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A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that 54% of American physicians report feeling burnt out at work. Lead study author, Stanford pediatric physician Daniel S. Tawfik, and his team found that those experiencing burnout were TWO times as likely to have made a major medical error in the last 3 months. Study authors also believe that based on this information, 1/3 of all American physicians are experiencing burnout at any given time.  Researchers describe burnout as “emotional exhaustion or cynicism.”

The study questioned 6,586 physicians in active practice at an American hospital or clinic and asked them to report feelings of burnout, excessive fatigue, recent suicidal thoughts, their thoughts on patient safety on the unit in which they primarily work, as well as those who had made a major medical error. The authors found:

  • 54.3%  of physicians admitted feeling burnt out
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In April, we covered ProPublica’s investigation into UIC’s renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Mani Pavuluri.

From 2009-2013, Dr. Pavuluri conducted a study on the effects of lithium in children with bipolar disorder. The study was abruptly cancelled when one of the subjects reported an illness serious enough to notify federal officials. Initially UIC would not disclose the total number of study participants.

Test subjects were given 8 weeks of lithium following a manic episode and then exposed to brain scans to monitor changes. UIC failed to properly oversee the study, only finding out later that their star pediatric psychiatrist had violated FDA standards, general research standards, and university rules to carry out her study.

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The largest ever medical malpractice verdict was awarded on Monday to now-17-year-old Faith DeGrand from Wyandotte, Michigan. After a two week trial and 2.5 hours of deliberation, the 8 person jury found Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan and two doctors guilty of malpractice, awarding $135 million to the girl.


Doctor Vacationed Twice While Victim Lay Paralyzed

Faith DeGrand was 10 years old when she went to Children’s Hospital of Michigan for a relatively routine pediatric scoliosis surgery. Following protocol for the surgery, a rod and screws were placed in her back to help straighten her spine. Her surgeon inappropriately placed the surgical hardware, causing compression on the young girl’s spine. Immediately following the surgery, Faith experienced severe pain, paralysis of her arms and legs, and lost all bowel and bladder control. She was unable to walk or use the bathroom, bound to a wheelchair and forced to use a catheter. Realizing the placement of the surgical devices was causing Faith’s injuries, another surgeon removed them. However, the damage was already done. Faith spent the next year in a wheelchair and will spend the rest of her life using a catheter and unable to have full control of her arms and legs, a condition known as a quadriparesis.

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The Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer rights advocacy group out of New York Law School, has compiled a review of medical malpractice incidents and has publicly shared their findings. Entitled “Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers,” the briefing examines recent medical studies and investigations of both inpatient and outpatient groups and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice organizations.

The data brings deficiencies in medical care into the spotlight, specifically the care Americans receive within hospitals. Below is a summary of information from the report our medical malpractice attorneys think is particularly informative and worth sharing. All data sources can be found in the CJ&D briefing. We have included the page number of the report that contains the source for each statistic.

HOSPITALS:

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A nearly year long joint NPR/ProPublica investigation into the rising rate of maternal deaths in the U.S. has uncovered the pivotal role that midwives play in the safe delivery of babies. Mothers in the U.S. are dying at a rate three times greater than that of the next closest industrialized country. According to ProPublica, maternal death rates per 100,000 live births are as follows:

  1. United States = 26.4%
  2. France = 7.8%
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Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and lesser known MS Contin, is facing scrutiny after several recent articles exposed information from a Justice Department investigation into the company. The investigation focused on evidence that showed Purdue’s legal council and executives were aware of the addictive nature of their drugs, including their popularity with drug seekers. Despite knowing their drugs were being misused, the company continued a false marketing campaign that promoted the drug as safer than other opioids because it was less likely to be abused or cause addiction. The company still maintains that they weren’t aware of users abusing their drugs until Maine’s attorney general issued an alert about the drug in 2000, despite federal investigators finding proof that company salespeople were aware as early as 1997, just a year after the release of OxyContin.

