November 30, 2010

Hip Implant Patients Continue to Report Problems with DePuy Devices

Word of the problem with hip implants made by DePuy Orthopaedics continues to spread, as ABC News recently reported again on the recall developments.

The investigators talked with one patient who had the recalled device implanted. Only five months after the implant she recalls suffering from severe pain. She explains of the problem, “I’m angry…patients or consumer rely on our doctors, we rely on the products that they use.”

As we’ve previously reported, the problem with the DePuy product was uncovered earlier this year, prompting the official recall in August. However, complaints about the devices go back to 2005. Nearly 100,000 patients received the specific metal-on-metal implant in question in the six years it was used. At least 12,000 of those patients will likely face severe complications as the device fails, requiring corrective surgery. Many of those patients may not be aware of their risk.

The failure of the devices caused metallic particles to be released in patient bodies. The particles then may enter the bloodstream ultimately risking a range of problems from deafness and dementia to heart failure. The consequences cannot be overstated.

New investigations into the cause of the problem are shedding light on the troubling reality of the product and its regulation. For one thing, the device was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration without any clinical trials to test its safety. This was made possible by a little known regulation that allows short-cutting the regulations if a new device is substantially similar to one already in use. In addition, no medical registry exists to track the performance of these medical devices. In that way, it is often difficult to uncover patterns of failure and complications. The delay in uncovering problematic devices means s that more patients receive the product before it is finally pulled.

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November 29, 2010

Illinois Officials Take Steps To Prevent Sexual Abuse By Doctors

Policymakers in Illinois are currently grappling with the best way to protect patients from harm caused by the potentially dangerous physicians providing them medical care. Of particular concerns are those doctors that have a history of sexual abuse convictions.

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday on the debate surrounding the issue. As it currently stands, sex offenders face little to no discipline in the state related to their medical profession. Some convicted offenders are never disciplined at all, some receive temporary suspensions, but almost all eventually keep seeing patients.

Sex crimes are difficult to prosecute, meaning that many of these crimes are actually punished under the label “misdemeanor battery.” The lesser crime triggers a less severe disciplinary process in which little oversight is provided by an overburdened probation program. On top of that, this year Illinois suddenly stopped provided patients access to detailed historical information about the doctors providing them care—information like past criminal convictions and payments for medical malpractice. It is no surprise that the state’s medical lobby has led efforts to keep this information from patients.

However, to help get a hold of the problem, some lawmakers are seeking to tighten up laws around medical discipline. The changes include re-opening access to doctor profiles and making the penalty harsher for those doctors who commit sex crimes. Some states have already taken tough steps. For example, in California a law passed by the state legislature stripped the medical licenses from all physicians who have been convicted of a sex crime.

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November 28, 2010

American Association For Justice Report: Caps Do Not Reduce Malpractice Premiums

The series of reports issued about medical negligence by the American Association for Justice continues today with a look at the truth about the effect of medical malpractice lawsuit caps on premiums paid by medical doctors.

A common refrain from those seeking to persuade state legislatures to pass laws advancing arbitrary medical malpractice damage caps is that doing so will lower malpractice premiums. Yet once again the truth of the issue paints a different picture than “reformers” often claim.

A study from the Medical Liability Monitor from last year indicates that premium values remain unchanged by malpractice caps. If anything, those states that do not have caps have slightly lower malpractice premium rates. When looking at internists, general surgeons, and OB/Gyns cumulatively states with caps averaged a premium of $44,799, while non-cap states averaged $43,709 yearly. Each of those types of doctors examined individually reveal the same pattern of premium rates: virtually indistinguishable between cap and non-cap states.

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November 27, 2010

American Association for Justice Report: The Truth About “Defensive Medicine”

Yesterday we shared a report for the American Association for Justice that detailed several common myths of medical negligence. One of those explained the reality that health care costs were not inflated because of medical malpractice claims. In fact, only .3% (one third of one percent) of the total cost of healthcare in the United States is spent defending claims of negligence.

One corollary often made to that myth is the fact that costs are increased indirectly because of the use of “defensive medicine.” Specifically, some claim that doctors now run more tests than necessary because of the fear of litigation. Yet, a close look at the situation in hospitals across the country paints a much different picture.

The majority of scholarly research into these claims has found that the problem of defensive medicine is nothing more than the latest gambit by those interested in taking rights away from medical victims. In reality, the data indicates that medical providers are not conducting as many additional tests as is often believed. In addition, virtually no savings in medical costs can be gained from eliminating the testing of patients. One of the main motivators for anything labeled “defensive” medicine is actually increased income for the medical professionals and/or more complete care to the patient.

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November 26, 2010

American Association For Justice Report: Five Myths About Medical Negligence

The American Association of Justice (AAJ) recently published a series of reports around the issue of medical negligence. There has been a wave a recent pushes to “reform” the system of medical negligence. However, much of the information used to advance these reforms are deceiving, ignoring the fact that they do nothing to lower health care costs or improve the actual care provided to patients. To clear the air, the AAJ explains five of the most common myths propagated by these misleading “reformers.”

First, there is a misconception that there are an excessive number of “frivolous” lawsuits. Yet the truth remains that the problem originates in the inadequacy of medical care provided, not in the filing of lawsuits following that negligence. The reality is simple: if medical professionals made fewer errors than there would be fewer victims and fewer lawsuits.

