November 21, 2014

Deadly Pharmacy Errors Likely Caused by Corporate Greed?

by Levin & Perconti

Another patient has lost her life to a tragic pharmacy error. A new report out of Texas shows what may be the cause of some of these totally preventable wrongful deaths: corporate greed.

Pharmacy Accused of Causing Deadly Drug Overdose

Katheryn Barton, a California woman, claims that her mother Ruth Eller died because of a pharmacy error, reports CBS Los Angeles. Ms. Eller was in generally good health, but she experienced an arrhythmia of the heart. Her doctor prescribed a generic version of the drug diltiazem to treat the condition. She had that prescription filled by the Kenneth Road Pharmacy in Glendale, California. That is where the problem occurred.

The instructions on the bottle said to take one tablet four times daily, instructions which Ms. Eller followed. After three days, she was unresponsive to her daughter. So her daughter started to dig into the more detailed instructions provided by the drug's manufacturer. And those instructions indicated that the drug Ms. Eller was actually provided with was an extended release drug, and that it should only be administered once a day. Ultimately Ms. Barton discovered that the dosage the pharmacist had instructed Ms. Eller to take was ten times the amount of the medication that Ms. Eller's doctor had prescribed. Ultimately, as a result, Ms. Eller died and the coroner listed the cause of death as diltiazem intoxication due to pharmacy error. Ms. Barton immediately reported the incident to the California Board of Pharmacy, but that agency only fined the pharmacy's owner $1000 for the error. So Ms. Eller will have to file a civil action against the pharmacy to see any justice done for her mother.

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November 19, 2014

Tragic Case Demonstrates Horrible Consequences of Tort Reform

by Levin & Perconti

We regularly discuss the folly of tort reform in this blog, and how it hurts people who are legitimately injured by medical malpractice and insulates bad actors from having to take responsibility for the harm they cause. But a recent case in Wisconsin demonstrates in a very real, and human way, exactly how bad this problem is.

Family of Man Who Falls off Hospital Table and Dies Struggles to Recover

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the case of Robert Schmitt and his family. Mr. Schmitt went to the Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center back in February for a routine heart procedure. The 91-year-old Schmitt fell off the procedure table onto the floor and broke his pelvis. Five weeks later he died, and the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner said his death was caused by complications from the fracture. Hardening of the arteries and heart disease also contributed to his death.

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November 13, 2014

Scare Tactics Convince California Voters to Vote Against Lifting Damages Cap

by Levin & Perconti

Medical malpractice lawsuits play an extremely important role in our medical system. They fulfill two purposes: (1) they provide a way for those hurt by medical professionals to be made whole, and (2) they act to deter negligent and reckless conduct by medical professionals. So-called “tort-reform,” which often takes the form of damage-caps, thwarts both of those very important purposes. California voters had the opportunity this election day to roll back their state's damage cap. However, they failed to do so, in part because of scare-tactics used by the insurance industry to muddy the issues.

California's Proposition 46

The Los Angeles Times described the proposition clearly. Proposition 46 would have rolled back California's damage-cap. It would not have eliminated the cap, but it would have at least raised the cap from $250,000 to roughly $1.1 million, in order to account for inflation. That $250,000 number was put in place in 1975. The proposition also would have required hospitals to randomly test their physicians for alcohol and drug use, and to test doctors after they made certain medical mistakes and after events that led to a patient's death or serious disability. Finally, the measure also would have required doctors to check a state database when prescribing certain drugs to help prevent drug abuse by patients.

How Could Something So Seemingly Reasonable Not Pass?

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November 11, 2014

Son Forced to Pay Legal Costs of Doctor Who Caused his Father's Death

by Levin & Perconti

America's medical malpractice system may have its flaws, but it serves an extremely important purpose, especially in the case of wrongful death cases. Unfortunately, in some countries, there are laws that not only can prevent families from recovering financially after their loved one's death, but that can actually force the family to pay the costs of the doctor who caused the death.

Doctor Responsible for Father's Death Sues Son

The Telegraph reports that Rory Gray, a man whose father was killed by doctor, has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds in court costs in Germany. The doctor, Daniel Ubani, is from Germany. Dr. Ubani traveled the the U.K. and treated Gray's father, ultimately giving him a massive (and lethal) drug overdose. He injected Mr. Gray's father with a dose ten times greater than a safe amount of diamorphine. The overdose was due at least in part to a language barrier due to the doctor's not speaking English well.