The federal investigation ended in 2007 with Purdue Pharma pleading guilty to a felony charge of deceptive advertising and 3 top executives pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. The company paid $635 million in fines to the government, while the execs did community service and avoided jail time. According to many familiar with the case, Purdue’s executives were given a proverbial hall pass, missing a potentially huge opportunity to throw a roadblock in the now public health crisis that is America’s opioid crisis. Many have called drug company executives behind opioids at the center of the crisis “suited drug pushers,” no better than street drug dealers. Others have said that if they were a minority in street clothes selling these drugs, they’d be locked up. Instead, drug company executives who knowingly market these drugs and force their sales reps to push them on doctors with false claims of safety and less addictive formulations are skating by, continuing to receive large bonuses and stock options while fueling the ongoing drug crisis.

Internal Emails Reveal Awareness of OxyContin’s Street Reputation

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In fall 2015, stories began circulating that a study had shown that chemo wasn’t already required as part of breast cancer treatment. But after awhile, the conversation started to dwindle. That is until now. Today in Chicago, attendees of the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology are hearing study findings that chemotherapy may no longer be required for all women diagnosed with breast cancer. The study, called TAILORx, was a team effort by the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as several charitable organizations.

Chemo Found to Have No Impact on Early-Stage Breast Cancer Survival Rates

TAILORx began in 2006 and followed 6,800 women from age 18-75 who had received an early stage breast cancer diagnosis, defined as tumors that have not spread to the lymph nodes and range between 1-5 cm. The women must also have tested negative for HER2, a protein found to be a major contributor to breast cancer.

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A joint effort by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica has shared disturbing news of a former top heart transplant center’s failure rate. In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cited Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, Texas for having twice the expected number of deaths between 2014-2016 in post transplant patients. CMS has given the facility until August to improve their outcomes before they are deemed ineligible to receive federal funding. The citation caught the attention of the Houston Chronicle, who began asking questions of former cardiologists, transplant patients and the loved ones of those patients who had died at the facility. Investigative journalists also spoke to patients with success stories. However, despite several successes, the number of fatal mistakes and omissions of truth made by the surgical team, and in particular its lead surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, are astonishing.


Hospital Acquisition the Beginning of Turmoil

Baylor St. Luke’s, the adult teaching hospital for Baylor College of Medicine, has long been seen as one of the best heart transplant centers in the country. Some of the first heart transplants ever performed were done at the hospital in the 1960s, and the surgeon credited with surgically implanting one of the first LVADs (Left Ventricle Assisted Device) is the founder of the heart transplant program at the hospital. For decades the facility enjoyed a reputation as one of the top heart transplant centers in the country, if not the world. Patients would travel from all over to be treated there, and the hospital’s website features their doctors bragging about the hospital’s accomplishments. But most of those were in the past.

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The health insurance giant’s ‘avoidable E.R.’ policy has their insured customers playing doctor and deciding between the emergency room or toughing it out at home or at urgent care.

Anthem, the second largest health insurance provider in the country, is under fire from doctors, hospital groups, health policy experts, politicians, and especially its customers for a new policy that aims to cut back on E.R. visits. The policy is now in effect for Anthem customers in Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and New Hampshire. According to an Anthem spokesperson, the idea behind the policy is to help keep healthcare costs down for everyone. The company says that 5% of all E.R. visits are unnecessary and that (unneeded) emergency care costs 10 times more in an E.R. than it does in an urgent care or retail healthcare setting.


E.R. Flu Visits Not Covered Under Policy

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An April 10th report by a Goldman Sachs analyst has been making the rounds in the media. The report, entitled “The Genome Revolution,” advised pharmaceutical companies to consider making and selling drugs that treat, not cure, diseases. Why? Making drugs so effective that they eradicate a condition or disease isn’t a profitable business model in the long run.


Drug Companies Hold Our Future in Their Hands

The opioid crisis has put a national spotlight on drug companies for their role in creating and distributing drugs that have caused many in this country to spiral into devastating addiction. These companies have the knowledge and financial means to create drugs that can destroy lives. They also have the ability to save lives and help many struggling with diseases and conditions live pain-free, symptom-free, or at least better than they would without pharmaceutical intervention. Cancer patients are living longer and people with debilitating or problematic conditions and diseases are able to manage and treat symptoms, thanks to big pharma. Drug companies are not all bad. Except that we must remember that they are, at their core, a business. And businesses exist to make money.