September 30, 2010

Most Medical Errors Go Unreported

Many of our posts to this blog involve highlighting examples of medical malpractice. In that way we hope to raise awareness of the types of errors that occur, the prevalence of the problem, and the ways in which victims are able to seek redress for their suffering. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti also strive to encourage those who have fallen victim to take steps to report their concerns. It is only that way that we can truly send a message to hospitals and other medical professionals about the prevalence of medical errors and the urgent need to work toward their elimination.

A new story by Heart Newspapers affirms that need of better reporting of medical errors. After discussing the tragic death of a 47-year old man following a medication error, the story explains that the vast majority of hospitals in the area are still failing to properly report their medical errors. Not all hospitals are required to report their errors specifically. Even those that do report them, however, likely only include a fraction of the mistakes that actually take place.

One of the key problems of underreporting is the ineffective manner in which reporting systems are created. Generally, strange rules determine whether a certain mistake does or does not count as one which must be documented in the report. “Categories” are created that must be reported, and if an error does not fall into one of those specific categories, there is no reporting—regardless of whether the problem was just as much a preventable mistakes as others.

The improper reporting is a problem, because experts have consistently shown that reporting and analysis leads to corrective measures being taken and future lives being saved. For example, the case highlighted in the story explains how failure to follow medication protocols led to the death of the 47-year old man. However, essentially through “loopholes” in the categories, that death was never reported as a mistake. Consequently, that particular hospital is still able to claim that is has not had a single medical error in the last four years. It is a fictitious designation that misleads future patients and obscures that fact that serious reform needs to be undertaken.

September 29, 2010

Doctors Using Medical Malpractice Claims to Help Avoid Future Mistakes

The Wall Street Journal wrote this week about the encouraging way that many doctors are using medical malpractice claims to understand their previous mistakes and learn from them.

Medical professionals are increasingly examining the lawsuits that are filed alleging improper care in order to understand the ways in which the mistakes are frequently made. In that way, researchers are capable of focusing their efforts into the areas that most need improvement.

Specifically, the data reveals that as many as 40% of malpractice claims involve diagnosis errors—missed, delayed, or incorrect diagnoses. Cancer misdiagnoses represent one of the most common, and damaging forms of error. Somewhere in the area of 40-80,000 patients are killed each year because of these types of medical mistakes. However, eliminating these diagnostic mistakes will not be a quick or easy task.

One professional explains that improving diagnoses, “will require a focus on larger system failures, such as preventing lab results for getting lost and developing checklists to help doctors distinguish between, say, a ‘low risk’ headache and a ‘high risk’ headache.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti continue to believe that an important relationship can exist between the claims of medical mistakes and the doctors who are working to improve patient care. In the end, the goal is permanent improvement in the care provided to all patients at all hospitals. Until we reach the point where malpractice is a thing of the past, it is vital to preserve the rights of injured patients and learn from their suffering.

To read more about the positive outcomes that can grow from previous mistakes, please Click Here.

September 28, 2010

Two New Publications Supporting Patients' Rights

All those interested in keeping abreast of developments in the areas of patients’ legal rights and medical malpractice now have even more options. The Center for Justice and Democracy announced early last week on the release of two new publications in the area. The consumer groups is hoping that the publications will provide even more clear insight demonstrating the challenges of the proposals that some states are considering which would further deny certain victims access to the full justice system.

First, The Circuit published an article explaining that the claimed alternatives to the regular justice system—like health courts, apology and early offer laws, certificates of merit, and others—are often fatally flawed. The author notes, “Rather than changing patients’ legal rights, the focus should be on increased safety as the best way to decrease the need for litigation.”

Second, the Center released An Analysis of HHS Patient Safety and Medical Liability Initiative which critiqued an experimental program out of New York. That program will force many OB/GYN patients into biased legal apparatus with fewer legal options and no notice that they will be forced to concede their rights upon entering the hospital.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have consistently fought for the unfettered rights of patient-victims. We are confident that the more individuals who are made aware of the truth about “alternatives” like arbitrary damage caps will support the rights of judges and juries to decide the outcome of cases following medical mistakes.

To read more from these publications on the potential harm to patients please Click Here.

September 27, 2010

Negligent Hospital Exposes Patients to Hepatitis C

The Miami Herald reported on troubling news out of the local Mayo Clinic. Late last week the hospital began alerting patients of a terrible medical breach that may have exposed them to a deadly virus.

More than 4500 patients at the clinic may have been exposed to Hepatitis C following the abusive practice of a radiology technologist at the facility. Apparently, the employee admitted to stealing an injectable painkiller from the hospital medication stock. The employee was infected with a particular strain of Hepatitis C. Negligent actions by the employees ultimately exposed the thousands of patients to his own deadly infection. So far Mayo Clinic staff members discovered that three other patients have been infected with a strain of the virus similar to the technologist’s strain.

All the other patients who were exposed to the virus are being contacted and are being asked to be tested to ensure that they were also not infected.

Breaches of trust that put patient lives at risk are all too common occurrence at hospitals across the country. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have been involved in many cases where misconduct by employees has caused severe injury to the patients in their care. It is vital that hospitals take every step possible to ensure that the people they hire to care for patients possess the integrity, skill, and professionalism necessary for the important job. There is often no room for medical error in hospital settings, and it is absolutely unacceptable for employees to break the law in a way that may harm or kill the innocent patients at the hospital.

September 26, 2010

Hospital Calls Wrong Family Following Tragic Death

A bizarre hospital mistake caused the suffering of two different families following a tragic death last weekend. The Modesto Bee reported on the mix-up caused by the Emanuel Medical Center.

Last week, Shawn Barlow a 40-year old deputy district attorney died from cardiac arrest in his home. He was brought to the local hospital following the death. The medical professionals at the facility placed a call to what they thought was the next-of-kin to the deceased man to ask if the family would like to donate Mr. Barlow’s organs.

