April 22, 2014

Surgical Error: Botched Appendectomy Results in Miscarriage and Death

by Levin & Perconti

The Belfast Telegraph reports that a woman has suffered miscarriage and death as a result of a surgical error. The 32 years old woman, who was 20 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, was admitted to the hospital for an appendectomy. Rather than removing her appendix, the junior surgeon who operated on her removed her right ovary instead.
In less than three weeks she was back in the hospital for abdominal pains. Two days later she miscarried and died on the operating table after finally having her appendix removed.

The surgeon who removed her ovary denies any misconduct. He had limited experience performing appendectomies on pregnant women, and did not ensure he was supervised during the procedure. He did not call for help when the woman started to bleed heavily during that first operation. The more senior surgeon, who was responsible for supervising the surgeon who committed the surgical error, also denies misconduct.

Prevent Becoming a Victim of Surgical Error
Patients undergoing surgery are at their most vulnerable. They are ill or injured, often frightened, and often don’t fully understand what is going wrong inside their bodies. Not to mention that during the surgery itself they are unconscious and exposed. And, despite the best intentions, surgical errors happen. When that happens, the injured patient or his loved ones should contact a medical malpractice attorney.

However, there are things that patients can do to try to prevent becoming victims of surgical error. A CNN report from 2008 provides five key tips surgical patients can follow to try to prevent becoming a victim. These include:

1. Check out your doctor and hospital.

Just as you would read reviews of a restaurant before booking your anniversary reservation, or you would examine client testimonials before hiring an attorney, you should check the qualifications of your doctor before going under the knife. Find out how many times the doctor has done the procedure and how that compares to other doctors. Research the hospital as well.

2. Tell everyone who you are and why you're having surgery.

It may seem silly, but tell everyone you deal with who you are and what surgery you are having. When hospitals get extremely busy if the staff does not recognize you, it’s easier for them to make a mistake and mix you up with the patient down the hall.

3. Make sure your doctor initials your surgical site before the operation.

This one may also make you feel a little silly, but it’s actually endorsed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It’s a brilliant way of making sure the right side of you is operated on.

4. Confirm the surgery site with the surgeon right before the procedure

According to Dr. James Beaty, past president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "You should say, 'I'm not going back to surgery until I see my doctor and we confirm that this is the right site.’”

5. Train someone to be your advocate

You will likely be scared, tired, and nervous when you undergo surgery. So teach your loved ones who will be there with you these same tips, so they can make sure these procedures are followed. After all, the more people who keep saying telling the staff and surgeons that you are John Smith and you are here to have your left kidney removed, the less likely you are to accidentally wind up with Mike Smith’s right knee replacement instead.

Related Blog Posts:

Surgical Errors are Medical Malpractice

Underreporting of Robotic Surgery Errors?

April 17, 2014

Proposed Birth Injury Fund Would Strip Medical Malpractice Victims of their Rights

by Levin & Perconti

The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Maryland lawmakers are considering creating a birth injury fund. While on its face this may seem like a wonderful and well-intentioned idea, it would ultimately hurt those families who are most severely harmed in birth injury cases.

Regular System With No Birth Injury Fund
In a regular system, like that in Chicago, parents file birth injury lawsuits w hen babies are injured during birth or before birth by the careless or intentional acts of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider. When the actions are not criminal but are serious enough to hurt the baby, they are a “tort,” which means a civil wrong that can be sued over. When a meritorious law suit is filed, either both sides will come to an agreement as to what damages should be paid to the injured family, or there will be at a trial. Both sides will be represented by experienced medical malpractice attorneys who can advise them as to what risks they should and should not take. At the trial, if the jury determines that the hospital or healthcare provider is “liable,” or responsible, for the injuries, then the jury will determine how much the family should be compensated based on the individualized facts of the case.

