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Articles Posted in Failure to Maintain Records

The wife of an Illinois man who bled to death after routine surgery at Downstate VA Hospital in southern Illinois recently began filing a lawsuit against the US Department of Veteran Affairs. A surgeon, who was barred from practicing in another state, was the doctor caring for that Illinois patient. The doctor had been accused of causing life-threatening complications and deaths by providing “grossly substandard care” and making repeated medical mistakes. Downstate VA Hospital in southern Illinois suspended inpatient surgeries shortly after the man bled to death in response to an increasing amount of post-surgical deaths. The hospital serves veterans in southern Illinois and other nearby areas in other states. The surgeon who spurred the chain of events had been linked to deaths all over the country. A surgical error caused a death after the doctor caused a blood infection and respiratory failure by allowing a stitch to dislodge in a man’s esophagus. On another occasion he mistakenly put stitches in a patient’s bladder during a hernia repair causing years of pain. He made misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses, and used improper surgical methods, all leading to unnecessary surgeries, pain, and hospitalizations. The list does not stop there. The State of Illinois continued his license after learning it was revoked in another state. It was not difficult to find his record status even if the state hadn’t been alerted. The Illinois VA hospital was responsible for a mortality rate over four times the normal amount. The barred surgeon was involved in all of them.

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A Cook County, Illinois jury recently awarded the family of a victim of medical malpractice $7,000,000. The victim died of a pulmonary embolism after knee surgery at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. The man’s wife alleged that the negligence of a doctor and a physician’s assistant caused the untimely death of her husband. The health care providers failed to review the patient’s records, overlooking a medical history of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. As a result, the Illinois man was not administered the proper medication in a timely manner, allowing the formation of blood clots and allowing other blood clots to continue growing. This medical mistake ultimately led to the patient’s wrongful death.

A recent report regarding medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, focusing on surgical errors, was recently released by the Patient Safety Authority. 175 errors were made in the state during the past two and a half years, not including 253 close calls. These errors can lead to serious physical and financial strain, or even wrongful death. “Wrong-site” surgeries are a persistent problem and are clearly avoidable. Pennsylvania is a leader in public accountability for medical and surgical errors. In an effort to reduce the costs of health care, the Governor proposed that the state should cease to pay for care involving hospital-acquired infections, wrong-site surgeries, and other instances of medical malpractice. It is also the only state that requires hospitals to report near-misses.

The report cited wrong-site surgeries including the removal of a patient’s healthy thyroid and incorrect cancer diagnosis as the result of a laboratory mix-up, an incorrect incision on the wrong side of a brain injury patient’s head, and a surgeon inserting a needle into a patient’s right knee when the surgery was planned for the other leg. In 83 reported cases of wrong-site surgeries in the state, the procedure was completed before the mistake was detected.

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As the country transitions to a more electronic world, hospitals and healthcare providers are implementing electronic record-keeping systems. Electronic healthcare records (EHRs), would allow healthcare practitioners and hospitals to provide higher quality care because records would be kept and recorded more accurately in an electronic record world. Medical malpractice lawsuits may decrease and medical malpractice cases against hospitals will be easier to prosecute as the country’s healthcare system transitions to EHRs. If patients are receiving higher quality of care, fewer errors and incidents of malpractice will occur and lawsuits will decrease. On the other hand, medical malpractice lawsuits that are sometimes hindered by inaccurate or incomplete record-keeping, will become easier to prosecute if all records pertaining to the patient are centralized and accessible in an electronic world. Further, many records or documents claimed to be “lost” by hospitals and doctors may be easier to recover during the discovery process.

Of course, EHRs are not without risks. Hospitals will need to implement polices and procedures to ensure that address the risks of EHRs are addressed. These risks include doctors spending more time in front of computer screens than with patients, inaccurate data entry, and unauthorized access and errors related to problems that arise during the transition to EHRs.

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A recent HealthGrades study revelaed that 248,000 patient deaths over a three-year period were preventable, and mistakes multiply during the night shift. Every type of patient is at danger during the night.

Studies have shown that babies born at night are 16% more likely to die than babies born during the day. Patients going into cardiac arrest at night were also more likely to die. Pediatric patients admitted at night are more likely to die within two days. The risks appear even more serious when birth injuries and pediatric injuries also occur preventably. Medication administration errors also multiply at night. Weekends are also dangerous for patients.

Because workers with seniority get priority shifts, night time staffers are not only fewer, but less experienced. Night staffing issues are not limited to doctors and nurses; mental health, social services, directors, and administrators are also understaffed on the night shift. Not only are night workers less experienced, they also suffer from fatigue- a major contributor to night shift errors.

Five years ago, a 45 year-old woman underwent a mini-facelift at a clinic. During the cosmetic surgery, her former high school classmate administered an excessive dose of fentanyl, a narcotic. The victim suffered respiratory arrest in the recovery room due to the lethal dose of fentanyl.

Although in 2001 the death was ruled as an accidental poisoning, police recently concluded that it was intentional. Police stated that the nurse was a certified nurse anesthetist and monitored the victim in recovery.

In addition to the criminal charges, the nurse faced a medical malpractice lawsuit from the victim’s family. The state Board of Nursing charged the nurse with failure to maintain an accurate record and failure to report information crucial to the safety of the patient. The Board also said that the nurse failed to alert the doctor about the victim’s deteriorating condition.

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