Articles Posted in Failure to Diagnose Cardiac

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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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“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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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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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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When we visit the doctor or hospital we expect that they will take the steps necessary to provide a proper diagnosis and treatment. This was not the case for a man who recently filed a lawsuit in Cook County. The lawsuit claims that the man’s serious condition was not diagnosed and as a result he later suffered cardiac arrest. The lawsuit names Loyola University Medical Center and the doctors who provided treatment there. The suit seeks damages of more than $50,000.

Failure to Diagnose
The failure to diagnose a serious medical condition or the incorrect diagnosis can have a significant impact on the health of a patient. When a doctor misdiagnoses the medical condition it will not be treated and the result could be dangerous. In this case, the lawsuit states that the doctors did not diagnose or even recognize Fournier gangrene in a timely manner. Further, they did not diagnose the man’s other symptoms which were consistent with congestive heart failure. The man later suffered a cardiac arrest and as a result, permanent injuries.
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Beyond aiding in the recovery for those affected by medical errors, malpractice lawsuits also play the critical role of ensuring hospital safety stays on the public radar. Without focused attention on the need to identify problems and improve, there is the risk of facilities getting caught in a rut–doing the same thing over and over, regardless of the errors that result.

The focus on malpractice does not exist only in newspapers. Medical researchers and academics are also drawn to the topic to study exactly what types of errors are most common and how they can be prevented.

For example, earlier this month international researchers published the results of a detailed study of a medical malpractice claims to understand what forms are most frequent. The findings were shared in full in the online version of the British Medical Journal (BMJ Open). The abstract and full text of the report can be found here.

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Patients assume that doctors know what they are doing at all times. There is a tendency to trust doctor decisions without question, simply doing as one is told and expecting the outcome that the doctor says is likely.

But, as the hundreds of thousands of patient who suffer at the hands of medical errors know–doctors are not perfect. In the heat of a workday they may misread a test, fail to wash their hands, prescribe the wrong dosage of a medication, or otherwise take steps that will cause patients more harm. Understanding the prevalence of preventable errors, many advocates encourage patients be proactive in their healthcare. There are things that patients can do on a consistent basis which may allow an error to be caught before it causes harm.

For example, well-known TV doctors Oz and Roizen recently shared information on way to help your doctor avoid a misdiagnosis. The tips provided in the story are worth reading, as misdiagnosis remains one of the most common forms of medical malpractice. The article reminds that “39 percent of U.S. malpractice payments are for nondiagnosis or an incorrect or delayed one.” Even more, “of all medical mistakes, diagnostic errors appear to be the most common, most costly, and most dangerous.”

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We recently discussed the report in the international medical journal, BMJ Quality & Safety which indicated how diagnostic errors were the most common type of medical mistake which led to legal liability. Failure to make a proper diagnosis in a timely manner or missing a diagnosis completely continues to cause untold suffering and even death throughout the country, including here in Illinois.

In fact, our team of Illinois medical malpractice lawyers recently filed a suit on behalf of a man following the death of his 39-year old wife. Her passing was caused by a failure to diagnose her heart condition.

The Case

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Medical malpractice occurs any time that a medical professional breaches a duty of care equal to that of other reasonable professionals in the area. When that breach causes real injury to a patient, then the injured party (or their family) can pursue accountability and redress via the civil law.

As most community member knows, there are seemingly an endless array of ways that harmful mistakes can be made by doctors. Everything from botching a surgery to accidentally providing too much medication. Estimates from many different organizations over the years have discovered that the overall scope of medical errors are staggering, with the most aggressive arguing that as many as one in three patients may fall victim to some lapse in case. Most of those are minor, however .

There are some types of malpractice, of course, that are not minor–resulting in very real harm or even death. It is those types of accidents that are mostly likely to spur medical malpractice lawsuits and accountability via a judgment or settlement.

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Most of the time, diagnosis errors–like a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis–refer to situations where a medical professional makes a mistake that causes a patient to delay receiving the treatment they need. This is especially common in cases like radiology errors, where doctors misread test slides, often giving a patient the impression that they are healthy when they are not. These mistakes can be the difference between life and death, and it is critical that hospitals and doctors be incentivized to do everything reasonable to avoid these mistakes.

However, misdiagnoses do not just affect seemingly-healthy patients. There are also many instances where a patient is obvious ill but doctors continue to attribute the problem to the wrong ailment. That issue was discussed recently in a General Surgery News story. The article examines the results of a new research project which looked at possible diagnosis mistakes affecting those who pass away while in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Essentially the research project should to get an idea of how many people in the ICU were misdiagnosed and how many, if any, of those diagnosis mistakes led to the patient’s death.

The results are shocking.