March 22, 2015

Illinois Doctor Pleads Guilty After Over-Prescribing Clozapine

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

We rely on doctors, including psychiatrists, to keep us healthy. When one prescribes us a medication we trust them and take it. This is particularly true of vulnerable people like nursing home residents and other individuals who have to rely on health care providers for their day-to-day needs. Sometimes health care providers make errors, so we have a medical malpractice system to help right those wrongs. But in some much rarer cases doctors are much more malicious than that, and they actually intentionally act against their patients' interests for their own financial benefit. These cases can result in doctors losing their licenses or even facing criminal charges.

Suspended Illinois Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges

Way back in 2009 the Chicago Tribune and Pro Publica reported that Dr. Michael Reinstein was over prescribing the psychiatric drug clozapine and that it appeared that he was receiving kickbacks for doing so. Previously, in the early 1990s, Reinstein was actually suspended from the Medicaid program after being accused of failing to keep proper records. His Medicaid bills from 1991 showed that he had cared for 70 patients a day on 44 different days and that on 12 days he had seen over 100 patients. If a doctor were to see 100 patients even in a 16 hour shift he or she would have a little less than ten minutes with each patient and that presumes that the doctor would take no breaks to eat, get a glass of water, or use the restroom.

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March 19, 2015

Endoscope Maker Tried to Water Down FDA Safety Guidelines

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Medical device manufacturer Olympus has found itself in the press recently because an endoscope it sells has been tied to cases of a deadly superbug in Los Angeles. Similar problems have popped up across the country. The problem is that people who are treated with these scopes are getting sick, not because of healthcare provider errors, but because despite medical professionals' following cleaning protocols the endoscopes are not getting clean. Rather than accept responsibility for causing the deadly outbreak the medical device manufacturer is urging the FDA to change its rules so as to relieve Olympus of at least some responsibility for the problem.

Olympus Urges FDA to Change Rules

Bloomerg Business reports that Olympus asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “water down” its guidelines on cleaning medical devices. The FDA proposed these guidelines four years ago, but they have not been finalized. These guidelines, if finalized, would set non-binding recommendations for many medical device manufacturers including duodenoscope manufacturers like Olympus. These purpose of the guidelines is to help manufacturers prove their cleaning methods and instructions are effective. Olympus' problem is that it may very well be impossible to effectively clean their scope.

Olympus argued in its comments on the FDA proposal that the manufacturer should not be solely responsible for making sure the method of cleaning the scopes it produces is fully effective. Instead they want the FDA to hold the companies that make the devices used to clean the scopes responsible. If the FDA went down that road, then scope manufacturers like Olympus would only have to show that their scopes are compatible with the cleaning materials. So in a case like we have with these scopes Olympus would be perfectly fine saying just that their scopes are compatible with cleaning materials, when in reality the scopes may very well be impossible to effectively clean.

Olympus Also Takes Issue With FDA's Proposal to Make the Devices Safer

In the draft guidelines the FDA proposed that hard to clean devices like these scopes “will need to be disassembled in order to be completely cleaned.” This would require innovation on the part of the manufacturer to solve the problem that has so far contributed to over a dozen deaths and many more illnesses across the country. Olympus balked at this suggestion in its comments, saying that the “FDA should not be imposing guidance which limits and restricts device design, development and innovation, and future clinical applications.”

The problem that Olympus fails to acknowledge is that failure to ensure adequate cleaning of medical devices results in patient deaths. Hospitals are filled with sick people, sick people are treated with medical equipment, and if it is impossible to clean that medical equipment then disease spreads. Perhaps these regulations would make designing the next scope more difficult, if the end result is that the scope hurts fewer patients then it is worth it.

See Related Posts:

Scope Associated with Deadly Superbug Not FDA Approved

Superbug Linked to Hospital Deaths

March 17, 2015

Illinois and Missouri Consider Requiring Nursing Homes to Allow Cameras

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Nursing home abuse and neglect can be one of the most horrifying types of medical malpractice. When our older loved ones reach a stage in their lives when they can no longer care for themselves and around the clock professional care makes the most sense, nursing homes are often the answer. We rely on these facilities to provide the care and treatment our elders deserve. Some facilities do just that, and do it quite well. Others, however, do not live up to the standard of care. The people in these facilities can wind up suffering from bed sores, sepsis, falls, medication errors, clogged breathing tubes, burns, and in some cases even outright abuse. Lawmakers have tried to solve these problems in a variety of ways, and a new proposal is being considered by both Missouri and Illinois lawmakers: requiring nursing homes to allow residents to have cameras in their rooms.