However, instead of calling the family of Shawn Barlow, the California Donor Network actually placed a middle-of-the-night call to Autumn Barlow Garcia, the sister of another man, 41 year old Shuan Barlow. The hospital had given the network the information to ask Autumn for permission to take her brother’s organs. Of course, in reality Autumn brother was alive, but she was not aware of any mistake. In fact, Autum’s own father had died of cardiac arrest at age 36 and her grandfather of the same problem at age 38, so they assumed that it was possible that their own brother had suffered a similar fate. It wasn’t until the family frantically called Shuan’s house and got him to pick up in the early morning that they realized that he was alive.

Apparently the mistake was made sometime in 2005, when the hospital switched to a different computer system. Beyond that, officials do not know what specifically happened which led to the error

As this example indicates, hospitals are in the unique position to inflict severe trauma on many lives when they make mistakes. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have decades of experience fighting for the families who have suffered at the hands of all types of medical errors. It is vital that these medical facilities are held responsible for all of their conduct, from the critical medical care to the organization of their record keeping.

September 25, 2010

Doctors Often Make Mistake Of Overprescribing Antibiotics

Softpedia News published a story last week regarding a troubling medical mistake that doctors often commit—prescribing antibiotics to patients who have viral infections.

The news story refers to the findings of a recent medical study in an issue of the Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. The report raised concerns that doctors were misusing antibiotics when treating patients suffering from respiratory tract infections.

The total number of mistakes is surprisingly high. The study examined just two hospitals, but found that of 196 patients diagnosed with viral infections, 125 of them continued to take antibiotics. That means that virtually two out of three patients with viral infections were given improper medication—an obvious medical error that doctors should be well trained to avoid.

Besides wasting time and resources on a medication that will not improve their condition, these antibiotics may also cause problems for those infected with viruses. Specifically, the researchers note that the taking of antibiotics has been known to cause various problems, including Clostridium difficile diarrhea. Those patients taking antibiotics when not necessary were found to have higher mortality rates and longer stays in the hospital. Clearly this particular medication error harms those unfortunate patients who fall victim.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti encourage all patients who may have suffered a medication error to contact a lawyer today. Doctors have a duty to use their medical expertise in a way that provides patients with a certain quality of care. When a doctor prescribes the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage or fails to prescribe medicine that is needed, he or she may have committed medical malpractice.

September 24, 2010

Study Confirms That New Doctors Commit More Medication Errors

We have posted several stories over the summer involving the increase in medical errors related to new residents entering hospitals across the country.

New residents, or doctors-in-training, begin their first shift at the beginning of July each year. Research continues to pour out that categorically demonstrates a significant increase in medical mistakes committed by these residents.

For example, the United States National Library of Medicine published the results of a new study which sought to measure this “July Effect.” Specifically, the study examined the number of medication errors that occurred at hospitals across the country in July as compared to other times of the year. The comprehensive evaluation examined over 62 million death certificates over the past 27 years. From that they culled near 250,000 deaths related to medication errors.

The researchers then conducted a plethora of analysis on that data to compare the timing and location of the errors. In summary, they discovered that that July Effect did in fact bear out in all locations that had a teaching hospital where new residents could be found. The errors caused by doctors’ prescribing dangerous medications spiked by 10% in the month when new residents began prescribing drugs to patients.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe that all patients deserve to be treated by medical professionals who can provide a reasonable standard of care. It is simply unacceptable for certain patients to suffer debilitating loss merely because they happened to be treated by an inexperienced new doctor-in-training. If you have any concerns about the competence of the medical care that you or a loved one has received, please contact a medical malpractice lawyer today to learn more about your rights. The only way to force those in decision-making positions to change their negligent behavior is to hold them accountable for the preventable medical errors that they continue to allow.

September 23, 2010

Children Sexually Abused At Chicago Psychiatric Hospitals

The Chicago Tribune ran a story yesterday on a tragic problem plaguing many of the city’s most prominent mental health facilities. The newspaper has identified 18 cases of reported rape and sexual assault at these facilities in the last two years alone, and this is after state officials had vowed to curb the problem.

This story should serve as a reminder of the various ways in which patients remain vulnerable when seeking medical care. The victims were all under 18 years old (the youngest was 7) and each was a ward of the state. What makes the situation more tragic is that all but four had suffered horrific abuse in their past. It is heartbreaking to consider that their trauma has continued even after intervention of state officials who were suppose to protect them.

Inefficient oversight from the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services is part of the problem. Other factors include weak laws that provide little protection to the vulnerable patients as well as inadequate funding to properly investigate reported instances of abusive conduct.

Not one of the alleged perpetrators of the abuse has been arrested or prosecuted, nor have any disciplinary actions been taken against the facilities which allowed the conduct. Amazingly, in some of the cases of molestation, the sexual actions were labeled “consensual” even though some of the victims were as young as 12 years old.

As one public guardian remarked, “The fact that they are even able to have what some term as ‘consensual sex’ is just abhorrent, because it says the systems failed to keep kids safe and make them better.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti remain disgusted by any abuse that occurs at hospitals where patients—both young and old—seek care for their ailments. More must be done to protect these innocent victims and ensure that future medical abuse is eliminated.

Please Click Here to learn more about the problem of sexual abuse in Chicago hospitals.

September 22, 2010

Broken Hospital Bed Leads to Unique Challenge to Malpractice Cap Law

The Texas Tribune is reporting on an unfolding legal story that highlights the unique ways in which hospitals make errors and puts the unfairness of medical malpractice caps in a new light.