Birth Injury Fund System
A birth injury fund would eliminate the entire regular system. In its report, the Baltimore Business Journal explains that the creation of such a fund would eliminate injured parents’ right to sue over their babies’ injuries. Rather than allowing a jury to make a determination as to the proper damages award given the individual facts and complex details of the case, some sort of schedule would determine the maximum damages the injured parents would be paid. While in the Illinois system a jury can determine how much money will be required to pay for the needs of this specific child, there would be no such individual determination in a birth injury fund system.

The Real Motivation Behind the Birth Injury Fund
The families of severely injured children would not benefit in the birth injury fund system. The insurance companies and the medical professionals who commit malpractice would be the ones to benefit instead. The Baltimore Business Journal report notes that the people pushing for the bill are doctors and other health workers. Those healthcare professionals cite rising malpractice costs caused by large verdicts.

The Frederick News-Post reports that in a two year period Baltimore City and Prince George’s County jury returned birth injury verdicts against hospitals for $55 million, $22 million, $18 million, $15.6 million, and $9.5 million. Those numbers weren’t just drawn out of a hat, however. They were settled on by a jury made up of presumptively reasonable people who had heard all the evidence. What those who disparage these large verdicts ignore is that large verdicts don’t happen unless two other things happen: (1) a medical professional commits malpractice and (2) that malpractice causes a lot of damage. The way to minimize damages collected in malpractice suits is not to strip the truly injured of their right to sue. The way to minimize the damages is to prevent malpractice from happening in the first place. And the only way to do that in a capitalist economy is to make it so malpractice is not profitable, by forcing those who cause injury to take responsibility for it.

Related Blog Posts:

Birth-Related Medical Malpractice in Illinois

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Alleges Death During Birth

April 15, 2014

Annual Survey Results: Millions Misdiagnosed Each Year

by Levin & Perconti

CBS News reports that each year 12 million adults who receive outpatient medical care are misdiagnosed in the United States. The report relies on a new study published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety. That 12 million number means one out of every twenty adult patients is misdiagnosed. Even worse, the researchers say that in half of those cases the misdiagnosis could result in severe harm.

According to CBS the researchers analyzed data from three prior studies and applied mathematical formulas to reach their results. They determined that the overall rate of missed diagnoses in the United States to be 5.08 percent. Of course, each case of a missed diagnosis results in a delayed diagnosis. The prediction that one half of these errors could result in severe harm is based on previous research.

Reporting on the same research, NBC News explains what the results of this study mean. Patients with heart failure, pneumonia, anemia, and lung cancer could have serious medical conditions that go unrecognized, and thus, untreated. Failing to treat some medical conditions, like cancer, as soon as possible can result in the condition getting worse or perhaps even becoming fatal when it otherwise would not have been.

NBC also interviewed Dr. Gordon Schiff, a patient safety expert and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Schiff believes that while this study is good in that it provides us with hard numbers, it probably actually underestimates the problem.
Dr. Hardeep Singh, the lead author of the study, told NBC that a variety of factors can contribute to these medical errors. Specifically, the outpatient environment can be very hectic, symptoms can be complex, and the time doctors spend with the patients they are diagnosing is more limited than ever. Additionally, many doctors lack the support and technical help that would allow them to take more time to focus on using proper clinical reasoning when making a diagnosis.

Dr. Singh’s hope is that providing this information will galvanize the medical community to improve things. He cites a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine that revealed that 98,000 people die each year from medical errors as one prior paper that lit a fire under the community.

Ways to Prevent Misdiagnosis
The CBS report lists some things patients can do to minimize the chance they will wind up victims of misdiagnosis. Those tips include:

1. Explain your full medical history to your doctor in a clear and chronological way, including key aspects of your family history like whether one of your parents has cancer.

2. Follow up with your physician and make sure you get your test results. Not hearing anything does not mean you can assume there is not a problem.

3. Be particularly vigilant if your symptoms include cough, abdominal pain, or shortness of breath, as people with those symptoms are most likely to be diagnosed.
Of course, no matter how vigilant you are, patients cannot prevent every error. The responsibility for proper diagnosing illness ultimately falls upon trained physicians.