Illinois Considers Putting Cameras in Nursing Homes

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March 12, 2015

Dangerous Medical Malpractice Legislation Pending

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

State after state falls into the trap of pursuing wrong-minded so-called tort reform laws. These laws are marketed to the public as a necessity to prevent frivolous lawsuits. However, all these sorts of laws do in reality is deny those most injured by medical malpractice the ability to recover fully for injuries caused by the negligence of healthcare providers while often violating various constitutional provisions. Misguided and dangerous medical malpractice legislation is currently pending in the Georgia legislature.

Dangerous Tort Reform Measure Pending in Georgia

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Georgia's legislature is considering medical malpractice legislation. The bill is Senate Bill 86. This new law would go even further than other states' prior tort reform measures, stripping patients seriously injured by their doctors of any right to a trial by jury at all. Instead every single medical malpractice claim in the state would be handled by a sort of administrative tribunal.

The bill is named the “Patient Compensation Act,” but in reality it would do the exact opposite of compensating patients. It would set express limits on how much money a medical malpractice victim can recover without consideration for the unique and special factors that each case of medical malpractice entails.

Problems With an Administrative System Replacing the Court System

The immediate concern with such a system is that it will chip away at patients' rights not only to a full recover for the injuries they suffer, but also to tested and proven mechanisms that are the very heart of our justice system. While our system of trial by jury is not perfect and mistakes are sometimes made, it is still one of if not they most brilliantly designed justice systems in the world. When it proceeds uncorrupted it allows for a beautiful combination of the democratic jury process and important judicial legal oversight to prevent the violation of parties rights. Safeguards are in place in the form of appeals so that if something does go wrong or is unjust in that jury process, it can be remedied. Additionally, in a world where the rich and powerful continually grow more rich and more powerful, the jury box is the one remaining area where regular, everyday people still get to make important ultimate decisions.

This democratic process is so important because health care, like any business, is profit driven. This means that in order for patient safety and quality of care to remain priorities we can not just rely on the good intentions of medical professionals. While any individual healthcare provider may care deeply for his or her patients' well-being, ultimately the agencies they work for often force them to make decisions to protect that bottom-line. This means that in order for hurting patients to be something the medical industry avoids, harming patients must hurt the bottom-line. Juries can make a determination in a case as to exactly how much that bottom line needs to be hurt in order to compensate the injured patient and deter future medical misconduct. Some set schedule with limited payments will not fulfill that role, particularly if, much like damage caps in other states, the amount of payments does not increase with inflation.

See Related Posts:

Imagery Taints “Tort Reform” Debate

South Dakotans Suffering the Effects of “Tort Reform”

March 10, 2015

Hot Button Issues - Medical Malpractice and Vaccines

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

The recent measles outbreak that spread nationwide after a contagious child went to Disneyland has highlighted the importance of vaccines. The use of these life-saving preventative measures have saved countless lives over the past few decades in addition to preventing life-long side effects of what used to be common childhood diseases. While it is extremely important for most children to receive their vaccines, there are rarely those who cannot receive them due to a medical condition. There is also an extremely small population in the United States that objects to vaccination based on their religious beliefs.

This makes it even more important for the children who can get their shots to get their shots in order to protect those who cannot. All of this being said, occasionally medical malpractice can happen where vaccines are involved. Healthcare providers errors are a possibility. Additionally, a small number of children are injured by reactions to vaccinations. It is important for parents to understand what their rights are in the extremely unlikely but possible chance of this happening to their child.

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March 7, 2015

Missouri Legislature Trying to Move Backwards on Patients' Rights

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Missouri is one of many states, like Illinois, that has previously determined that damage caps in medical malpractice cases are unconstitutional. When it did so it ruled that the statute that created the caps infringed on the jury's constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party. The court based its ruling on the state constitution's trial by jury right. Now the Missouri legislature is trying to pass damage cap legislation again, despite this ruling and despite the serious personal injuries suffered by medical malpractice victims in Missouri.