The situation arose following an event that occurred at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital several years ago. Irving Marks was at the facility to have back surgery performed and to recuperate following the procedure. The actual back operation went forward without a hitch. However, while lying in bed following the procedure, Marks suffered a terrible fall in his hospital room. It was eventually discovered that the fall was caused by a broken footboard on the bed to which he was assigned.

A lawsuit was filed so that the negligent hospital would assist Marks with his medical payments following his re-injury after the hospital fall. Interestingly, the hospital argued that the lawsuit was limited by the medical malpractice law which puts a cap on certain damages at $250,000. Marks attorneys conversely suggested that the law did not apply, because the faulty bed problem was distinct from the medical errors that supposedly fall under the cap.

Judges at all levels of the system disagreed on the appropriate result. The state’s Supreme Court eventually decided in a close 5-4 ruling that the medical malpractice law did not apply in this case.

The back-and-forth on the issue offers a clear example of the illogical reasoning behind medical malpractice caps. For example, if Marks had suffered a terrible injury during the back surgery itself, than there would have been an arbitrary limit to the amount of money that a jury could award him. Yet, because his injury occurred while on the hospital bed after the surgery, there now is no limit. Even if the harm to Marks was identical in both cases, he would receive one award in one case and a lesser award in another. There is no actual logic to that outcome, only an arbitrary, irrational, infringement on the rights of some patients over others.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti believe that there is a better way. Faith should be placed where it has always been—in the legal system itself. Instead of capricious rules that penalize certain patients through no fault of their own, our legal system should provide individualized attention to fairly assess each legal situation. Trust should be placed in judges and juries to properly hear evidence following each case, decide fault, and then award damages based on the individualized evidence that was presented. That is the only logical, time-tested, fair way to dispense justice in our system. Medical malpractice caps take a sledgehammer to that system and mandate arbitrary decisions in all cases. The result is that patients who are victimized during surgery are punished, while those hurt in the bed after the procedure somehow are not. The law should be changed.

September 21, 2010

Missed Diagnosis—A Common Medical Mistake

The San Francisco Chronicle posted a story yesterday on the all too common errors that hospitals make when attempting to diagnose deadly medical problems. It was explained how sometimes a patient does not receive a misdiagnosis—told the wrong thing—but instead a missed diagnosis—told nothing at all.

The story’s author explained that her own brother –in-law suffered from just such an error. He was a healthy young man who started having blackouts. He was not sure what caused the symptoms, but he went to a doctor to get it checked out. Without ordering a single test or inquiring further, the doctor told him that he was fine, with no medical issues. But the next day the young man suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was the victim of a missed diagnosis.

To help curb these and similar problems the author suggests that the American Medical Association have a medical corrections specialist available to work with those that commit errors, ensuring that it never happens again. In addition, many physicians could do a better job of following through with checklist procedures to ensure that basic oversights do not have deadly affects on unsuspecting patients.

For example, the check list approach, if consistently followed, would drastically limit the amount of hospital acquired infections that attack thousands of patients each year. Correcting that one issue alone would save lives and spare untold numbers of families the trauma associated with medical complications.

All proposals that seek to limit the pain and suffering caused by medical errors should be closely examined. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti continue to work with the victims of these mistakes firsthand. Without question all those who have suffered would give anything to only have been given proper care in the first place. It is imperative that steps be made to limit the number of future victims.

September 20, 2010

Changes Needed in Medical Tubes to Reduce Patient Risk

A renewed effort is being made to push through some changes that may ultimately eliminate thousands of medical mistakes and save hundreds of lives, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

We have reported on this blog about the frequency of mistakes made with medication tubing. Misconnections in tubing has played a role in many medical mistakes—often fatal—affecting all types of patients. The gist of the problem is simple: different tubing is not distinguished from one another, so medication intended for one part of the body, often ends up in the wrong location.

Tragically, infants are often the group most affected by tubing errors. Medication is frequently mixed inadvertently and then given to vulnerable infants. In one high profile case, morphine intended for a mother was accidentally connected to the tubing of her infant daughter. With these connections being made quickly, often in low light, the errors occur at an alarmingly high rate. Many nurses admit that they do not always check to ensure that the tube originates at the desired location.

New measures are being pursued, however, that would require the tubing to be distinguishable to prevent the mistakes. American Medical Association delegates recently approved a resolution on the topic. A member of the group explained, “The implementation of this common sense safety measure has been hindered by industry resistance and delays […] The problem could be easily remedied by the creation of tubing with incompatible connectors that would prevent inappropriate medical tubing connections.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti support this measure to provide, smart, safe care to patients. This situation highlights the importance of being open and honest when medical mistakes occur so that the frequent problems can be identified and corrected. It is only with this joint effort of holding professionals responsible for their care and workings to catalog the types of mistakes made, that the problem of medical error will ever truly be improved. With lives hanging in the balance, there is no excuse for not moving forward.

There is much more information about steps being made to correct this glaring medical problem. Please Click Here to learn more.

September 19, 2010

Medical Mistakes Continue to Affect Patients Across the Country

With healthcare reform becoming the major legislative issue of the last year, it is surprising that more discussion has taken place regarding the prevention of medical errors that affect countless innocent patients each year.

The Times Union noticed the surprisingly inadequate steps taken to tackle the problem. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement found that nearly 200,000 people die each year from hospital mistakes that could be prevented and infections acquired while at hospitals. That staggering total suggests that hundreds of deaths every day could be prevented if only steps were taken to safeguard against these errors.

An initial step in tackling the crisis of medical errors involves collecting accurate data on the scope of the problem. However, Congress has yet again failed to require reporting of medical errors. Because of that, the problem remains hidden in the background of healthcare debates.

Many patients’ right advocates are encouraged that the new chief of Medicare and Medicaid services may try to once again put patient safety in the public consciousness. Dr. Donald Berwick had previous spent thirty years studying patient safety and working on ways to improve the quality of care given across the country.