Second, health care costs are not driven high because of malpractice claims. A recent reported indicated that only .3% of total health care costs are related to defense of malpractice claims.

Third, doctors are not fleeing the profession because of medical malpractice lawsuits. It is undeniable that the number of physicians in the United States had been steadily increasing for decades. The increase has occurred in every state in the country. States with medical malpractice caps have no difference than those states that do not.

Fourth, doctor insurance premiums are not affected by malpractice claims. Time and again empirical research has shown that insurance premiums paid by doctors have little to no correlation with malpractice claims. Conversely, studies have shown that many insurance companies artificially inflate rates and mislead the public about the situation.

Finally, all “tort reform” plans will have little effect on insurance rates. Caps on medical awards only mean that insurance companies pay less in awards; doctor premiums do not decrease.


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November 25, 2010

Malpractice Suit Filed After Woman Loses Both Legs

NBC News reported last week on a new malpractice lawsuit filed by a young mother who lost both legs following medical mistakes made by medical professionals charged with her care.

The victim underwent a gynecological procedure at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola last October. Unfortunately, the operation left the 30-year old woman much worse off than planned. In the suit her lawyers claim that doctors at the facility punctured her intestine. The puncture caused an infection and blood poisoning which in turn led to the development of gangrene. Eventually both of the woman’s legs needed to be amputated below the knee to stop the developing infection.

Throughout the entire ordeal the victim was in a coma. She ultimately awoke three weeks later without any knowledge of what had happened.

Since leaving the hospital the woman was forced to move-in with her mother and is unable to perform many of the necessary tasks to raise her 10 year old daughter. She explains, “I’m not able to take care of my daughter, get her ready for school or take her to the bus stop like a used to.”

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November 24, 2010

Levin & Perconti Lawyers Reach $6.5 Million Settlement Following Birth Injury

Over ten years ago a family’s life was forever altered following a birth injury that occurred at the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. Several of our Chicago malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti filed a lawsuit against the negligent medical professional and hospital involved in the error to help vindicate the rights of the injured child and her family. The suit was settled today with the hospital and the physician providing the family with $6.5 million. Two of our attorneys, John Perconti and Patricia Gifford, represented the family in the ordeal.

There were no apparent complications when the victimized mother was brought to the Lutheran General around 3:30 in the morning on September 26, 2000. The mother had not had any complications during the nine month pregnancy—a normal delivery was expected. Yet, problems arose during the pregnancy itself for which the medical team involved failed to account. Specifically, the nursing and delivery doctor failed to notice the fact that the child’s head was too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis—a condition known as cephalic pelvic disproportion.

The problems did not end there.

Medical professionals also gave the mother Pitocin, a labor inducement medication that was unnecessary because contractions were normal at the time. Four hours later the baby had not descended. Signs were present that indicated fetal hypoxia—oxygen deprivation to the child. The oxygen problem continued for over 15 minutes. Yet the medical professionals took no notice. Following even more complications the obstetrician ordered a Cesarean Section, but the anesthesiologist improperly anesthetized the mother forcing her arms and legs to be held down while the incision was made.

When the baby girl was finally born she suffered from cerebral palsy and mental retardation because of the oxygen deprivation. The now ten year old girl has trouble walking, minor cognitive defects, and needs assistance dressings, bathing, and using the bathroom. Her family will need to provide on-going medical care for the rest of her life.

Our Chicago malpractice attorney John Perconti explained, “The unfortunate mix of an inexperienced family practitioner practicing obstetrics and an inexperienced labor and deliver nurse caused a relatively common labor abnormality to go unrecognized, untreated and undiagnosed until it was too late.”

Please Click Here to learn more about this malpractice lawsuit settlement.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Jury Finds Doctor Guilty of Medical Malpractice During Childbirth

Mother Collects $5.5 Million for Son’s Birth Ordeal

November 23, 2010

Report on $17.7 Million Levin & Perconti Medical Malpractice Settlement

Yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times profiled the latest settlement reached by Levin & Perconti on behalf of a victim of medical malpractice at the University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center. We discussed the $17.7 million settlement last week which is now awaiting approval by the judge.

The victim, a police officer, was brought to the University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center after suffering a stroke sustained while attempting to make an arrest. The malpractice occurred a little over a week later when nursing staff members were testing an EVD device connected to the patient’s brain to determine if it should be removed—known as an EVD challenge. Unfortunately, nursing staff failed to properly monitor the victim’s intracranial pressure during the test. The monitoring process is vital because if the pressure levels get too high the patient could suffer permanent brain problems. In this case, the pressure reached dangerous levels, but the nursing staff failed to notify anyone of the problem. The victim’s condition worsened overnight but the staff again failed to take any notice.

As a result of the failure to monitor the pressure and ignorance of the change in condition the officer suffered a catastrophic brain injury—a brain stem herniation. He now suffers from quadriplegia, cannot eat or speak, and communicates only through eye movements and head shaking.

The victim sued the hospital and nursing staff for their malpractice. Last week the UIC Board finally approved settlement in the case—agreeing to pay $16.2 million. The nursing agency involved will pay an additional $1.5 million for its role in the tragic event.

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November 22, 2010

Profits Over Patients At Root of Many Preventable Medical Errors

A succinct answer to questions about the cause of the majority of preventable medical errors might look something like this: profits over patients.