Related Blog Posts:
VA Settles Nearly 1,000 Wrongful Death Cases Involving Veterans
Misdiagnoses: The Dangers and What You Can Do About Them

April 10, 2014

Florida Joins Illinois in Rejecting Medical Malpractice Damage Caps as Unconstitutional

by Levin & Perconti

The Florida Supreme Court struck down that state’s cap on wrongful death non-economic damages because the cap violated the equal protection clause of Florida’s constitution. Justice Lewis wrote for the Court that the $1 million cap was unconstitutional because “it imposes unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence” effects more than one person. He explained that the cap resulted in some injured people receiving full compensation while arbitrarily denying others compensation, meaning people were not treated equally before the law.

Caps on non-economic damages prevent those harmed by medical malpractice from being compensated for their injuries. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate the victims for the intangible harms they suffer. In a personal injury case, non-economic damages can include those for pain and suffering and emotional distress, while in wrongful death cases they can compensate the harmed parties for loss of consortium or loss of companionship. Awarding these damages allows a jury to acknowledge that the loss of a child or spouse is not merely harmful to the survivor because of the medical bills or loss of income, but that the loss of the actual person and the relationship is also a real harm.

Florida joins Illinois in a growing number of states that are undoing the damage done throughout the 1990s and early part of this century to civil litigants’ rights to recover for these injuries. Like Florida, Illinois used to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits. Then, in 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court brought an end to the caps in the landmark decision of Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

History of Medical Malpractice Caps in Illinois
The plaintiffs in Lebron alleged that medical malpractice caused Abigaile Lebron to suffer severe brain injury, cerebral palsy, cognitive mental impairment, inability to be fed normally requiring a feeding tube, and an inability to develop normal neurological function. At that time Illinois law limited Abigail and her mother’s non-economic recovery just as the Florida law limited recovery in that state. Illinois, like Florida, held that the cap on damages was unconstitutional. But the two states used different reasoning. In Illinois it was not an equal protection complaint that won the day for injured parties. Instead, Lebron argued that the cap on recovery violated the separation of powers in the Illinois constitution. That is, it was an example of the legislature doing a job that was reserved for the judiciary. Illinois courts have the power of what is called “remittitur.” Remittitur is a doctrine of law that allows trial judges to determine whether a jury’s award is excessive and to reduce the award if necessary. Since this is a judge’s job, not the legislature’s job, the Illinois Supreme Court invalidated the cap.

The Future of Malpractice Caps in Florida
The Florida decision invalidates the cap in that state for now. But the fight is not over. Lebron was not the first fight over caps in Illinois. The issue had already been litigated years earlier in the Best case, but the legislature passed a cap a second time despite the Best decision. Undoubtedly the powerful lobbies of the insurance and medical industries will try to undermine the Florida Court’s decision by passing a new cap. However, the Tampa Bay Times reports that Sen. Tom Lee, a Republican who negotiated the now overturned law’s passage and who is currently the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, is not confident another damage cap could pass during this legislative session. Both medical malpractice attorneys and brave individuals will have to keep fighting in upcoming sessions in order to protect our rights.

See Related Posts:

CJ&D Briefing Book: The Truth About Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Medical Malpractice Verdict Highlights Problems With Malpractice Caps

April 8, 2014

VA Settles Nearly 1,000 Wrongful Death Cases Involving Veterans

by Levin & Perconti

The Center for Investigative Journalism reports that in the decade following 9/11 the Department of Veterans Affairs paid $200 million to nearly 1,000 families in wrongful death cases. The median payment for each family was $150,000. Thirty-nine of the veterans died due to malpractice at the clinics in Danville, Marion, and Hines, Illinois alone.

Delayed diagnosis, delay in treatment, and improper performance repeatedly appear as the type of malpractice in these cases. The report includes a Shreveport, Louisiana veteran who overdosed on morphine in a locked psychiatric unit and a delusional Portland, Oregon veteran who jumped off the roof of a VA hospital. It also includes Iraq War heroes who committed suicide after being turned away for mental health treatment and Vietnam veterans who died from known cancerous tumors that were allowed to grow. The Seattle Times reports that the 1,000 families includes the family of a veteran who bled to death after knee replacement surgery and the family of another who died after being sent home with fractured ribs and a fractured spine.