His supporters claim that he “is passionate about safety and quality, and is a brilliant leader. He knows how to articulate that passion and that purpose behind health care like no one I’ve ever heard.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are well aware of the magnitude of the problem of medical mistakes. In our decades of collective experience our attorneys have been involved with a multitude of cases where medical professionals provided inadequate care causing the deaths of their patients. We will continue to fight for the rights of the patients and their families who have had their lives destroyed by the very people whom they thought would provide them with the expert care they deserved.

Please Click Here to read more about the inadequate reporting of errors and the possible legislative actions to rectify it.

September 18, 2010

Doctors Share Stories of Fatal Medical Mistakes

Reader’s Digest published a story recently that attempted to put a human face on the medical errors that destroy families as well as medical careers. The publication recently asked doctors to discuss errors that they have made, describing how the error affected them and their future as hospital professionals.

For example, Dr. Peter Pronovost explains how he made an error in the middle of a 36-hour shift. He hadn’t slept in 24 hours and was forced to discharge patients from intensive care to make room for several new patients. The doctor decided to move one patient who had esophageal cancer, removing his breathing tube and transferring him to another unit. Following that mistake, a series of complications caused the doctor to quickly reinsert the breathing tube and in his panic he had trouble with the process.

In another case, Dr. Bryan E. Bledsoe explained a mistake he made that cost a woman her life. The error ultimately led him to become a proud advocate for patients’ rights. He works to spread the message of health care safety, trying to teach physicians to treat patients with a personal touch.

As Bledsoe makes clear, “Any physician who says he or she never made a mistake is a liar.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have worked with many families who have suffered heartbreaking loss due to medical mistakes. It is impossible to properly calculate the amount of lives affected when someone dies from medical errors. It is important to ensure that the public is kept aware of the problem. In that way the medical community is pressured to keep working toward eliminating the problems.

Please Click Here to read more doctors sharing their personal stories of mistakes in the hospital.

September 17, 2010

Hospital Mistakenly Circumcises Newborn Boy

A new lawsuit was filed yesterday after an egregious medical mistake put a newborn son under the knife against the express wishes of the baby’s mother. According the to Miami Herald, Vera Delgado was shocked and disgusted when she learned that her 8 day old son was circumcised without her consent and against her express wishes told to doctors.

Vera gave birth to her son, Mario, in late July. Mario had medical problems in his first few days alive, so doctors kept him in the intensive care unit to help fight an infection. Previously, Vera had specifically refused to sign a consent form for circumcision, telling doctors that she did not want Mario to have the procedure. No male in her family had had the operation in generations.

However, a few days after his death, Vera walked into his room and noticed a vial lying next to the baby’s bed. She questioned a nurse about it who told her it that was Tylenol to help Mario with the pain caused by his circumcision.

Vera was obviously upset, explaining, “I didn’t want this for him. I’m opposed to circumcision. They didn’t have the right to do it.”

Hospital officials have admitted the error, explaining that they had inadequate procedures in place to check on the consent forms. Apparently, an employee misread the unsigned consent form in Mario’s case, which led to the unwanted procedure. Hospital officials have called it “an unfortunate mistake.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti understand the immense frustration that must arise when specific medical wishes are ignored by negligent hospitals. One of the most basic rights afforded to all patients is the ability to make informed decisions about their own bodies, which includes a mother’s right to make health choices for her newborn child. If you or anyone you know have not been properly consulted or given inadequate medical information before a medical procedure has been performed, please contact an attorney to learn more about your rights as a patient.

September 16, 2010

Doctor Spends Life Exposing Underperforming Hospitals

Forbes recently profiled an amazing doctor who has spent his career working to improve medical care across the country. For two decades Dr. Harlan Kumholz has sought to measure the real- world effect of hospital care to better understand what parts of medical service are being ignored, what parts are working, and the processes that fail.

At first, Dr. Kumholz received very little support from the medical community. But his techniques were slowly perfected and his results were hard to ignore. For example, in 2004 he proved that two-third of all heart attack patients were not getting angioplasties within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital as recommended. Those delays in providing the procedure—which reopens clogged arteries with a balloon tipped catheter—led to increase death from heart attacks.
The doctor was able to show that the delay in care was not the fault of ambulance time, but instead caused by delays in the time when the patient was actually in the hospital.

He also was able to show that many heart-failure patients are given inadequate care which leads them to becoming “revolving door” patients—they are forced to head back to the hospitals very shortly after leaving. In other work he has shown that 25% of heart patients are never given basic aspirin when they need it and that beta blockers were never prescribed to 50% of the patients who should have gotten them.

His program is now used by the federal government’s Medicare program to compare hospitals. Dr. Kumholz has developed skills to put systems in place that ask the right questions and use the appropriate measurements to get to the root of medical quality information. This has all been a revolution for the medical profession, which has been slow to use data-driven quality measurement to improve care.

Dr. Kumholz’s research verifies what our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have witnessed in our work with hundreds of victims of medical errors. Most doctors are highly capable experts who save lives every day, but some are not. Those that fall below standards much be made to improve the quality of their care so that more victims do not suffer from their medical mistakes.

September 15, 2010

Majority of Doctors Admit Working While They Are Sick Themselves

It is imperative for all hospital professionals to keep a close eye on germ control in the facility. We have often discussed preventable hospital sicknesses that many patients get after they arrive at the hospital to receive treatment for some other ailment.

New reporting from the Associated Press and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association explains another facet of the problem which places patients at increased risk for medical complications. More than half of resident doctors (doctors-in-training) in a recent survey explain that they have shown up to work while they themselves were sick—over a third have done it more than once.

Reasons for working while sick vary. Some doctors explained that they did not have time to find a replacement while seeing a doctor for their own illness. Others thought that they didn’t believe the cost of finding a replacement was worth the risk.