The Las Vegas Sun has conducted published stories on its on-going investigative series looking specifically into the depth of medical mistakes and the reasons that they continue to strike by the hundreds of thousands across the country. Perhaps the most dominant theme in the analysis is the corporate push for profits that all too often trumps the needs of the patient. It is in that atmosphere that risky shortcuts are taken (even encouraged) leading to the errors.

As the investigation uncovered, problems often present themselves most vividly when medical care is offered as a product of market forces. In that way, care is dictated by entrepreneurship, competition, and the maximization of the bottom line. The paper explains that this does not create a “hospital system” but instead an “industry.”

Like any other industry, for-profit hospitals chains are responsible first and foremost to their shareholders. The shareholders are investors specifically interested in watching their money grow. It is no surprise then that many hospitals have watched as profit margins have topped 25% at different high-water marks.

One of many problems associated with for-profit hospitals are the inadequate staffing levels. In many cases, a single nursing assistant is charged with caring for 26 patients at any one time—an unreasonable burden that leads to sacrificing individual care. Many problems, like bedsores, are almost exclusively related to inadequate attention paid by medical staff to individual patients.

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November 21, 2010

Darvocet and Darvon Pulled From Market For Health Risk

Pharmaceuticals represent a double-edged sword that is common in many of the standard components of modern-day healthcare. Their use unquestionably saves the lives of many and improves the quality life for others. However, medication mistakes and abuse can present unique dangers that also cause death and decreases the standard of living enjoyed by many patients.

It is for that reason that all consumers should tread carefully when dealing with these drugs. The same advice obviously applies to all other involved in the creation and administration of these potent medicines.

The potential for harm is also why it is vital that our nation’s regulators take pro-active steps to ensure that potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals be taken out of the business stream where they could cause untold damage. An important decision on that front was made recently according to the New York Times. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently pulled the painkilling drug propoxyphene, sold as Darvon and Darvocet, because of concerns about heart risks caused by their use.

Propoxyphene has been around for decades with questions around its potential dangers noted as long as 32 years ago. There was a petition drive to ban the drug in 1978. Drug company Eli Lilly made billions of dollars on the drug since its first use in 1957.

The drug ultimately has not been found to have much effect on pain at all. It also has a high risk for abuse with only a narrow margin of safety between the recommended dose and a potentially fatal dose. Yet, it retained popularity, with doctors prescribing the medication to over 17.5 million patients last year alone.

The latest troubling data on the drug, which ultimately led to its removal from prescription rolls, indicated that it causes potentially dangerous heart electrical charges. Previous studies also revealed that there were more drug-involved deaths in areas where propxyphene was more highly used.

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November 20, 2010

Lack of Placebo Standard Raises Questions About Drug Effectiveness

The improper use and administration of pharmaceuticals is a common form of malpractice. Each day patients rely on doctors to prescribe the right type of drug in the right quantity and administered in the right way. Deadly consequences often result when mistakes are made in this regard. However a new study reported by Science Daily raises more basic questions about the effectiveness of many of the drugs prescribed in huge quantities to patients across the country.

Typically medical professionals learn of the usefulness of medication through controlled studies using placebos. The logic behind the placebo-studies is clear: experts need to ensure that positive effects measured during tests are the results of the new drug itself and not the mere effect of subjects “believing” that they are taking a beneficial drug. Therefore, in these major drug tests subjects are never told if the pill that they take is the specific drug being tested or a placebo.

However a new study challenges the effectiveness of the placebo-controlled studies. It turns out that there is no universal standard for what materials are actually used in placebo pills. Each study seems to use frequently different materials. There is currently no requirement that those administrators of the studies report the content of the placebos. Particularly troubling is the fact that makers of the drug in question often determine the placebo details themselves—decision-makers with a personal stake in the drug study outcome.

The author of the study explains, “These concerns aren’t just theoretical. Where the composition has been disclosed the ingredients of the placebos have in some instances had a likely impact of the results of the study—in either direction (obscuring a real effect, or creating a spurious one).”

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November 19, 2010

$16.2 Million Settlement For Malpractice Lawsuit Approved By UIC Board

Two of our Chicago malpractice attorneys, Steven Levin and Margaret Battersby, recently helped one victim of medical malpractice reach a $17.7 million settlement agreement with the Chicago medical providers that caused his injuries.

In mid-February of 2005 the victim was brought to the Neurosurgical Intensive Care unit at the University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center after suffering a stroke. The patient was a police officer whose stroke was believed to be caused by an injury inflicted while attempting to make an arrest. When the officer arrived at the hospital doctors inserted an EVD device into his body to drain excess fluid from his brain.

The malpractice occurred a little over a week later when nursing staff members were testing the drain to determine if it should be removed—a task known as an EVD challenge. During the testing process the staff failed to properly monitor the victim’s intracranial pressure. This is a well-known and vital monitoring process, because if the pressure levels get too high the patient could suffer permanent brain problems. In this case, the pressure reached dangerous levels, but the nursing staff failed to notify anyone of the problem. Over that night the problem caused the patient to suffer worsening neurological conditions, but the staff again failed to take any notice.

As a result of the failure to monitor the pressure and the change in condition the victim suffered a catastrophic brain injury. Specifically, the medical negligence led to a brain stem herniation. He now suffers from quadriplegia, cannot eat or speak, and communicates only through eye movements and head shaking.