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November 6, 2014

Surgical Gowns Fail to Protect Against Ebola

by Levin & Perconti

Again and again in the news we have heard that Ebola is only transmittable through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and that if proper safety protocols are handled it is an extremely difficult illness to transmit from person to person. And experts all seem to agree that this is true. But when the makers of equipment designed to protect medical professionals from disease exposure fails, the story changes. Just like medical device failures, these failures could be deadly.

Lawsuit Alleges Kleenex-Maker Falsely Claimed its Surgical Gowns Protect Against Ebola

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November 3, 2014

Study Finds High Rate of Pediatric Pharmaceutical Errors

by Levin & Perconti

Pharmaceutical errors can be deadly. Receiving the wrong type of medicine or the wrong instructions can lead to horrible effects, not to mention your real condition going untreated. This sort of medical malpractice is even more horrifying when the drugs involved are pediatric medications, and young children wind up hurt or killed. Unfortunately, a new study found that this sort of error is all too common.

New Study Finds that Children Often Given Incorrect Medications

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October 25, 2014

FDA Approves Treatment for Rare Type of Hemophilia

by Levin & Perconti

In the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency responsible for approving new prescription drugs. Reuters reports that the agency announced that it has approved a new drug called Obizur that will be used to treat bleeding episodes in adults with acquired hemophilia A.

What is Acquired Hemophilia A?

Acquired Hemophilia A is a rare but life-threatening condition. It is caused by the development of antibodies that attack a protein that the human body uses for blood clotting. That protein is called FVIII. When human blood does not clot, even a relatively minor cut can result in extraordinary amounts of bleeding. The bleeding can be even worse after a more serious injury or during surgery. While hemophilia usually only affects males, this rare form of the disorder can affect both men and women, and can be related to pregnancy, cancer, or the use of some medications. However, in many cases of this disorder, no cause is known. This is different from the better known types of hemophilia that are genetic and therefore passed on from parent to child and are present from birth.

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October 21, 2014

Study Shows What We Already Know: So-Called “Tort Reform” Does Not Decrease Medical Expenses

by Levin & Perconti

For the last couple of decades numerous politicians have seized on the tragedy of ever increasing medical costs as an excuse to gut our civil justice system. In the name of so-called “tort reform” law-makers have stripped both judges and juries of their rights to determine what proper compensation is in medical malpractice cases,and in some states they have set nearly insurmountable burdens on proving malpractice. In doing so, these legislatures have stripped individual patients who have been injured by negligent medical professionals of their constitutional rights. They sold the public on tort reform by claiming that lawsuits were driving up medical costs and that the only way any of us could afford medical care in the future would be to gut medical malpractice law. And in many states, that is what happened. But, as we predicted, it turns out that tort reform has not driven down medical costs at all.

Study Shows Tort Reform Did Not Decrease Costs

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October 18, 2014

FDA Allows Drugmaker to Test Experimental Drug on Ebola Patients

by Levin & Perconti

Prescription drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. There is a lengthy process that drugs must go through before being approved for use on human patients. The usual process takes years. And even when drug makers go through that process, sometimes drugs are unsafe and can wind up causing serious injuries or death. However, the FDA is going to allow a North Carolina drug manufacturer to test its experimental drug in Ebola patients.

Pharmaceutical Company's Plans to Test Drugs on Ebola Patients

U.S. News & World Report reports that a drug company called Chimerix Inc. received FDA approval to proceed with a trial involving their drug called brincidofovir. The drug, an antiviral tablet, will be tested on patients who are currently infected with the Ebola virus. The FDA already allowed the drug to be administered to the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, who passed away last week.This drug is not only being developed to fight Ebola. It could also eventually be used to treat a virus that infects patients who are undergoing bone marrow transplants. The Department of Defense has been working with Chimerix to determine whether this drug could be an effective treatment for the small pox virus as well.

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October 15, 2014

More Details Surrounding Joan Rivers' Death

by Levin & Perconti

Medical malpractice affects the lives of the both a patient and the people who care about that patient. Whether the malpractice results on a personal injury, or is so severe as to result in wrongful death, many people are hurt. When a beloved celebrity falls victim to a medical professional's mistakes, the loss is felt to a certain degree by all of us. It appears that medical malpractice may very well be the cause of the recent death of much-admired comedian Joan Rivers.

Clinic That Treated Ms. Rivers Deemed Deficient and Could Lose License

ABC News reports that the clinic where Ms. Rivers underwent the procedure that caused her death could lose its federal accreditation. This is because the New York State Health Department's investigation into Yorkville Endoscopy after Ms. Rivers' death found lapses in four categories required for accreditation. The exact details of the lapses have not yet been revealed, but they fall into the following categories:

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