Another factor may be the competitive nature of hospital residency programs. Many residents work up to 80 hours a week and up to 24 hour in a single day. There is also pressure for residents to be perceived as hard workers, willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Yet, it does not take much explanation to understand the huge risk that doctors take when they bring germs around already sick patients. The CEO of doctor training schools explained that “doctors should recognize that if they’re sick, their patients’ would be better served by having another doctor take care of them.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti remain committed to helping patients who suffer at the hands of doctors, like some alluded to here, who cause them increase pain and suffering following medical errors. With many patients’ health walking a tightrope, it is imperative that doctors take no unnecessary steps that may tip the vulnerable patient’s health in the wrong direction—like bringing in new germs to the hospital when they are sick themselves.

September 14, 2010

Judge Becomes Advocates For Patients After Sponge Left Following Surgery

Judge Nelson Bailey has presided over many trials in his ten years on the county bench—including those involving obvious acts of negligence. Much to his own disgust, he recently became a personal victim of one of these errors following medical mistakes during a surgery.

As reported in the Palm Beach Post, Judge Bailey went into the Good Samaritan Medical Center to undergo abdominal surgery. Unfortunately, upon leaving after the surgery, his pain only got worse. He went to his main doctor and underwent repeated CT scans, but no one could explain why he felt worse. Each scan revealed some unknown marker, but it was never accurately identified.

He suffered through the pain for five months before doctors finally realized what it was—a medical sponge mistakenly left in the body following the abdominal operation. It was one foot long by one foot wide and had been stuck near the Judge’s intestines the entire time. Part of the Judge’s intestines had rotted because of the sponge, ultimately having to be removed. The result is that now the Judge can never be far from a bathroom—making it difficult to engage in his favorite pastime of horseback riding.

Since the beginning of his suffering, Judge Bailey has learned that leaving sponges inside patients is the most common medical mistake made in surgeries. It happens to at least 3,000 patients a year.

Since then, the Judge has become an advocate for reform to help victims of medical mistakes. For one thing, he now proposes elimination of medical malpractice caps, explaining, “What I would like to see is when you have malpractice per se, something this egregious, the damages should be between the parties, a judge and jury without the state legislature dictating limits.”

Judge Bailey also advocates for use of an instrument that helps eliminate the problem of leaving sponges in patients. The device acts as a wand that can be waived above a patient and beeps if any sponges tagged with microchips have been left inside.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti wholeheartedly support both of Judge Bailey’s positions. Award caps do nothing more than further punish victims medical errors. Considering how frequently just this single mistake occurs, hospitals obviously need to do a better job of ensuring that future patients do not suffer because of these errors.

September 13, 2010

Florida Example Illustrates Problem With Medical Malpractice Caps

Medical malpractice caps are a common talking point these days as candidates for public office tout their position on the issue. We have often reiterated the belief of our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti that the caps do nothing more than arbitrarily take away rights of victimized medical patients.

As one victim of medical malpractice explains, “Why can’t you let a jury decide what the true value is—that’s the problem with caps. Until it happens to you, you’re OK with it. It’s easy when it happens to someone else.”

As explained in the Fort Myers News-Press, more reporting out of Florida confirms that many of the often-used reasons for supporting the caps are eventually found to be incorrect when actually applied.

A common refrain is that the fear of medical malpractice lawsuits prompts many doctors to practice defensive medicine that increases costs without noticeable patient benefit. However, the new evidence suggests that medical caps have nothing to do with defensive medicine.

For the past six years Florida has had a cap in place limiting the amount of money a victim of medical error can recover. The new figures explain that physicians in the state continue to order billions of dollars worth of extra tests, regardless of the caps.

Measuring defensive medicine is challenging, because there is no clear line between a test that is necessary and one that is not. But in terms calculated by the American Medical Association, Florida has actually seen an increase in its cost since imposition of the caps on awards in 2004.

Clearly, the issue is not as simple as is often made out by those clamoring to limit the rights of injured patients. Please Click Here to read more about this story and the challenges to lowering health care costs across the country.

September 13, 2010

Review of Medical Mistakes Reveals High Cost of Errors

The Green Bay Press Gazette published an editorial this weekend concerning the high cost of medical mistakes on local residents, their friends, and family.

After a review of hospital inspection records, reporters discovered that most area hospitals did a good job of keeping patients safe and attempting to save lives whenever patients needed emergency care. However, every time a healthcare provider makes even a single medical mistake, the cause needs to be closely monitored and the victim needs to hold the offender accountable to help ensure that future errors are limited.

The costs of these errors is simply too high.

For example, the report revealed that one woman died only 24 hours after arriving at a local hospital complaining of feeling bloated and weak. Officials later discovered that an employee made many mistakes, including not getting the woman’s x-ray to her doctor in a quick fashion. In another case, doctors at a hospital examined a paraplegic and completely missed the fact that the injured patient had a broken leg. The patient was forced to suffer through the broken bone without treatment.

The editorial concluded with a call to remember that even one error that can be prevented is one too many—especially when it leads to unnecessary deaths.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe strongly in the continued need for negligent doctors to be held accountable for their medical errors. Our work is not guided by a belief that all doctors provide problematic care. We know that most medical professionals are indispensible experts who save thousands of lives every day. However, there remains a small group of physicians who consistently fall below the standard of care that patients deserve. Because of the high cost of the errors that those negligent physicians make, it is important to ensure that everything is done to ensure that they are not continually made.

September 11, 2010

Hospital Worker Submits Fake Mammogram Results

Proper preventative testing is an important part of detecting health problems early enough to provide life-saving treatment. It is for that reason that there has been a recent push to encourage everyone to receive yearly tests for particularly common ailments. One of the most prominent examples of this trend is the encouragement for women to receive yearly mammograms.