The victim sued the hospital and nursing staff for their malpractice. This week on the eve of that trial the UIC Board finally approved settlement in the case—agreeing to pay $16.2 million. The nursing agency involved will pay an additional $1.5 million for its role in the tragic event. Now the family must only wait for the Court to officially approve the settlement order in the coming weeks.

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November 18, 2010

Botched Surgery Raises Questions About Supervision of Doctors-in-Training

The Dallas Morning News published an extended story last week on a series of medical errors caused by a new “doctor-in-training” that is raising questions about the degree of supervision provided for these resident physicians.

The victim of the medical mistake entered Parkland Memorial Hospital in 2008 with no major health problems except knee arthritis. The victim was only 51 years old, but was referred to a doctor at Parkland for knee-replacement surgery to help alleviate some of her pain. She knew that Parkland was a “teaching” hospital, where new doctors at time provide care with the supposed supervision of experienced professionals. However, it was her understanding that the surgeon would be performed by a particularly experienced doctor that she had met with prior.

Unknown to her, someone else would perform the operation. Her actual surgeon turned out to be a new doctor who was only shortly over one year into a five year residency. According to the initial report following the surgery, there were no complications. It took only 74 minutes to replace the knee. However, a few hours later the victim reported a burning sensation in her knee—an early sign of nerve damage. A nurse claims to have notified the doctor of the pain, but that didn’t stop the patient from being released from the hospital shortly after.

By the next day, the patient could not feel anything below the knee. She saw several doctors, including the surgeon and a fourth year medical student—none of them took action. Eventually she was in excoriating pain with swelling on her lower leg and foot. The nurses monitoring the situation kept reporting the drastic nature of the patient, with no pulse in the foot and extreme pain.

It wasn’t until three days after the surgery that an established surgical professor pieced together the information to discover that the problem stemmed from an injury to the artery behind her knee. She underwent three emergencies surgeries shortly after to attempt to restore circulation.

However, her ordeal was long from over.

It ultimately took another 19 surgeries and weeks in the hospital. Her leg eventually became infected with staph and strep. Infection problems trigger uncontrollable vomiting in the following month, leading to an abnormal hernia. A year after the first surgery, she had another one to change the first knee replacement. A surgical error following that surgery (ruptured knee tendon). A few days later the doctors amputated her leg below the knee.

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November 17, 2010

New Report: 1 in 7 Medicare Patients Victims of Harmful Care

The Watch Dog Blog recently posted an analysis of a new federal report on the quality of care received by Medicare patients. The results are sad and shocking. One in seven patients was found to have experienced harmful medical care while at a hospital. The consequences of that poor medical care were widespread—from extended hospital stays to death. In all cases, the complications cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Specifically the report reveals that 1.5% of Medicare beneficiaries died as a result of mistakes in their medical care. In raw numbers, that total number of patients is shockingly large. Over 15,000 patients are killed each month in part because of those medical mistakes. Over 134,000 patients suffered a variety of non-fatal injuries because of error—from medication problems to treatment delays.

The cost of these errors is estimated to be $324 million per month in additional taxpayer bills. Over the course of a year these mistakes increase Medicare payments by an astounding $4.4 billion.

Medicare is the federal government health care assistance program for the elderly. The results of this particular study were culled from a U.S. Health & Human Services review of a national sample of 780 Medicare patients.

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November 16, 2010

Defective DePuy Joint Implants Continue Harming Patients

My Fox Chicago recently shared more information with its readers about the “junk joints” made by DePuy that continue to affect thousands of patients who underwent joint replacement surgery.

The story profiles one particularly young victim. The 43-year old man decided to have a metal hip implanted in his body after suffering sharp pains every time he bent over. As a lifetime sports addict, his body had been punished over the years—it had finally caught with him. However, while the doctor told him that the implant was supposed to last at least 15 years, he began having trouble with the hip implant within one year. He was struggling to move the hip and was in extreme pain.

Eventually his doctor discovered that his newly installed hip implant was defective. He was forced to have another risky surgery to replace it.

Thousands of other patients have a similar story to share. The article also discussed a female patient whose implant began flaking metal particles. The particles traveled into her bloodstream, leading to pain and swelling. After two corrective surgeries and a four day stint in the hospital, the ordeal was still not over. She suffered complications following the surgery. In one particular harrowing ordeal her whole body began to swell and turn black and blue. She was rushed to the emergency room where it was discovered that she had contracted a dangerous staph infection caused by pneumonia. She is lucky to have survived.

These victims represent only two out of thousands who suffered tremendously because of defective DePuy hip implants. As we have discussed often on this blog, nearly 100,000 of the implants were recalled by the company in August after evidence continued to mount regarding the extreme danger the product presented to patients. Many of the patients who have suffered complications from the product likely have irreparable harm to their bodies. Each time a join is redone some bone is lost.

Perhaps even more frustrating is the lack of clear answers on why the product was been defective in the first place and how the company allowed so many patients to face complications. Also concerning is the fact that there is no standardized tracking system in the United States for joint implants—other countries require such tracking. Those nations have seen the rates for revision surgeries drop by as much as ten percent as the lists allow defective devices to be identified much earlier.

One surgeon explains the problem, “If Maytag can track their washing machines…we should have the ability to track all major orthopedic implants, where they go and when they’re removed.”