Nursing Home Fall
The Times also reported on the death of one World War II veteran. The man fell in the bathroom two days after being admitted to a VA nursing home. He became paralyzed from the neck down and died nine days later. His sister had explicitly asked that he not be left alone, and the hospital when ahead and did it anyway. The sister received a $135,000 settlement. She explained what many of those who have been the victims of medical malpractice feel, “It wasn’t about the money; I just thought somebody should be held accountable.”

In response to the report, a House committee has scheduled a hearing on April 9, 2014 regarding preventable deaths in VA facilities. But this will not be the first such hearing. On September 9, 2013, there was a hearing that specifically focused on veteran deaths at VA hospitals in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and Mississippi. USA Today reported after that hearing that lawmakers focused in large part on bonuses that VA management received despite the horrifying number of preventable deaths on their watch. In addition to the monetary bonuses, one such manager was actually nominated for one of the most prestigious awards received by public servants after he was in part responsible for the mishandling of an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at a VA hospital.

The legislature continued to press the VA for accountability at a budget meeting just last month. According to the Center for Investigative Journalism, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told legislators that 6,000 VA employees had been “involuntarily removed” in the past two years due to these medical errors.

Only time will tell if someone at a higher level will be held accountable for all of these senseless preventable deaths. This sort of malpractice does not just happen in VA hospitals. It can happen to anyone at any kind of hospital. That is why the preservation of our civil justice system is so important. Professionals who hurt people instead of helping them should be held accountable.

See Related Posts:
Problems Continue at Illinois Veteran’s Hospital

Review of Medical Mistakes Reveals High Cost of Errors

April 3, 2014

Jurisdictions Differ on the Necessary Scope of Doctor Disclosure

by Levin & Perconti

“Informed consent.” It’s a buzzword in the field of medical malpractice because so many malpractice lawsuits involve arguments about what the term really means. Just how much information must a doctor disclose to a patient before that patient can make an educated decision about how to pursue his or her own medical treatment? The answer to that question, like so many in law, is, “It depends.”

First Standard
In the main, it will depend on what jurisdiction is reviewing the case. Currently, there are two standards governing what and how much information a doctor must disclose to a patient. The first is the physician-centered standard. This standard was first established in 1960 by the case of Natanson v. Kline. In that case, the patient received radiation therapy to prevent the relapse of her breast cancer. After she received serious injury directly resulting from the radiation therapy, the patient sued her doctor, claiming that he did not warn her of the risks of injury.

The standard the court used to decide this case was whether the physician “disclose[d] and explain[ed] to the patient in language as simple as necessary the nature of the ailment, the nature of the proposed treatment, the probability of success or of alternatives, and perhaps the risks of unfortunate results and unforeseen conditions within the body…” This language has since become the standard most courts use to determine what doctors must disclose to their patients before their patients may be judged to have given “informed consent.” The underlying policy in the law, as stated by the court, is “that each man is considered to be master of his own body.” Thus, it follows that “[a] doctor might well believe than an operation or form of treatment is desirable or necessary, but the law does not permit him to substitute his own judgment for that of the patient by any form of artifice or deception.” Based on the foregoing, the court created the physician-centered standard by holding that the “duty of the physician to disclose…is limited to those disclosures which a reasonable medical practitioner would make under the same or similar circumstances” (emphasis added).

New Standards
This standard from Natanson was the governing one everywhere in the US for twelve years, until three courts modified it in the early 70s to create the patient-centered standard. The first of these decisions was Canterbury v. Spence, wherein a patient consented to an invasive form of back surgery and was hurt by falling from his bed during recovery. The fall happened while the patient was left unattended, and, as a result of the fall, he was left paralyzed below the waist. The patient sued his doctor, claiming that the doctor negligently performed the operation and negligently failed to warn him that the operation could have resulted in paralysis.

