of Maryland’s medical malpractice cap on damages, the actual award will still be around $30 Million.

In late March, a Maryland teen died at Johns Hopkins Hospital after she was deprived of oxygen during routine wisdom tooth surgery. Her parents have since brought a medical malpractice suit against the oral surgeon and anesthesiologist who performed the dental procedure.

At the outset of the surgery, the teen was administered a standard dose of anesthesia. This dose was not sufficient to perform the surgery and an additional dose was administered. Shortly afterwards, the teen’s heart rate began to slow.

The medical malpractice suit, brought in Howard County, alleges that the doctors were negligent in their care of the teen. The suit states that they committed a serious medical error when, during the course of the surgery, the teen’s heart rate slowed to 40 beats per minute and her oxygen level began to drop, but doctors failed to resuscitate her. By the time emergency personnel arrived, the teen had no pulse and had suffered permanent and irreversible brain injury.

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.

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.

In early 2003, a Pennsylvania pharmacist died of a heart attack while at work. In 2009, a jury found his family doctor negligent and awarded the man’s widow $4 million. Later, after determining the delay in the conclusion of the case was improper, the presiding Judge awarded the man’s widow an additional $1.2 million in damages. Last month, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld that $5.2 million award in the medical malpractice case.

This case is an example of the catastrophic results of a doctor failing to correctly diagnose and treat his patient. The man went to see the doctor four days before his death as a result of unexplained chest pain, jaw pain and anxiety. The doctor advised him that these symptoms were the result of anxiety. However, the man’s attorneys argued that the the doctor made a critical error by failing to take into account the following: the man was overweight, he had high cholesterol, he had high blood pressure and he had a history of heart disease in his family. On the day of his death, the man again contacted the doctor as a result of his symptoms persisting. By the time the doctor returned his call, the man was already in cardiac arrest.

Ultimately, jurors agreed that when the doctor analyzed the man’s complaints in light of the risk factors he had, the doctor should have immediately sent the man to an emergency room because the mans’ symptoms were suggestive of a heart attack. The autopsy results further confirmed this determination as it showed heart damage, specifically indicating that the man had a heart attack a few days before his death.

A woman in Pennsylvania was recently awarded one of the highest sums ever recorded in a medical malpractice suit after an infection went unnoticed and nearly killed her. The lawsuit was based upon medical negligence and medical errors committed by a home nurse that was treating the woman, who was suffering from Crohn’s disease. The woman was receiving care from a home nurse when the R.N. failed to recognize that she had an infected catheter. As a result of the nurse failing to refer the patient to a physician to treat the infected catheter, both of the woman’s legs were amputated below the knee. This was a result of the infection spreading to the bloodstream.

The jury in this case awarded the woman $23.12 million after hearing about the failure of the nurse to treat the bacteria-infected catheter and found both the nurse and the employer negligent. The damages were based on compensatory awards of economic damages for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages associated with pain and suffering. A medical malpractice case requires a plaintiff to establish that a health care provider undertook care of a patient, and thus had a duty to the patient; the duty was breached by the health care provider upon their failure to perform at the standard level of care; and that damages to the plaintiff resulted. A finding of negligence means the jury thought that the evidence showed that the woman’s health care provider committed a medical error resulting from an omission which deviated from the standards of practice generally accepted in the medical community, and found that this failure caused injury to the patient.

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

When Myles Massey was born on September 1, 2007, along with his brother, Henry, a medical mystery began to unfold. The twin boys were born prematurely in a Washington state hospital, but it was only Myles who exhibited signs that something was wrong. It took years, but Myles’ family has finally determined the cause of the bacterial infection that overtook his small body, leaving him unable to walk or talk, while sparing his brother who developed normally.

The Massey’s initial medical malpractice suit filed in 2009, which named the doctor’s and hospital that treated Myles at the time of his birth for his contraction of the rare bacteria, cited poor infection control practices as the cause of his systematic decline. However, despite numerous tests, investigators were never able to link the bacteria to any of the doctors or the hospital.

In early 2011, a company by the name of Triad Group became the subject of an FDA investigation which found that the alcohol prep pads they were manufacturing and distributing were contaminated with the bacteria. It was then that the Massey’s mystery was solved. The hospital where Myles was born confirmed that their neonatal intensive care unit used the Triad alcohol wipes. It’s not clear why Myles was affected by this bacterium while his brother and other infants in the NICU were not, but the alcohol prep pads have been almost conclusively deemed the source of the bacteria found in Myles’ bloodstream. The Massey’s lawsuit, now amended, includes the manufacturers and distributors of the alcohol prep pads.

Contact Information