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November 15, 2010

Drug Company Lawyer Charged with False Statements and Obstruction of Justice

The United States Department of Justice issues a press release last week detailing recent charges filed against a lawyer for a large pharmaceutical company.

The charges stem from the lawyer’s contact with the Food and Drug Administration in October of 2002. The FDA questioned the attorney regarding the company’s promotion of a particular prescription drug. Specifically, the FDA was concerned about the drugs marketing efforts claiming a particular use for the product which the FDA had not explicitly authorized—a practice known as “off-label marketing.” In response to the Administration questioning the attorney sent letters falsely claiming that the company never promoted the drug for off-label purposes. The lawyer sent these letters even though she personally knew that the company had in fact sponsored events promoting the drug for unapproved purposes.

Besides the false statements, the lawyer also failed to provide the FDA with requested information regarding the marketing of the drug—particularly a set of slides used to advertise the product in hundreds of talks by physicians. The Justice Department eventually obtained a memorandum written by the legal team in question which explained that producing the slides would have provided incriminating evidence about potential off-label promotion of the drug.

All told the lawyer has been charged with one count of obstructing an official proceeding, one count of concealing/falsifying documents, and four counts of making false statements to the FDA.


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November 14, 2010

Eye Doctor Charged With Felony Fraud Flees to Illinois To Continue Treating Patient

Different state medical boards have different rules regarding the consequences faced by doctors when they are found guilty of wrong-doing. Some states mandate harsher penalties that strongly limit a discredited doctor’s ability to continue seeing patients. Other states are a bit more lenient.

In many ways, Illinois falls on the more lenient side.

Take, for example, the case of convicted felon eye-doctor Krishnarao V. Rednam. St. Louis Today reported recently on his story, explaining how Dr. Rednam was charged in 2008 of various examples of billing fraud and patient endangerment. Those actions included charging Medicare for expensive drugs but only providing cheaper, experimental drugs to patients, splitting single use medication among several patients, and possibly subjecting patients to unsterile needles.

Dr. Rednam was found to have committed these actions hundreds of times, bilking patients and their insurers out of over $600,000. When investigators were closing in on his actions, the doctor began destroying medical records to cover-up his conduct. The authorities eventually convicted the doctor of a felony for his destruction of those records. As a result, the Missouri medical board revoked his license and disallowed possible readmission for seven years.

However, because a felony conviction does not automatically trigger the suspension of a medical license in Illinois, Dr. Rednam moved to the state to re-open practice here. Since moving to Illinois in early 2009, the doctor has begun seeing patients at the Trinity United Methodist Outreach Center.

Unfortunately, these differing guidelines between states make it very difficult for a patient to be fully informed about the medical professional from which they are seeking care. This poses a serious concern for facilitating the openness and honesty inherently necessary in the medical profession. Felony convictions like those of Dr. Rednam are particularly troubling because they relate directly to conduct that both stole client funds and sacrificed their care for increased doctor profits.

One Medical ethicist explains, “Medical treatment depends on being able to trust you physician. You have to be able to share secrets, speak honestly, and talk about sensitive subjects.”

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November 13, 2010

Hundreds of Patients Receive Radiation Overdose Following CT Scans

According to the Food and Drug Administration, mistakes made by the operator of CT scan machines have been responsible for over 400 patients receiving an overdose of radiation. According to the Los Angeles Times,the patients were all undergoing a CT scan on their heads when the medical professional leading them through the procedure mistakenly exposed them to an unnecessarily high dose of radiation.

The radiation overdoses were first observed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—at least 260 patients received eight times the normal radiation dose following s CT scan. The damaging exams were blamed on confusion over the computerized instructions provided with the General Electric scanner. To put the overexposure into perspective: the normal CT scan already gives a patient 400 times more radiation exposure than a regular chest x-ray. The patients here have therefore received the equivalent of 3,200 regular x-rays—leading to significant cancer risk, hair loss, among other problems.

The FDA has called on manufacturers to make design changes to prevent future mistakes. Specifically, the administration recommended that the companies that make CT machines compile information about radiation dosing in a more accessible form—operators often currently have little information on dosages. In addition, the FDA suggested manufacturers install “pop-up” warnings that would alert operators of the machines that they are administering a dangerous overdose of radiation to the patient.

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November 12, 2010

Dialysis Investigation Reveals Troubling Medical Care For U.S. Patients

The nonprofit group ProPublica recently revealed the results of a new study involving the investigation of kidney dialysis patients. Time magazine recently explored the startling findings which show that dialysis patients in the United States are more likely to die than similar patients in almost any other industrialized nation. Thousands of kidney patients die in the US because of poor medical care.

The investigation included collecting information from patients, doctors, safety advocates, policymakers, industry experts, and others. The findings indicated that many dialysis treatment settings are unsanitary—many lapses in care were discovered. To make matters worse, the government has withheld data about the performance of these clinics from the patients who are making decisions about where to seek their treatment.

An important fact underlying all of this is that two corporate chains currently dominate the dialysis-care system in the US— cumulatively making $2 billion in operating profits a year. The profit-driven care flips the medical process on its head, with results being measured by quantity instead of quality of care. For dialysis patients, the more drugs provided to the individual makes the companies money in drug sales, while increased oversight of the process by doctors and nurses limits profit. As a results, patients are often set on risky drug-filled treatment plans without the necessary oversight to ensure all is conducted safely. On top of that, the ProPublica data revealed treatment that was often riddled with incompetence, doctor error, and dangerous care standards.

