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The family of a 70 year old wife and mother was recently awarded $10 million after a Columbia, South Carolina jury found the urologist who failed to treat her liable for her death.

Life-Saving Information Not Shared with Patient

The woman, Joann Bannister, was being monitored by her primary care physician, Dr. Jerry Robinson, for a growth on her left kidney. After a 2011 visit with Dr. Phillip Kinder, a urologist with Columbia Urological Associates, she was told by her primary care doctor that the growth would potentially lead to removal of her kidney, but he put off immediate treatment and requested that she schedule another appointment in 6 months. 4 months later, Mrs. Bannister was back in Dr. Robinson’s office, this time complaining of lower back pain. Dr. Robinson sent her for a CT scan that revealed the kidney growth had gotten larger. The radiologist who reviewed the CT scan advised removal of the growth to test it for cancer, but for unknown reasons, Dr. Kinder, her urologist, never communicated this information to her.

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Ratings from the annual Hospital Safety Grade Report from Leapfrog Group are now available and 15 Illinois hospitals have lost their ‘A’ rating since last year. This year, Illinois has 30 hospitals who received an A, down from 45 just last year. The Hospital Safety Grade Report “scores hospitals on how safe they keep their patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.” According to the Leapfrog Group, the focus is to bring patient safety information to the public and reduce the number of hospital mistakes and injuries, incidents that are responsible for 440,000 deaths each year.

Data is collected from hospital surveys, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and secondary sources, including the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey. In all, 27 different patient safety measures are evaluated, the data is weighted and then each hospital is given a rating (A-F). It is important to note that free standing pediatric hospitals, long term care facilities, and specialty centers (such as cancer treatment hospitals) are not included in Leapfrog’s annual Hospital Safety Grade Report.

Of the 27 measures, 12 related to Process and Structural Measures (everything from ‘Hand Hygiene’ to ‘Identification and Mitigation of Risks and Hazards’) and 15 related to Outcome Measures (from MRSA and CDiff infections, all the way to death during surgery). To view the 27 measures, please click here.

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This past Tuesday night in Chicago, blogger and author Glennon Doyle (formerly Glennon Doyle Melton) joined forces with a panel of other equally insightful and inspiring women to talk about finding your own self worth and harnessing that power to live your best life. We were lucky enough to be in the audience and hear the many roles these women have taken on in their lives: daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, career women, and caregivers. In her New York Times bestselling book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle wrote “My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Women ARE warriors. For many women, our role as a nurturer and caregiver spans the full cycle of life, from the births of our children all the way to caring for our aging parents. Caring for another person is unlike any other job in the world. The weight of responsibility, the emotional highs and lows, the physical stress and exhaustion, and the strain on other relationships that being a caregiver imposes on a woman is demanding and isolating. Adding in maintaining a marriage or partnership, looking after our own health, and holding down a job while attempting to care for another human life, whether infant or elder, is more than just a feat. It’s superhuman.


Women as Caregivers for Aging Parents

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“We’re not in a crisis. We’re definitely not in a crisis.”

An annual survey by Medical Liability Monitor (MLM) found that medical malpractice premiums rates have fallen 1.1%, the 10th consecutive year of lower rates in obstetrics & gynecology, general surgery, and general internal medicine, three areas of medicine said to be indicative of the industry as a whole.

The survey found that many physicians are paying lower premiums than they did in the early 2000s and noted that one insurance carrier was recently quoting general surgeons in Wisconsin $10,868, but was quoting $15,980 sixteen years ago.

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A pharmacy technician at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pittsburgh has been accused of switching pain pills out for anti-nausea and thyroid pills, affecting close to 360 patients over 4 months. Those affected included amputees, post-surgical patients, accident victims, and some suffering from terminal cancers.

In September, 16 victims filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging negligence in their practices, which did not include any sort of checks and balances system in monitoring, dispensing, and distributing opioids. One of the victims named in the lawsuit was suffering from painful bone cancer.

The deceit wasn’t discovered until the daughter of one of the victims realized that the pills her mother were taking were not oxycodone and alerted staff. The pharmacy tech, 47 year old Cheryl Ashcraft, admitted that she had been taking the opioids. She was sentenced to less than 1 year in jail and must serve 3 years probation.

