April 19, 2015

Dirty Scissors Used on VA Hospital Patient

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Two things are true of hospitals: they are full of sick people and they are full of people who are vulnerable to infections. This is one of the reasons why using properly sterilized equipment is of paramount importance in hospital settings. When hospitals fail to properly sterilize equipment, the result can be personal injury or even wrongful death. While it is a shame when this sort of lapse happens at any sort of hospital, it is most horrifying when it happens at a VA hospital tasked with treating the men and women who have already put their lives on the line for our country. Unfortunately, this does happen.

VA Hospital Uses Dirty Scissors on a Patient

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April 15, 2015

Apparently Not Quite Everything a Doctor Does Wrong in Texas is Subject to Strict Medical Malpractice Limits

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Tort reform has been leading to ridiculous results all over the country. Medical malpractice patients have found themselves unable to recover the damages to which they should be entitled. In states like Texas, personal injury plaintiffs have found claims that have no business being classified as medical malpractice classified as such so as to deny them their rights to recovery as well. Finally one Texas attorney decided to push the envelope and as a result the Texas courts have put at least some sort of limit on the later of these practices.

Texas Has Been Classifying All Negligence that Happens to Be the Fault of Doctors as Medical Malpractice

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April 11, 2015

Two Dental Malpractice Cases Proceeding in Illinois

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Many people fear the dentist. Between the Novocaine shots, the sound of the drill, and bad memories of childhood braces, a day at the dentist is not exactly a day at the beach. But most people go and most of the time it works out perfectly fine. Unfortunately, some people are not so lucky. Some people find themselves victims of dental malpractice. Dental malpractice may not be the most commonly thought of type of medical malpractice, but it can have serious consequences for the patients who experience it.

Aurora Dentist Accused of Malpractice

Wheaton Patch reports that an Aurora dentist is facing allegations of malpractice in DuPage County. The patient in this case claims that his long-term dentist did not inform him that he had gum disease and it was getting worse. The patient went to this dentist from 1980 up through part of 2013. Throughout the over three decades of treatment the dentist provided the patient with general dental care, diagnostic and restorative care, and treatment planning. In 1999 the dentist told the patient that he noticed periodontal disease, but allegedly did not tell the patient about any particular problem area. Allegedly the dentist did not bring up the condition of the patients gums again until 2012. The patient then went to a different dentist, who diagnosed him with periodontal disease. The patient returned to the original dentist, who at that point, in 2013, finally referred the patient to a periodontal specialist. The patient claims as a result of the delay in his treatment he now suffers from a moderate to advanced form of the disease which has required surgery including bone grafting.

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April 7, 2015

Drug Maker Fighting FDA Efforts to Approve Generic Abilify

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Prescription drug safety is already a complex issue. There are legitimate questions about the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) reliance on manufacturer funded studies in making approval. There is a serious real world problem of prescription and pharmacy error, particularly as large scale pharmacies pressure pharmacists to work faster and faster. In this complex framework the FDA sometimes takes steps that actually help consumers, like approving substantially cheaper generic counterparts to extremely expensive prescription drugs. However, name-brand drug manufacturers are now fighting back, and they are going to court to do it over a generic version of Abilify.

What is Abilify?

Abilify is an antipsychotic medication that changes the actions of chemicals in the brain. It is used to treat mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It is also used in children who are often too young to be accurately diagnosed with specific mental health conditions for symptoms like aggression and self-injury associated with autism spectrum disorder.

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March 27, 2015

Draconian Tort Reform Laws Severely Limit Number of Patients Who Can Receive Justice

by Levin & Perconti
LinkedIn

Medical malpractice lawsuits are the one tool injured patients have to fight back after they are harmed by healthcare provider error. They are also one of the only effective ways of holding the medical industry responsible when it prioritizes cost savings over patient safety. Despite the vital consumer protection role these lawsuits play, state after state continues to slash patients' rights to prosecute medical malpractice cases. Statistics from Wisconsin show that tort reform measures reduce the number of injured patients who are able to seek justice when they have been wronged. This hurts every person who will ever seek out healthcare.

Wisconsin's Tort Reform Prevents a Record-Breaking Number of Patients from Seeking Justice

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the number of patients filing medical malpractice claims fell to a record low last year. Note that it does not report any decrease in the number of actual cases of medical malpractice. It only reports a decrease in the number of legal complaints filed about the malpractice. While the state saw 294 medical malpractice claims filed in 1999, only 84 suits were filed statewide last year. The thing is, there is no evidence that doctors suddenly became that much less negligent.

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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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