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November 11, 2010

Settlement Reached in Hospital Scheme Causing Unnecessary Procedures

The Washington Post reported this week on a settlement in a particularly troubling case of medical deceit. The situation involved a relationship that St. Joseph Medical Center had with MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates—a cardiovascular group co-founded by Mark D. Midei. Midei is a cardiologist who has been charged with medical fraud, causing hundreds of patients to undergo unwarranted heart procedures.

St. Joseph hosptial was charged with taking kickbacks from MidAtlantic in exchange for referring patients to MidAtlantic for “lucrative cardiovascular procedures.” The illegal relationship reportedly took place over a ten year stretch from 1996 to 2006. The kickback was disguised as a payment for services but was instead an attempt to hide the illegal referral scheme. Of course, referral payments in this way incentivize costly, dangerous, and unnecessary treatments. That sort of relationship makes money the object of medical care instead of the needs of the patient.

Dr. Midei eventually left his job at MidAtlantic to work full-time for St. Joseph, taking a high profile seven figure salary. The employment lasted until 2009, when accusations about Midei’s falsification of records led the hospital to contact hundreds of its former patients and warn them of the possible error.

The hospital explained that it “reached the agreement without admitting liability in order to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation.”

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November 10, 2010

Chicago-Area Jury Awards $1.5 Million in Malpractice Case

The Kankakee Daily Journal reported yesterday on the end of a malpractice trial that stemmed from the death of a 20 year old young woman in 2006 at a local hospital.

The malpractice lawsuit against filed against Provena St.Mary’s Hopsital and an emergency room doctor who treated the victim. The doctor was working at the medical facility through nan outside staffing firm. According to reports, the victim was rushed to emergency room after suffering from some sort of skin illness in which she did know the cause. The emergency room doctor misdiagnosed the problem as a rash, when in reality it was an aggressive form of chicken pox.

The victim was discharged from the hospital shortly after the misdiagnosis in mid-February 2006. However, severe complication arose not long after leaving the ER. Within two days the virus had spread to her liver, and she died shortly after.

The family’s attorney explained, “Closure is what they [the victim’s family] was really looking for, and now they have it.”

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November 9, 2010

Important Information For DePuy Hip Implant Patients

A newsletter that follows the latest happenings in the world of mass torts and product liability problems recently discussed the litigation surrounding the DePuy hip implant recall. Our Chicago product liability attorneys have been following the developments closely, because many patients in our area may have been affected by the recall.

Over 93,000 implants were recalled at the end of August this year after its metal-on-metal hip implant system was discovered to fail at a much higher rate than usual. The malfunction caused metallic particles to enter the patient’s body, leading to bone and tissue problems. The problem requires a painful and risky revision surgery. As a result, anyone who has had a hip implant with the DePuy ASR XL Acetabular System and ASR Hip Resurfacing Systems may have a legal claim against the company for the problem with the medical device.

However, the company is attempting to limit its payment and gain the upper hand in legal matters by having patients unsuspectingly sign consent forms which provide the corporation with valuable information about a patient’s case before the lawsuit is even filed. The company has sent letters to orthopedic surgeons who then pass along the consent form to the patient. The letter asks patients to contact DePuy to receive a claim number. In the most egregious cases, the surgeon has appeared to require patients to call DePuy before scheduling the follow-up appointment.

This misleading attempt to obtain patient information in order to get the upper hand in litigation should be rejected. Any patient who has already signed the consent form can waive the consent at any time by writing to the organization or person to whom they gave consent. The group asking for the consent may be “Broadspire,” an organization working with DePuy to send out the consent forms.

In short, if you have had a hip implant and have been contacted in any form similar to that described here, be sure not to sign away important rights. The consent forms essentially give away private patient rights for little to nothing in return. Be sure to contact a product liability lawyer to ask all questions you may have about the DePuy recall.

November 8, 2010

Lawsuits Filed Against Hospital Sacrificing Care for Profits

Several new lawsuits have been filed against Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital following cost-cutting measures taken by the facility which led to an increase in patient infections. The victims claim that while building a new $400 million hospital, the facility cut its infection control staff, leading to the problems.

Specifically, five suits were filed by women who underwent surgery at the medical facility and suffered infection complications afterward. One victim nearly died after a 2008 hip replacement. She suffered an invasive infection while at the facility leading to kidney failure, oxygen deprivation, and heart problems. She still has movement problems, and spends most of her time in a wheelchair.

Several other patients suffered similar infections at the facility, including staph infections and the MRSA super-bug—the infection immune to most common antibiotics. The hospital has faced infection lawsuits in the past, a fact which has spurred one of its own doctors to warn potential patients about the facility’s susceptibility to the problem. The facility beefed up its infection control program following those past problems. However, the control measures stopped when the new hospital construction began. As a result, these victims (and perhaps others) may have suffered.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti continue to rail against the practices of many medical facilities that place profits above care. It is simply inexcusable for patients and their families to suffer debilitating, painful injuries and complications because their medical provider cuts corners when providing care. Of course it is also obviously that patients should not acquire a sickness while at a hospital while being treated for something else. If you or someone you know may have fallen victim to this money-driven medical mistake, please seek legal advice to learn about the options available to ensure that future residents do not suffer similar problems.