However, some women recently found out that their testing was completely useless, because the results were never examined by a doctor at all.

ABC News reported on a bizarre case of medical mistakes involving a willfully negligent hospital employee. Rachel Rapraegar was a radiology technician at the Perry Hospital in Perry Georgia. While in the position she gave mammograms to hundreds of women who came in to ensure that they did not have breast cancer. However, instead of taking the test and giving the results to the doctors to examine, Rapraegar never showed the actual doctor anything. Instead, she simply marked the results as negative and sent the patients on their way.

Officials believe that over a thousand women fell victim to this reckless conduct. Of course, the result is that many women who actually had cancer, never found out. The disease was allowed to spread without the unknowing patient receiving any needed treatment.

Of the 1,300 mammograms that were never reviewed by a doctor, 10 of them have already been discovered to have actually revealed breast cancer. The women have been notified of the mistake. As a result, many of these women may have their lives shortened, because their treatment was delayed.

One victim explained her anguish, “She’s cut time with my family. She’s taken away time from me, that I would spend loving the people that I love.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti are appalled that this type of conduct could occur at any hospital. The blatant disregard for the needs of patients, for no apparent reason, is simply inexcusable. Examples like these are exactly why it is important that patients’ rights remain properly protected. When lives are cut short because of medical errors like this, the court system is often the only place remaining that can help vindicate patient losses.

September 10, 2010

Medical Malpractice Reform Not The Answer To Rising Healthcare Costs

Representative Michael Burgess, the Republican chairman of the Congressional Healthcare Caucus admitted to The Hill this week that attempting to limit medical malpractice awards for victims will not save the nation much on healthcare costs. This is an important concession from an advocate that has previously called for new laws which would infringe of the rights of patients who suffer at the hands of medical mistakes.

Rep. Burgess explained that, “I have never suggested that medical liability reform is a silver bullet.”

The comments were spurred by a new study which documented costs associated with handling the malpractice that doctors commit. The researchers behind the study were clear in explaining that attempting to lower the costs to doctors from malpractice liability would do little to solve the country’s overall healthcare expense problem.

The author of the study explained the reality of the situation, “Physician and insurer groups like to collapse all conversations about cost growth in health care to malpractice reform…the amount of defensive medicine is not trivial, but it’s unlikely to be a source of significant savings.”

The truth of this position is bore out in real world examples. Texas imposed caps on medical malpractice awards several years ago. Today health care costs in the state remain very high.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti stand by our commitment to ensuring that patient rights are protected. Medical mistakes often permanently injure and destroy the lives of innocent patients—those victims deserve the same legal protections afforded to all those who suffer because of negligent conduct. Our attorneys believe in the basic fairness of allowing our legal system to work as it should, with judges and juries hearing these disputes and deciding the appropriate course of action. A legislative decision that handcuff the legal system’s ability to handle these cases does nothing but take away rights of suffering victims.

September 9, 2010

Eight Babies Killed After Doctors Fail to Diagnose Problem

This week United Press International discussed a troubling report from some state health officials indicating that more than half a dozen young babies died in that state in the last year alone because of one particular type of medical mistake.

In a letter sent to doctors, clinics, and hospitals, a state Department of Health official indicated that eight young children under the age of six months had died the previous year because of medical professionals who failed to diagnose them with whooping cough in time for proper lifesaving treatment.

The health official explained, “In several cases, the infants were treated only for nasal congestion or mild upper respiratory infection. By the time these infants develop severe respiratory distress, it was usually too late for any intervention to prevent their tragic deaths.”

Time is of vital importance in many medical situations. That is why it is especially critical for all medical professionals not to waste any time that could be used to treat fast growing medical problems in their patients.

All medical errors are tragic, but there is something particularly painful about mistakes that take the lives of the youngest, most fragile members of our society. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have won many verdicts and settlements on behalf of families that have lost young children. Over the years we have represented several victims in multi-million dollars decisions after losing children because of problems during childbirth. In addition, we won a $2.25 million settlement for the family of a five year old boy who died as a result of the doctor’s failure to diagnose an infection following a bone marrow transplant.

Doctors maintain a duty to provide reasonable care whenever they examine a patient. That care includes proper diagnosis of potentially life-threatening medical problems. If you believe that your doctor may have failed to catch a medical issue promptly, please contact a medical malpractice lawyer to learn about your rights.

September 8, 2010

Many Doctors Keep Treating Patients After Disciplinary Problems

The Sacramento Bee recently described the complex process often used to police doctors and helps ensure that medical licenses are only given to those medical professionals competent enough to handle the job. The information is helpful in understanding how many doctors with a history of mistakes remain able to treat other patients.

With disciplinary actions piling on top of one another, taking years to sort through, many extremely negligent physicians are allowed to treat thousands of patients in the meantime. One victim complained to the state board about a doctor’s negligence that led to the death of her mother. However, the board was so slow in dealing with the matter that another patient died from the same doctor’s negligence while the board was still reviewing the first error.

Essentially there are often two categories of offenses that doctors can make: those that require automatic loss of license and those that do not. Automatic loss conduct includes only registered sex offenders and doctors who sexually exploit patients. Other than that, doctor misconduct is evaluated on a sliding scale. The vast majority of those other errors lead to reprimands or probation, without any limit on what patients they see or what operations they perform afterwards.

A concern, however, is that there is no policy in place to weed out those doctors who repeatedly make mistakes that on their own are not enough to cause a loss of license. In other words, there is no “three strikes” policy or even “five strikes” policy. For example, one doctor was placed on probation four times (two stemming from patient deaths) and had his license temporarily revoked, but he still practices and treats patients today.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe that like all professions, doctors should be held to the highest standards of care and conduct. Uniquely in the medical context, many of their mistakes can never be undone, because they literally involve the loss of human life. Because of the particular fragility of the victims under the circumstances, it is all the more important to ensure that the individuals allowed to practice medicine are of the highest caliber and quality.