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In collaboration with the New York Times, ProPublica authored a multi-part series on the falling cost of generic drugs and insurance. One article sought to answer what politicians and many consumers have been asking lately: If generics are cheaper, why are some insurance plans requiring consumers to use the more expensive brand name versions? ProPublica spoke to a California pediatrician who said he began receiving memos from pharmacies telling him that he had to prescribe name brand versions of attention deficit drugs such as Adderall XR.

ProPublica has revealed that deals with insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (companies such as CVS Caremark who manage drugs plans for insurance companies) are receiving kickbacks and deals, while leaving consumers footing the bill for higher out of pocket costs.

Adderall XR and Insurance Companies: Back Room Negotiations

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“‘With our technology, every single time a woman dies [in childbirth], it’s a medical error.'”

In May of this year, ProPublica joined forces with NPR to tell the story of Lauren Bloomstein, a NICU nurse at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey.  After years of taking care of thousands of new babies, Lauren and her husband, orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Larry Bloomstein, were finally about to bring their own child into the world. 20 hours after delivering their daughter, Hailey, Lauren Bloomstein was gone. Her cause of death was complications due to Hellp syndrome, a rare pregnancy-related condition considered to be a severe variant of Preeclampsia. In the hospital where she had tirelessly worked to save others, physicians and nursing staff ultimately failed her. A first-time mother who had lost her own mom as a child was dead at just 33 years old.

Hellp Syndrome & Preeclampsia: What Are They?

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Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an article about the influence of lobbyists on legislation that would decimate patients’ rights and eliminate fair compensation for non-economic damages, frequently referred to as pain and suffering. The article comes on the heels of public declarations by heads of lobbyist groups who claim that H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, was passed in the House and used nearly identical language to the drafts they submitted to Representatives. The Washington Post quotes New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: “Large business groups are writing these bills. This has got to stop.” The House passed H.R. 1215 with a vote of 218-210 in July. The Senate is due to take a summer recess before Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. A Senate vote on H.R. 1215 will likely take place in September.

The Washington Post also touches on the swiftness with which some of the recently proposed bills have been passed, as well as the rarity of a bill that concerns something as large as tort reform being voted on without hearings from public interest groups and other outside parties. The article points out that the Senate’s recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was also voted on without public input.

Big Business Lobbyists Scoring Major Victories

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Republican Arizona Representative Martha McSally recently penned an article for the Arizona Daily Star about why she decided to break party alliances and vote against a bill that would take away an injured victim’s right to fair compensation.

H.R. 1215, also known as the Protecting Access to Care Act, narrowly passed the House with a vote of 218-210 in late June, thanks to 19 ‘No’ votes from Republican congress members such as Ms. McSally. While voting has yet to take place in the Senate, the slim margin by which the bill passed in the House gives many hope that Senators and Representatives are trusting their gut feelings about such a restrictive bill, as well as listening to the loud voices of their constituents. The bill would only allow victims of medical error, nursing home abuse and neglect, and of medical device and prescription drug injuries no more than $250,000 in non-economic damages, frequently referred to as ‘pain and suffering.’

No Price Tag on a Life or One’s Livelihood

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An appeals court in Wisconsin ruled in favor of overturning the state’s $750,000 non-economic damages cap, with Judge Joan Kessler saying that a “cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages always reduces non-economic damages only for the class of the most severely injured victims who have been awarded damages exceeding the cap, yet always allows full damages to the less severely injured malpractice victims.”

The case was brought forth by Wisconsin’s state medical malpractice fund, an entity that is responsible for the payment of malpractice settlements and judgements against state-run facilities. The appeal came after a Milwaukee mother of 4 suffered from an infection that put her into septic shock and a coma, leading to amputation of all 4 limbs. The woman, Ascaris Mayo, was only 57 years old in 2011 when the missed diagnosis of a Strep A infection forced her to become a quadruple amputee. In 2014, a jury awarded her $8.8 million in economic damages, along with $16.5 million for pain and suffering. Under previous Wisconsin law, she would have been able to collect the $8.8 million in economic damages, but only $750,000 for pain and suffering.

It is expected that the state medical malpractice fund will attempt to take the appeal before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but the victory of Mrs. Mayo in Wisconsin is a step in the right direction for all injured victims and those of us who fight for patients’ rights.