Click Here to learn more about this example of negligent medical care.

November 7, 2010

Medical Mistake Deaths Reviewed to Improve Patient Care at Group of Hospitals

One health authority is proactively taking steps to understand its mistakes of the past to ensure that future patient care is improved. The Winnipeg Free Press reported on the mortality review conducted by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority which examined the recurring themes found in an analysis of deaths in the area. The years-long study ultimately concluded that medical care could have been better in virtually half of the deaths.

Specifically, 44% of deaths resulted from one of 17 identified themes, including severe blood poisoning and procedural complications. The review of nearly 2,900 patient deaths found that nearly 300 resulted from hospital acquired infections (like pneumonia), nearly 200 from failure to promptly identify a patient problem, 188 from complications during patient transfer, and another 126 involving problems like falls and bedsores.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have personally worked with many families who have lost loved ones to problematic medical care leading to just these sorts of issues. It is commendable for a health regulatory body to conduct a systematic analysis of past mistakes in an effort to understand the best ways to improve the quality of care at their facilities. It is the first step in making changes that will save countless lives.

As workers on the study explained, “You could only learn so much by examining one case in detail. There is potential for learning when you have a cluster of cases that come together and you look at them as a whole.”

All of this was sparked by a study which found that hospital deaths at these facilities were slightly above average. Previously, investigations into the causes of death occurred only when it was labeled a “critical incident.” But this latest comprehensive study examined the large swath of cases that are not officially labeled as such but represent similar traces of medical mistakes.

Overall, the study provided many specific examples of patient care that was far below that which any reasonable medical facility would be expected to provide. For example, one patient was transferred within and between hospitals 6 different times in a single day—dying shortly after the 6th transfer. In another case, a patient with signs of an abdomen emergency was required to wait over an hour and fifteen minutes before seeing a physician. The developing complications took his life shortly after.

November 6, 2010

DePuy Hip Implant Recall Spurs Another Lawsuit

The effects of the massive recall of hip implantation devices made by DePuy Orthopaedics continue as more individuals have filed lawsuits after suffering complications with the defective devices. Our Chicago product liability lawyers at Levin & Perconti are closely following the developments of the situation as many individuals in the Chicagoland area may have been affected by the problematic pieces of medical equipment.

DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson, recalled many of the ASR hip implant systems after data from the National Joint Registry showed that 1 in 8 patients needed corrective surgery within five years following hip implants surgeries with one of those devices. However, information has revealed that the company was aware of the problem long before the joint registry issued its reports—perhaps years earlier. However it waited before issuing the recall, allowing thousands more patients to be fitted with the defective and damaging medical device.

Typically, these hip implant systems are supposed to last 15 years before needing any corrective revision. Over 93,000 patients have received the defective hip implant devices since its creation and prior to the recall. The problem with the device centers on its metal-on-metal ball and socket design. The wear of the system creates microscopic cobalt and chromium debris which causes damage to the bone and tissue it contacts.

The Star Advertiser reported on the latest lawsuit involving a Hawaiian woman who filed suit this week. The victim had hip implant surgery over a year ago, but she began suffering pain in the hip a few months after the surgery. She continues to endure the pain, which causes her to be in constant pain and struggle to get to sleep at night. Following the DePuy recall this August, she is finally scheduled to have replacement surgery next month to help correct the problem.

Tens of thousands of other patients may have been affected by the defective medical device without yet being aware. If you have had a hip implant, be sure to contact your doctor to learn more about the status of your implant. If complications arise or if you experience pain or other problems with the implant, make sure to seek legal advice from an experienced product liability lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.

November 5, 2010

Long Hours For Surgeons Lead to Burn-Out And Medical Errors

We have posted frequently on this blog regarding emerging evidence that long hours for new resident doctors leads to a drastic increase in preventable medical mistakes. The growing research on the topic has actually led the governing body which oversees medical education programs to institute changes in its guidelines. New doctors now must perform less total work a week and have more down time to ensure that patient care does not suffer because of fatigue.

New research summarized in the Baltimore Sun indicates that similar changes might be worthwhile for all doctors—not just new residents. A study out of Johns Hopkins-Mayo Clinic in the Journal of the American College of surgeons reveals that multiple nights on call and long total hours may have negative effects on patient safety (as well as the surgeon’s personal well-being).

The research included information from nearly 8,000 surgeons, many of whom worked over 80 hours a week. Eleven percent of those overworked individuals admitted to making a significant medical error in the last three months alone—many more unreported problems are likely to have also occurred.

One of the study’s lead authors summarized, “There is a strong correlation between workload and distress, which comes out in the personal and professional lives of surgeons.”

Of course news like this is of concern to our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti who often work with patients who have fallen victim to surgical error. The consequences of these losses are far too high for risks to be taken by tired, over-worked, distressed surgeons. It is imperative that our specialized doctors be at their peak performance anytime that are working on patients at their most vulnerable moments.

November 4, 2010

Jury Awards Family Following Medication Error Death

Medical malpractice takes on many forms in hospitals and clinics across the country. On this blog we have documented many types of hospital errors, from diagnostic mistakes and lack of informed consent to surgical errors and misread x-rays. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have decades of experience with all of these matters. Our lawyers have fought for victims of all types of medical mistakes and their families.

