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The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D), a consumer rights group out of New York Law School, has shared their list of 22 famous figures who have been harmed and even killed by medical malpractice.

Most of us are familiar with the high profile drug-related tragedies of Michael Jackson (2009) and Prince (2016) and even Judy Garland (1969) and Marilyn Monroe (1962). Some of us are familiar with the details surrounding the death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during an endoscopy at a New York City clinic.  But it was surprising even to us to read the details of medical neglect in cases involving other beloved celebrities. As CJ&D pointed out in their report, no one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even celebrities with all the money and resources in the world at their fingertips. The report also shared several findings that now have become well known to the public. Among them, that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Each of the 22 cases highlighted in the report has resulted in a settlement or verdict (or is pending) and in many of them, grieving loved ones or the victims themselves have said that it’s not about money, but instead about enforcing a sense of right vs. wrong in the face of injustice.

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On September 24th, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin published an interview with Levin & Perconti Partner Margaret Battersby-Black. Margaret is considered one of the top attorneys in the small group of female plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers. Last year, Margaret served as the chair of a new committee of the Illinois Trial Lawyer’s Association called the Women’s Caucus. Margaret also is involved in numerous other legal organizations, manages a full caseload, and is a devoted mother to two small children.

After proving her ability to work tirelessly and dedicate herself to her clients and the success of their cases, Margaret was named a Partner at Levin & Perconti in 2014.

Margaret is committed to mentoring young female attorneys and demonstrating that it is possible to achieve great things in both one’s legal career and personal life as a woman under 40.

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“We can no longer continue to treat Caucasians as the default or universal patient model.” 

     -Dr, Danielle N. Lee to Ebony Magazine, July 2014 

Higher Risk, Different Presentations, but Still Hardly Studied

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The parents of an infant girl are suing Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), alleging that hospital’s failure to follow standard infection prevention controls led to their daughter’s death. She is one of 23 infants who were sickened during a 2016 hospital outbreak of adenovirus. Recent reports have indicated that there is a second infant who died, also allegedly due to the same viral contamination.

Melanie Sanders was a premature baby receiving treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit at CHOP, the 3rd best children’s hospital in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. Melanie, along with 22 other infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), became ill after receiving an eye exam. Each of the infants was diagnosed with adenovirus, a group of viruses that cause respiratory symptoms and can lead to pneumonia, an infection that can prove fatal to vulnerable hospital patients, especially children, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly.

Of the 23 infants sickened by the virus, all showed respiratory symptoms, while 5 of these infants developed pneumonia. The hospital reported in the June 2017 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control that 12 of these patients “required increased respiratory support.” In addition to the 23 infants, 3 parents and 6 hospital employees acquired the virus.

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A large study published August 6th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) has connected higher heart attack survival rates to women patients treated by a female doctor. Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a woman dies every 80 seconds from a heart attack. Women are also more likely to die from a heart attack than men, the reasons for which have never been proven.

Women MDs Linked to Heart Attack Survival

The study, entitled “Patient-physician gender concordance and increased mortality among female heart attack patients,” relied on hospital records of 582,000 heart attack patients in Florida hospitals over the nearly 20 year period between 1991 and 2010.

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“Today, this is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.”                                                                          -USA Today: “Hospitals know how to protect mothers. They just aren’t doing it.” (July 27, 2018)

Last Friday, USA Today published a report with findings from their investigation into hospital records and personal stories and has concluded that hospitals are failing mothers by missing symptoms that indicate serious maternal complications. The report, entitled “Hospitals know how to protect mothers. They just aren’t doing it.,” shared the CDC’s statistic that 50,000 women a year in this country suffer a serious complication during delivery. Around 700 mothers die a year.

These statistics alone might not sound significant given that there are nearly 4 million births a year in the U.S., but the frightening part is that despite being a wealthy, industrialized country, our maternal death rate is getting worse and is the WORST of any developed country. We are the only country besides Sudan and Afghanistan whose maternal death rate is on the rise, despite the belief by many that we have the best care in the world.

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medical malpractice wrongful death

Levin & Perconti Attorneys Assist Family In $12 Million Award for Failure to Diagnose and Treat Lung Cancer

A jury voted to award $12 million to the family of Doris Newberry after her death following a failure to diagnose and treat her lung cancer. Her family, with the help of Levin & Perconti attorneys John Perconti, Michael Bonamarte and Cari Silverman, were able to prove that the defendants — including family practice doctors Dr. Iza, and Dr. Jeffrey Lindahl of Alexian Brothers Medical Group, as well as radiologist Dr. Jeffrey E. Chung, of Radiological Consultants of Woodstock — failed numerous times to appropriately diagnose and care for Newberry’s cancer. As a result, she experienced pain and suffering and disfigurement, and an untimely death, which could have been prevented had her cancer been diagnosed following a 2010 X-ray which revealed a lung abnormality.

  • Iza saw Newberry several times between June 2008 and August 2010, including an August visit following a July 2010 chest X-ray that showed abnormal findings.
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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.