Rejecting the physician-centered disclosure standard, the court found that doctors were required to disclose that which a reasonable patient would need to know to make an informed decision about the course of his or her treatment, as opposed to what a reasonable doctor would disclose. More specifically, the court ruled that “the test for determining whether a particular peril must be divulged is its materiality to the patient’s decision: all risks potentially affecting the decision must be unmasked” (emphasis added). This was further stated to be an objective standard, meaning that the question for any case where disclosure is at issue is what a reasonable person in the patient’s shoes, as opposed to the specific patient in question, would have done had he or she known all the risks involved.

This decision, as well as those that followed it, was likely driven by a desire to serve the autonomy of patients; with this standard, doctors would likely be required to make even greater disclosures, thus empowering patients beyond what previous standards had required. While several courts today do follow this precedent, it remains a minority view. Most courts still follow the physician-centered standard of disclosure.

In many cases, the difference between these two standards will not matter; if a risk was not disclosed and subsequently became a reality for a patient, it is likely that the doctor will be liable. However, in the close cases, the question will become important, and experienced counsel will be required to see that justice is done.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by a doctor’s failure to disclose, you may have a claim. Please contact an experienced malpractice attorney at Levin & Perconti today.

Related Links:

What is a Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Claims?

Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Cases – Surgical Error

April 1, 2014

Check Your Tech: Has Your Mammogram Shown a False Positive?

by Levin & Perconti

In today’s world of gizmos and gadgets, we tend to trust our technology to make our lives easier and more error-free. However, a new study on computer software that is widely used to locate cancerous regions in mammograms shows that the technology may be doing more harm than good. The study shows that the software has not only failed to make breast cancer detection more accurate, but that it has also increased the risk that a patient will be erroneously told that her mammogram shows cancer cells.

The study, which may be found online in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute,” bases its conclusions on the analysis of about 1.6 million mammograms taken at radiology facilities in several states between 1998 and 2006. The same researchers who have published this study were also the authors of a similar one conducted in 2007, when they first became skeptical of the efficacy of this mammogram technology, known as computer-aided detection (CAD).

The problem comes from the fact that mammograms themselves are not always as trustworthy as we would rather them be. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average mammogram may overlook up to 20 percent of breast cancers. However, studies show that having multiple radiologists examine a mammogram may improve the accuracy of its result. This is where CAD has been most often deployed – as a second set of eyes to look at a mammogram. Thus, CAD is being used as if it is as good as a radiologist’s eye, and it simply may not be the case that it is.

Since its initial approval by the Food and Drug Administration, the use of CAD has become more prevalent. Today, it is used in about 75 percent of mammograms. And doctors have an incentive to use CAD – Medicare pays them a fee to do so.

While studies have not shown the use of CAD to cause failures to diagnose cancers, they have shown it to lead to more false-positives. That is, the use of CAD has led doctors to identify innocuous abnormalities on mammogram images as cancerous ones. However, some doctors have expressed the opinion that the problem may not lie with CAD itself, but rather with the doctors who are using it in their practices while still learning to use it properly.

In the meantime, it does not appear as if CAD will be going anywhere. Doctors fearing malpractice lawsuits often try to minimize the impact of human error in their practices, and technology is a good way to do this, so long as there is an accepted way of using it and they are conforming to those standards. This caveat, again, is the sticky question – can it be used properly? And is your doctor doing this?

Legal recourse is available where a doctor goes outside of his professional expertise in administering care, and people are harmed as a result. If you feel a doctor’s error has resulted in harm to you or a loved one, you may have a claim – feel free to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Levin & Perconti today.

See Other Posts:

Leading Cause of Litigated Medical Malpractice: Diagnostic Errors

Most Common Radiology Malpractice Suits Stem From Mammography Errors

March 28, 2014

Misdiagnoses: The Dangers and What You Can Do About Them

by Levin & Perconti

A common form of medical malpractice is the failure to diagnose. A patient comes in, a doctor sees him or her, the doctor makes a diagnosis, and that diagnosis is either wrong or too limited in scope, resulting in later harm to the patient. Moreover, the error doesn’t even have to be made by a doctor – other healthcare professionals too may be liable for failing to see and diagnose symptoms of any given illness or condition.