Please Click Here to read more about the medical disciplinary review process.

September 7, 2010

Man Dies Following Medication Error At Hospital

CBS TV 11 News wrote about a new example of medical malpractice yesterday involving the death of a beloved husband and father. Wendell Knox was a long time university professor when he died at a local hospital where he was being treated for a broken hip and pneumonia.

Besides the condition which brought him to the hospital, Wendell had long suffered from heart problems. As part of his plan to treat his heart problems he was prescribed the medicine Milrinone. The medicine was clearly an important part of his health. His wife Tracy explained, “On the medicine, my husband was doing so much better. It was amazing.”

While in the hospital following the hip injury, Wendell’s wife noticed that he was not receiving a Milrinone drip along with his other medications. When she asked about it the doctor told her that her husband no longer needed it. Shortly after that, Wendell died of cardiac arrest before ever leaving the hospital.

Afterwards, hospital officials initially told his family that the failure to give him the medicine was caused by a clerical error. Yet, further evidence revealed that in fact a doctor specifically discontinued the heart medication. It is likely that the removal of Milrinone helped lead to Wendell’s death. It had originally been prescribed for the rest of his life. As experts agree, many patients develop a dependence on medication, and they can have severe health problems if they suddenly stop taking it.

Our Chicago medical practice attorneys at Levin & Perconti understand that medical errors come in a variety of forms. Typically, when a medication error is made it means that a doctor prescribed the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage that led to patient harm. However, deadly medication mistakes can also be made under circumstances like this one, where a long-use, necessary drug are wrongly taken away by a new physician, causing the death of the patient. In either case, the medication error should never have been allowed to happen.

The various forms that these mistakes take make it difficult for many patients and their families to know when the problems they suffer have been caused by one of them. That is why it is important to contact a medical malpractice lawyer and explain your story to help ensure that your legal rights are understood and protected.

September 6, 2010

Jury Awards $3 Million in Pair of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

The Evansville Courier-Press reported on two separate medical malpractice suits in Vanderburgh County where juries found three doctors liable for errors.

The first suit involved the death of Rebecca Moore following complications from a surgery to correct a bowel obstruction. The jury found both her anesthesiologist and her surgeon liable for the deadly error. The two doctors failed to communicate with one another the fact that Moore would need respiratory assistance after the surgery. That assistance was never given, and Moore suffered cardiac arrest. The surgeon, Nghia M. Vo, has subsequently lost his license to practice medicine in the state.

The second suit stemmed from the mismanagement of childbirth that led to the death of triplets. The doctor in that case failed to properly take into account evidence of problems with the pregnancy following an ultrasound. The mother, Christina Tillerson underwent a cerclage procedure—to help prevent a premature birth—but the procedure wasn’t performed correctly. However, instead of taking into account the irregularities with the cerclage procedure, the negligent doctor did nothing. As a result, he failed to take other necessary steps to delay the pregnancy long enough for the three babies to develop more fully. Ultimately, Tillerson gave birth to the children when they were less than 21 weeks old, and they did not survive.

If you or someone you know may have been the victim of a medical mistake like the ones suffered here, please contact our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti. Our team of attorneys have decades of experience helping families who suffered at the hands of negligent medical professionals.

September 5, 2010

Negligent Doctors Give Patient Medication From Wrong Syringe

Justice News Flash reported yesterday on a new medical malpractice lawsuit involving a syringe mix-up.

Kimberlee Blocker underwent a surgical procedure at Forbes Regional Hospital. The surgery itself proceeded according to plan, but afterwards the doctors informed her that they had made a mistake. An error had occurred when the medical professionals had given Kimberlee medication following the procedure. For unknown reasons, a different patient’s syringe had been used on Kimberlee, instead of the one that had been actually set aside for her. As a result, Kimberlee was given the wrong medication and may have been exposed to blood-borne diseases.

As a result of the preventable medical mistake, Kimberlee was forced to undergo six months of testing to ensure that she did not contract HIV, hepatitis, or other problems. Of course, the long-delayed process of testing is an arduous experience for patients and their families. The emotional stress of repeatedly waiting to see if a potentially deadly disease has been contracted is something that everyone would wish to avoid.

Unfortunately, these preventable medical mistakes occur all the time. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have fought legal battles on behalf of patients who have suffered severe physical injury and death because of basic errors caused by medical professionals. From operating on the wrong body part to using the wrong IV line to inject medication, negligent medical professionals across the country continue to claim lives with their mistakes. It is imperative for all victims to step forward to help put a spotlight on the problem of costly hospital errors.

September 4, 2010

Indiana Hospitals Report Medical Errors

The Indiana Medical Error Reporting System recently issued its annual report after collecting data from over 300 hospitals in the state. According to the Journal-Gazette the findings analyzed over two dozen different types of reportable medical mistakes. Studying the findings offers an important window into the world of medical errors—helping to understand in what form they most often take and how they occur.

Overall, the report documented 94 errors in the state. The errors included a multitude of different problems, all of which should have been prevented. For example, one hospital performed a surgery on the wrong body part and made a medication mistake that led to a patient death or serious disability. Another hospital had reports of bedsores. Bedsores are ulcers that develop after admission to the hospital and are caused by negligent care by medical staff members. They frequently develop when too much weight is place on one part of the body for too long—overweight and paralyzed patients are at higher risk for the developing bedsores.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe that reporting systems are important to help understand the types of mistakes that frequently harm patients at local hospitals. While the reported numbers are undoubtedly much lower than the reality (because many mistakes are never reported), these reporting techniques are important first steps in helping improve patient safety.