Missouri House Approves Bill to Strip Malpractice Victims of Rights

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the Missouri House has approved legislation that, if it became law, would limit jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. The horrible thing is that they may be able to get away with it. The Missouri Supreme Court's previous decision striking down caps relied on the fact that in Missouri there is no statutory right to a jury trial in medical malpractice cases. Instead it is what is called a common-law right. Because people had a right to sue for personal injuries back when the Missouri Constitution became law, the right to a trial by jury as applies now as it did at that time. That means that patients have a right to have the jury determine damages, not the legislature. What the legislature is trying to do is remove the common-law jury trial remedy for medical malpractice cases and create a statutory one. If the right to a jury trial is not a constitutional right, but a statutory right, then the right to a jury determination of damages may not be guaranteed. The Missouri Supreme Court has allowed damage caps in wrongful death cases based on this line of reasoning.

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March 2, 2015

Scope Associated with Deadly Superbug Not FDA Approved

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Just as it is tasked with determining whether prescription drugs should be approved for sale in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also tasked with determining which medical devices should be approved. While some problems that come up with these devices are simply instances of medical malpractice on the part of a healthcare provider, other times the problems are a result of the devices themselves. That is what makes the approval process so important. It appears now that one medical device believed to be responsible for patient illnesses and deaths was never approved by the FDA for sale to begin with.

Dangerous Superbug Scopes Not FDA Approved

CNN reports that the manufacturer of the endoscope connected to two UCLA patient deaths from a superbug never obtained FDA approval to sell the endoscope. The company, Olympus, started selling the TJF-Q180V duodenoscope in 2010. The FDA then realized in either 2013 or 2014 that Olympus had never even asked for the agency's permission to market the scope. The device manufacturer says that it did not think it needed to ask for permission, but it has now filed a proper request. Its application is pending.

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February 27, 2015

Superbug Linked to Hospital Deaths

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

We go to hospitals to get well, not to get sick. Unfortunately, thanks to medical malpractice, it does not always work out that way. Sometimes these healthcare provider errors can result in patients suffering infections that can be life threatening. Two people who recently lost their lives due to a “superbug” were infected with their fatal disease when they were at a California hospital.

Nearly 180 Patients Exposed to Superbug

The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly 180 patients who were treated at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to a potentially deadly bacteria that has already killed at least two people. They did not contract this illness from some other sick patient roaming the hospital. Instead, the culprit is contamination. Medical scopes contaminated with this bacteria were used on these patients. Another report by the newspaper notes that an 18-year old patient still in the hospital was diagnosed back in October with the drug resistant superbug CRE. He was treated with a medical scope tied to the outbreak.

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February 25, 2015

Are Performance Metrics Contributing to Pharmacy Error?

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

When pharmaceutical errors happen, the results can be deadly. This type of medical malpractice hurts patients in two ways. First it results in their taking a medication that may be dangerous for them and second it results in their not getting the medication that their doctors have determined they need. Despite the danger of both of these consequences and despite the years of training required for pharmacists, these errors still happen at a shockingly high rate. It is important to figure out why. A report from the Boston area indicates one potential contributing factor: performance metrics.

Do Performance Metrics Contribute to Pharmacy Error?

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February 21, 2015

Celebrity Dentist Facing Malpractice Allegations

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Almost no one likes going to the dentist. Its uncomfortable, the drill sounds terrifying, and the lectures on why you should be flossing more often are guilt inducing. However, even though some of us fear the dentist and think that the procedures may hurt, very few people imagine that their dentist may actually cause them lasting harm. But, just like a surgeon or a primary care physician can commit medical malpractice, a dentist can commit dental malpractice. Now there are allegations that one celebrity dentist has done just that on numerous occasions.

Celebrity Dentist from “The Swan” Faces Eighty-Six Allegations of Misdiagnoses and Botched Procedures

The Orange County Register reports that dentist Dr. Sherri Worth is facing a long list of allegations from the Dental Board of California. Worth gained celebrity status when she acted as a dentist on the relatively short-lived reality show “The Swan.” Her regular dental practice is in Newport Beach, California. Back in 2012 she lost a malpractice lawsuit and was ordered to pay the plaintiff $641,542. In that case an arbitrator found that Worth had incorrectly installed a patient's crowns and that as a result the patient suffered relentless pain. The allegations from this lawsuit are included in the Dental Board's complaint against Worth.

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