Of all the forms of medical malpractice, one of the most common across the country (and most deadly) is medication errors. Almost everyone understands that the various drugs given to a patient can have (and are intended to have) drastic consequences on the patient’s body, both good and bad. The power of many of these medications makes it absolutely vital that all staff members who handle the pharmaceutical products use their most extreme care, double and triple checking the details so that no problems arise.

Unfortunately, mistakes still do occur with shocking frequency—and the results are deadly.

The Times Union reported yesterday on a verdict in a medical malpractice trial following one of those fatal medication errors. A few years ago a 66 year old patient was admitted to Glen Falls Hospital for observation; he was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Around midnight a nurse entered his room and gave him a dose of OxyCotin, a painkiller known to depress breathing. The patient was someone who already suffered from breathing problems, and so the medication had deadly affects on his body. He died 12 hours later.

Hospital staff admitted later that the victim was not supposed to be given the painkiller. Instead it was intended for his roommate. Some simple administrative error was responsible for the mix-up which ultimately killed the man, taking him away from his family far too early.

If you or someone you know may have been affected by a medication problem, please contact a medical malpractice lawyer today.

November 3, 2010

Illinois Justice Kilbride Wins Retention Race

All of the hotly contested political races and heated campaigns culminated yesterday as Illinoisans throughout the state went to the polls to help select leaders at the local, state, and federal levels.

One race of particular importance for those who care about the rights of medical victims and the preservation of an impartial justice system involved the retention of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride. We had previously posted on the unfair smear campaign being waged against the judge by a few special interest groups seeking to cut-off many patients’ access to justice following medical mistakes.

Millions of dollars were poured into the smear campaign the past few months in an attempt to depict Justice Kilbride as a shill for violent criminals, including rapists and murders. The extreme distortion in the ads provoked a clear backlash among judges, lawyers, legal thinkers, police officers, and all moderate thinking citizens concerned with the truth and fairness.

Fortunately, the voters of Illinois were not fooled by the bad-faith attempt to remove a justice who had the courage to follow the law in the face of corporate opposition. The Chicago Tribune reports that Justice Kilbride appears to have received nearly 65% of the vote—he needed 60% to be retained as a member of the high court.

The result means that the citizens of Illinois will keep a justice who has a track record of respecting the state Constitution—someone who understands that all victims of negligence deserve equal access to the court system, no matter how much money they have or how many powerful friends they know.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys applaud Illinois voters for their logical, fair decision to retain Justice Kilbride.

November 2, 2010

New Jury Verdict for Patient Following Medical Malpractice Trial

Highlands Today reported recently on a recent jury decision which found that a local doctor is responsible for damage to a patient following a surgical error. In March of 2003 the victim had surgery performed on a bicep by the negligent doctor. The patient had injured his left bicep tendon following an injury at work while attempting to lift a bucket of oil. The doctor was supposed to correct the mistake but instead reattached the tendon at the wrong location.

At trial it was explained that the doctor knew he made a mistake after he conducted post-operative treatment. However, even then, the doctor remained silent about the error and tried to cover up the mistake. The victim eventually went to receive a second opinion where the problem was finally brought to light.

It ultimately took a second surgery and more rehabilitation before his condition improved. However, the damage from the initial surgical error could not be corrected entirely and the patients will suffer permanent pain, loss of sensation, and partial loss of function in his left arm.

In the middle of the trial, the negligent doctor was forced to admit that he had made the mistake. Unfortunately it was not the first time that the doctor has caused problematic complications for a patient. The osteopathic physician had two previous complaints filed against him in the state, including one case where he made a cut on the wrong side of a patient’s hip during surgery.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti understand the frequency of these types of medical errors and the degree of damage they cause in patient lives. Our experience has shown that too often patients never fully learn the truth behind the mistakes. That is why it is important to contact a medical malpractice attorney to help fight these repeated offenders of medical errors.

November 1, 2010

Doctor Begins Push for Medical Safety Reform

The San Francisco Gate wrote a story today about one doctor’s call for improved safety measures following a medical error that affected him personally. Dr. Jose Gonzalez’s 18 month old niece was brought to a local hospital after a fall left a bump on her head. The facility conducted an MRI on the young girl to check for any problems. However, the girl’s breathing tube became dislodged during the procedure, resulting in severe brain damage.

As the doctor discovered afterwards, and our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are well aware, these sorts of preventable medical errors occur with startling frequency across the country. Nearly 100,000 patients are killed each year due to these medical mistakes.

However, even with these staggering numbers, little is done to stem the tide. In many states it is still not even required that hospitals report when errors occur. Because of the growing problem, Dr. Gonzalez and other patients’ safety advocates are working to raise awareness of the issue. Specifically, the doctor is trying to spread knowledge of safety systems that can be implemented at hospitals to improve patient well-being.

Many “best practices” systems are used in certain hospitals that are found to drastically lower the harm to patients from medical errors. However, it is often a challenge getting hospital to adopt those best practices. The practices advocated are often simple, check-list style operations that help medical care providers cover their bases and catch potential mistakes before they cause real harm. In the case of the Dr Gonzalez’s niece, if certain checks had been performed on the girl during the procedure at clear intervals, than the dislodged tube would likely have been discovered sooner.

Please Click Here to read more about efforts to improve patient safety and catch medical mistakes before they cause damage.