Unfortunately, in Illinois transparency in medial mistakes has recently taken a step backwards. While the state previously was required to provide information to patients about a doctor’s history of medical errors, that information was closed to the public this year. Because of that, patients in Illinois now have fewer tools available to them to help make decisions about which medical professionals to seek when they need care.

To learn more about the Indiana Medical Reporting System, please Click Here.

September 3, 2010

Hospital Under Scrutiny for Repeated Medial Errors

A common critique lobbed against medical malpractice lawyers like ours at Levin & Perconti is that lawsuits are directed against doctors and hospitals that do not act negligently but simply have patients that happen to suffer severe medical problems. In reality, medical malpractice lawsuits are more often focused on rooting out those individuals and institutions that continually make clear mistakes leading to patient death and suffering. Far from scaring away competent doctors, the preservation of justice for patients is a way of ensuring that the medical profession (like all professions) is held to a reasonable standard of competence.

All too often a single institution shows a shocking and repeated lack of proficiency.

The Los Angeles Times recently discussed a local hospital that has come under fire for several incidents that led to multiple patient deaths. The repeated examples of medical problems at a single hospital highlight the reality that many medical errors seem to be committed by a small segment of the medical community that repeatedly performs below standards.

Three years ago at this hospital, Olive View, a 51 year old man was rushed in after ingesting very toxic oleander leaves. Unfortunately, contrary to law, the hospital did not have enough vials of the antidote available. The man died as a result of the basic failure to have proper medication ready for emergencies. That same year state investigators fined the hospital after the death of a young woman following a gallbladder removal. Investigators discovered that the massive infection that developed after the surgery was caused by improper follow-up care by doctors and nurses. Only a week after that death, a man died in the emergency room of the facility after waiting three hours complaining of chest pains. The medical staff could have prevented the death if they had only performed a simple test to ensure that he was not having a heart attack.

But that is not all.

A few months later an infant suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen after doctors delaying performing a C-section. The year after that, 2009, the hospital received two additional state fines for inadequate care related to mental health patients.

Olive View is clearly an institution that has made repeated errors that have literally killed patients who sought medical care at the hospital. The medical mistakes came in a variety of forms, but all show a clear failure to act competently and in accord with the law. This hospital, and others like it, needs to be held responsible for these problems.

September 2, 2010

Jury Awards $1.5 Million in Medical Malpractice Case

The Providence Journal recently reported on the end of a medical malpractice trial involving a problem hernia patch made by the firm Davol, Inc, which is owned by large medical device manufacturer C.R. Bard. This trial is only one case out of over 3,000 that have been filed involving the defective patch.

The plaintiff in this case, Christopher Thorpe, had the patch implanted in 2005 to fix a hernia in his abdomen. The patch is a sophisticated medical device that is folded in half and inserted through an incision behind a hernia. The patch’s “memory recoil ring” springs again once inside the body.

The problem began for Thorpe when the ring component surrounding the patch broke; the mesh portion of the product had been attached to the ring. The section of the ring that broke then traveled inside Thorpe’s body.

The breakage caused an abscess to form, leading to swelling and pain. The abscess had to be continually drained, and Christopher had to undergo multiple surgeries to fix the damage. The surgeries are still not completed, as he will face more of them to continue to correct the problem. As a result of the damage, he will only be able to lift 5 to 10 pounds for the rest of his life.

Ultimately, the jury determined that the poor design of the product caused the damage suffered by Thorpe and his family. They awarded Christopher $1.3 million for his injuries and $200,000 to his wife for her time spent treating his medical issues. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti hope the best for Thorpe and his family. We also encourage anyone who has similarly suffered extreme consequences following medical device problems to contact a local lawyer to help explain the possible legal ramifications of the situation.

September 1, 2010

Caesarean Section Births Are Often Unnecessary

Researchers have long-known that woman are having C-section births at much higher rates than ever before. Amazingly, today nearly one out of every three children are born following the surgery. According to the Washington Post, that high rate makes C-sections the most common surgery at virtually all hospitals across the country.

While the rate increase was easy for experts to track, it was more difficult to understand the cause of the rise in these procedures as an alternative to natural birth. After all, in an ideal world, the surgery would not be necessary at all. The procedure poses many more risks to both the child and the mother when compared to healthy, natural childbirth. In addition, C-sections are more expensive than natural births—the increase in the procedure’s use has added significantly the country’s overall health care bill.

The downsides to the procedure have led researchers to help stem the tide by understanding the reasons for the rising use of C-sections. A recent study published in the American Journal of Obtetrics & Gynecology suggests some causes to the problem.

The researches ultimately found that many of procedures may be unnecessary. Historically, C-sections were used for those pregnancies that were known to be “problematic”—older mothers, previous C-section mothers, and similar cases. However, today even first time parents without clear problems seem to be getting the procedure at the same rate as other mothres, one out of three. Also, half of the C-sections that are performed occur in women who had their labor induced (initiated by the doctor) and before they were even dilated 6 cm. That suggests that more patients are picking when to begin labor and stopping the natural birth process very early after beginning labor. In other words, patients and their doctors may be using the process to conveniently schedule births, even though a healthier, natural childbirth would be possible.

Research into this area is still developing. New and more detailed information on the exact number of unnecessary C-section births is still forthcoming. But, it is no doubt clear that many of these procedures could be avoided with different medical care, planning, and advice. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have worked with many patients who suffered at the hands of problems during the delivery of children. Childbirth is inherently a risky medical situation, and everything should be done to ensure that risks of complications are lowered as much as possible. Patient’s trust their doctors to provide appropriate, timely, and clear medical advice on the risks and necessity of surgical procedures. For that reasons, all doctors need to ensure that unnecessary C-sections are limited.