The prevalence of misdiagnoses is something that even the medical community is prepared to accept. A study published in 2005 by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that doctors are wrong 10 to 15 percent of the time. This may be because doctors are spending less time with patients today than they ever have; reports indicate that the average patient-doctor interaction lasts just seven minutes. These reports do not only include private, for-profit clinic doctors, either. Whether they are private doctors maximizing appointments in order to make more money or hospital doctors facing emergency rooms crowded with urgent care patients, doctors of all kinds seem to be zipping in and out of examination rooms at unprecedented rates. With doctors more and more seeing patients as quickly as possible, it comes as little surprise that important details are often overlooked.

Here are a few things you can do if you fear you have a condition which has been misdiagnosed:

1. Get a second opinion.
Doctors are human, and they make mistakes. What is worse is that they can suffer from confirmation bias – the tendency to form a belief and then see only information which confirms that belief, no matter how much information may be present disproving the belief. If your symptoms persist after you’ve followed the doctor’s orders, it may be time to seek a second opinion.

2. Be your own doctor.
Humans have never lived in an age where information was more available. Take down a list of your symptoms, and see what Google has to say about your condition. The Internet is full of trustworthy sites and fellow patients who can help you get a better idea of the illness that is bothering you. Of course, there are sources out there that are non-authoritative, to say the least, but if you find the same information again and again from different sources, it may be worth asking a doctor about. As a patient, doing your own research and informing yourself will help you maximize the time you spend with the doctor.

3. Find a lawyer
Misdiagnoses can result in severe harm to patients because they delay the time in which an actual health problem is addressed. Strokes, heart attacks, and other serious health emergencies are some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions. The longer these conditions go without an accurate diagnosis, the longer patients must wait until they can be correctly treated, which can result in severe harm that would otherwise be totally avoidable.

Fortunately, legal recourse is available for patients who have suffered harm as a result of a doctor’s error. If you feel that you or a loved one has suffered damage as a result of a misdiagnosis or a doctor’s failure to diagnose a condition, you may have a claim and you should seek the advice of an experience medical malpractice attorney. The attorneys at Levin & Perconti are here for you – please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at any time.

See Related Posts:

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March 24, 2014

Choosing a Hospital – What You Need To Know

by Levin & Perconti

When in need, most folks wouldn’t think twice about which hospital to visit – the local shop is often the go-to option. However, given the prevalence of hospital error, such as healthcare-associated infection, it is a good idea to consider what the best option really is. The risks of choosing poorly have been highlighted by the World Health Organization, which has recently cited statistics showing the average hospital visit to be more dangerous than the average airplane flight. The chance of suffering harm from a hospital error is roughly 1 in 10, and the chance of death in a hospital is 1 in 300. Contrast this with the chance of dying in a plane crash, which is 1 in 10 million. Further, the difference isn’t even very strongly pronounced between developed and developing countries. Out of every 100 hospital patients in any country, 7 in developed nations and 10 in developing nations will acquire at least one healthcare-associated infection.

Choosing a hospital carefully requires examining a number of criteria. However, the decision does not always have to be difficult. For most common ailments that require routine care, such as setting a bone or repairing a muscle tear, most any hospital will do. But this does not mean there are not conditions where choosing the correct hospital can make all the difference – some hospitals may be right for most ailments but wrong for yours.

This is not to say that there are death-trap hospitals out there; if there were, you can rest assured that their doors would be shut sooner rather than later. That said, who wants a hospital with little to no prior experience remedying their illness or injury? Or, perhaps worse, one that is less aware of the potential dangers involved in the treatments they will apply? While a recent study has found that rates of post-operational complications, such as infection, internal bleeding, or organ failure, vary little across the country, rates of death resulting from these complications do vary. Rates of complication-induced death were almost twice at some hospitals what they were at others – meaning that some hospitals know how to catch and respond to problems markedly better than others.

