December 15, 2014

Recovering Cancer Patient Killed by Pharmacy Errors

by Levin & Perconti

When we are sick we find ourselves in a position where we are completely dependent on medical professionals. When those healthcare providers make errors the results can be catastrophic. Pharmacy errors are particularly problematic because, when the wrong drug or dose is administered the cure becomes the cause of a new host of problems in an already ill person. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to one cancer patient in Oregon.

Oregon Cancer Patient Given Wrong Drug to Treat Anxiety

Central Oregon’s KTVZ reports that sixty-five year old Loretta Macpherson died as a result of being given the wrong medication. Ms. Macpherson went to the hospital to be treated for anxiety. One month before she went to the hospital she had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor. She had been making a speedy recovery, and before her trip to the hospital was expected to recover fully. Then tragedy struck.

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December 12, 2014

State Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Medical Malpractice Cap Case

by Levin & Perconti

Californians recently had an opportunity to change their state's medical malpractice award cap laws to at least make the caps more reasonable. However, due at least in part to a large scale misinformation campaign about the ballot measure, voters rejected this opportunity. This does not mean that the caps will remain unchanged, however. The California Supreme Court has now agreed to hear a very important case that challenges the constitutionality of the cap. Hopefully the high court, like its sister courts in Illinois and Florida, will strike the misguided cap down and finally allow injured Californians to collect the compensation they deserve.

Hughes v. Pham

The case the Court has agreed to hear is Hughes v. Pham. The lower court's decision in the case was unpublished, and briefs will not be filed in the Supreme Court for some time, but California Healthline published the basic facts of the case. Trent and Lisa Hughes originally filed suit claiming that Trent Hughes became paraplegic because of Dr. Pham's negligence. Dr. Pham is a neurosurgeon, and the couple argued that the doctor improperly delayed treating Trent Hughes after Mr. Hughes was injured in an off-road vehicle accident.

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December 9, 2014

FDA Takes Action to Provide More Information Regarding Safety of Prescription Drugs for Pregnant Women

by Levin & Perconti

Time and time again we see the same thing—a complete lack of information regarding prescription drug safety for pregnant women and their fetuses. And when this information is not provided, women find themselves either harmed themselves or dealing with harm done to their children that sometimes is not recognized until birth or even after. Fortunately, it appears that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally taking steps to provide expectant mothers with more desperately needed information so they can make the right choices for their family regarding their health care. The changes will also help breastfeeding mothers.

FDA Changed How Pharmaceutical Companies Present Medication Risks During Pregnancy
The New York Times reports that the FDA changed how pharmaceutical companies will present the risks of taking medications during pregnancy and breast-feeding. The system up to now was created in the 1970s and is vague and ultimately not terribly useful. A key problem is that most drugs were classified in the category that meant “animal studies have shown potential risks to the fetus, but … no adequate studies exist for humans.” In other words, most drugs were categorized as “we don't know the risk” and the guess work was completely pushed off onto the expectant mother.

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December 6, 2014

California Delayed Action on Translating Drug Labels

by Levin & Perconti

America is a melting pot, and it always has been. Throughout our nation's entire history there have been members of our community who have spoken languages other than English as their primary language. As medical science advanced and our medical system became more complicated, we have had to take steps to ensure that both international guests and new immigrant residents can obtain medical care when necessary. Some doctors have taken it upon themselves to learn second or even third languages, and hospitals work to bring in translators when necessary. However, a big hole in this system exists on the pharmacy side of things. When the instructions that come with prescription drugs are either not translated or are improperly translated for a non-English speaking patient, the result can be injury or even wrongful death.

California Delayed Action on Translating Prescription Drug Labels

The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this year that the California State Board of Pharmacy opted not to decide yet whether pharmacies should be required to translate prescription drug labels for patients with limited or no English-language skills. Most people at a meeting of the Board agreed that change is necessary in part because of the relatively high rate of adverse medical reactions amongst patients with limited English. However, a host of complicating issues also arose at the meeting relating to how many different translations would be necessary, how accuracy would be insured, and who would be held responsible for inaccurate translations and their consequences.

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December 2, 2014

Hospital's Shaving of Patient Alleged to Have Caused Severe Staph Infection

by Levin & Perconti

While most of us go to hospitals to get well, for an unfortunately high number of people a hospital is where they get sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 1 out of 20 hospitalized patients wind up with some sort of infection over the course of their medical treatment. One such patient in Louisiana has filed a medical malpractice suit after suffering from such an infection allegedly caused by the medical professionals' shaving of his pubic hair for his penile implant operation.

Louisiana Man Files Medical Malpractice Suit

The Louisiana Record reports that Timothy Hayden has filed suit against a doctor, a medical clinic, and others. Mr. Hayden went to Ochsner Medical Center—Westbank to undergo a penile implant procedure. According to his account, while he was under anesthesia someone shaved his pubic area. When he woke, he noticed what he thought were ingrown hairs in the area. He showed the area to his doctor, and the doctor allegedly told him to put ice on the area.
Three weeks later, Mr. Hayden had to undergo emergency surgery. Tissue in the area had become necrotic—that is, the cells had died. At that point he was diagnosed with gangrene do to a MRSA infection. He had to recover in a nursing home.

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November 29, 2014

FDA Panel Recommends Against Strictest Warning for Steroid Shots

by Levin & Perconti

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for determining what warnings drug manufacturers are required to put on the drugs they produce. After the serious pharmaceutical error involving the meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroid injections, the FDA is considering requiring more stringent warning labels for the drugs. Such warnings could possibly prevent future injuries and deaths. However, it looks like the FDA will probably not opt for harsher labels, leaving essentially what was the status quo at the time of the meningitis outbreak in place for the foreseeable future.

Panel Rejects Strict Warnings

The New York Times reports that an FDA advisory panel decided Tuesday not to recommend using the sternest federal warning label on steroid injections intended to treat neck and back pain. These panels are typically made up of groups of medical experts. The group makes recommendations to the FDA about what actions it should or should not take on issues like labeling. The recommendations are in no way binding. However, the agency usually follows these recommendations.

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November 25, 2014

Almost One Billion Dollars in Medical Malpractice Payouts to Vets Paid by Federal Funds Instead of VA

by Levin & Perconti

In the general population, medical malpractice happens all too often. However, as we learned earlier this year, due to funding issues and mismanagement in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), our country's veterans have been suffering medical malpractice related personal injuries and wrongful deaths at a horrifying rate. While some of the injured veterans and their families are finally obtaining compensation for their injuries, it appears that the department responsible is not actually footing the bill.

VA is Not Paying the Medical Malpractice Settlements

CBS Los Angeles reports that while thousands of payouts totaling nearly a billion dollars to veterans alleged to be medical malpractice victims have been uncovered, the Department of Veterans Affairs is not making those payments. The money is coming from the federal treasury, not the VA's own budget, according to California Congressman Adam Schiff. While settlements in these cases do not necessarily mean that the VA admits to fault for a veteran's injuries, the total amount of payments is a shocking $892 million in the last year and a half alone.

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November 21, 2014

Deadly Pharmacy Errors Likely Caused by Corporate Greed?

by Levin & Perconti

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

Pharmacy Accused of Causing Deadly Drug Overdose

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

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

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November 19, 2014

Tragic Case Demonstrates Horrible Consequences of Tort Reform

by Levin & Perconti

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

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

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

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November 13, 2014

Scare Tactics Convince California Voters to Vote Against Lifting Damages Cap

by Levin & Perconti

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

California's Proposition 46

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

How Could Something So Seemingly Reasonable Not Pass?

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