Here are a few red flags to look out for with any hospital you may potentially choose:

Low Patient Turnover
Hospitals who regularly get and treat patients like you are more likely to be prepared procedurally for unexpected complications. Hospitals keep records of patient volumes for the previous year, and you should be able to get them upon request. Do not be afraid to ask for rates of death and complication as well. Then, you can compare the numbers to those recommended by hospital oversight companies, such as The Leapfrog Group. If the hospital meets recommended figures, they are likely a good choice for your needs.

Inexperienced Surgeons
Studies have found that rates of complication and length of hospital stays more closely correlate to one’s surgeon rather than one’s choice of hospital, and even the busiest hospitals have surgeons who do not operate regularly. Ask your surgeon for his latest yearly numbers on operations similar to the one you will undergo as well as his rates of death and complication. The numbers themselves should tell you everything you’ll want to know, but, if the doctor is hesitant to give them over, it is probably a good idea to ask your doctor to recommend a different surgeon.

If your hospital has a high rate of readmission, it is likely that they are not adept at post-discharge care. Again, these numbers should be available from the hospital, and, if they are not, you may want to consider another hospital. Studies have found readmission rates to be fairly consistent across the country, so if the hospital you’re interested in is substantially worse than other options, it probably means that the other options are more advisable.

At the end of the day, your healthcare experience is ultimately in your own hands; it is up to you to be a careful consumer. Choosing to spend your money on healthcare is no different than choosing to spend it on anything else – if you’re not careful, you could make an unwise decision that will leave you in a worse position than that in which you started.

Fortunately, there is legal recourse if a doctor’s error has led to harm for you or a loved one. If you believe this to be the case, please feel free to contact an attorney at Levin & Perconti for a free consultation today.

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March 20, 2014

“Safe Harbor” Reforms May Benefit Patients More Than Doctors?

by Levin & Perconti

It is no secret that litigating a medical malpractice claim can be stressful and difficult. The system is complicated, and resolving a case is not always quick. Our system of resolving medical malpractice claims is fraught with unnecessary impediments and flaws, such as frivolous lawsuits, lengthy settlement processes, and legal technicalities.

One such problem is that of doctor uncertainty. Accidents are called accidents because they are unexpected and unintended, and they can happen even in the care of well-intentioned, experienced doctors who have acted as they should. Still, they may be hit with lawsuits that gum up the courts, thus slowing the process for meritorious claims. To attack this problem, some experts propose what are called “safe harbor” laws. These are laws that protect doctors from malpractice suits in cases where they have followed accepted clinical guidelines. Essentially, doctors are provided with checklists that, if followed, will prevent their liability for malpractice claims. However, where they are not followed, the doctors will open themselves up to liability.

Despite being intended to protect doctors, a new study has found that safe harbor laws are likely more beneficial to patients than doctors. The researchers examined malpractice cases from Oregon between 2002 and 2009 to see whether they would have come out differently had Oregon had safe harbor rules in place during the period. The study found that safe harbor rules would have changed the outcome of the case in favor of the defendant physician in only 1 percent of the 266 claims it examined, so it seems that safe harbor laws do not help doctors very much.

However, while the stated purpose of safe harbor laws is to protect doctors from unwarranted lawsuits, the most important goal of any malpractice policy should be to raise the quality of care received by patients. After all, the best way to prevent lawsuits is to make sure accidents never happen in the first place. The study’s results support the notion that safe harbor rules tend to accomplish this goal. In 41 of the examined cases, the study found that the patient would not have been harmed had the physician followed the recommended guidelines.

Safe harbor rules may not reduce the number of medical malpractice claims overall, as the study shows. But they do seem to raise the quality of care patients receive, which is always an desired outcome, given that another recent study estimates that between 6 and 16 percent of hospitalizations result in preventable injuries. Doctors should be responsible for the work they do – if you feel you’ve been harmed during the course of medical treatment, you may have a claim. Please feel free to contact an attorney today.

See Related Posts:

What is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Claims?

Scary Statistics on Medical Malpractice