Articles Posted in Infections

Two things are true of hospitals: they are full of sick people and they are full of people who are vulnerable to infections. This is one of the reasons why using properly sterilized equipment is of paramount importance in hospital settings. When hospitals fail to properly sterilize equipment, the result can be personal injury or even wrongful death. While it is a shame when this sort of lapse happens at any sort of hospital, it is most horrifying when it happens at a VA hospital tasked with treating the men and women who have already put their lives on the line for our country. Unfortunately, this does happen.

VA Hospital Uses Dirty Scissors on a Patient
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Just as it is tasked with determining whether prescription drugs should be approved for sale in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also tasked with determining which medical devices should be approved. While some problems that come up with these devices are simply instances of medical malpractice on the part of a healthcare provider, other times the problems are a result of the devices themselves. That is what makes the approval process so important. It appears now that one medical device believed to be responsible for patient illnesses and deaths was never approved by the FDA for sale to begin with.

Dangerous Superbug Scopes Not FDA Approved

CNN reports that the manufacturer of the endoscope connected to two UCLA patient deaths from a superbug never obtained FDA approval to sell the endoscope. The company, Olympus, started selling the TJF-Q180V duodenoscope in 2010. The FDA then realized in either 2013 or 2014 that Olympus had never even asked for the agency’s permission to market the scope. The device manufacturer says that it did not think it needed to ask for permission, but it has now filed a proper request. Its application is pending.
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We go to hospitals to get well, not to get sick. Unfortunately, thanks to medical malpractice, it does not always work out that way. Sometimes these healthcare provider errors can result in patients suffering infections that can be life threatening. Two people who recently lost their lives due to a “superbug” were infected with their fatal disease when they were at a California hospital.

Nearly 180 Patients Exposed to Superbug

The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly 180 patients who were treated at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to a potentially deadly bacteria that has already killed at least two people. They did not contract this illness from some other sick patient roaming the hospital. Instead, the culprit is contamination. Medical scopes contaminated with this bacteria were used on these patients. Another report by the newspaper notes that an 18-year old patient still in the hospital was diagnosed back in October with the drug resistant superbug CRE. He was treated with a medical scope tied to the outbreak.
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The American Association for Justice (AAJ) listed a wide variety of ways in which our country would be much worse off if there were no civil justice system in a recent article. We are detailing some of the ways in which health care would be affected if there were no civil justice system. Since medical malpractice law is a part of the civil justice system, eliminating that system would eliminate any recourse patients or their families have when they are hurt by medical professionals. For example, if you or your loved one contracted a severe infection in a hospital due to a hospital’s error, you would have no way of making the hospital pay for your increased medical bills.

The AAJ report tells the story of Dickson Clark. Clark had back surgery in Nevada in 2005, and wound up infected with MRSA in the hospital. MRSA, which can be lethal, is a type of staph infection that is drug resistant. As a result if the MRSA infection, Clark suffered through four years of hospitalizations and surgeries, not to mention further infections. Clark died in 2010. And Clark is not alone. According to AAJ, two million hospital patients get infections each year, and as many as 90,000 of them die. These numbers are WITH a civil justice system in place.
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In a recent article, the American Association for Justice listed a wide variety of ways in which our country would be much worse off if there were no civil justice system. Because medical malpractice law is a part of the civil justice system, hospitals would be severely impacted if there were no civil justice. Without civil courts, patients and their families would have no recourse when doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals hurt them by committing medical errors.

Medical professionals are human beings, so like all human beings, they make mistakes. And there is nothing that can be done to eliminate all mistakes-some people will wind up suffering from personal injuries or even wrongful death no matter how strong a society’s civil justice system is. But there is evidence that when a strong medical malpractice system is in place, patients are less likely to be victims of medical error.
Some of that evidence comes in the form of a study by two experts from Northwestern University. Zenon Zabinski from Northwestern’s Department of Economics, and Bernard S. Black, from the university’s School of Law, published a study last month entitled “The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform.” In their study the experts concluded that in states where the legislature’s weakened the civil justice system by instituting caps on non-economic damages, patient safety consistently decreased when compared to control states. In other words, when the legislature guts the civil justice system patient’s suffer. Without the threat of large medical malpractice verdicts, medical professionals in so-called “tort-reform” states had less incentive to be careful.
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The word “hospital” is derived from the Latin word “hospes,” which means host or a visitor of a host. But even though hospitals are customarily thought of by patients as safe havens, they are actually filled with dangerous nosocomial infections, also known as hospital-associated infections (HAIs).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will develop an HAI. And with almost 100,000 HAI- related deaths a year, these infections can cause substantial harm to patients.

Magnitude of the Problem

Medical malpractice cases are some of the most specialized in the entire personal injury field. That is because the specific negligence in question is of a professional nature–not necessarily apparent to the general community member. Doctors spend years in post-graduate study understanding the specifics of their field, and so it is illogical to expect jurors to be able to understand what does or does not constitute proper care in any given situation.

Making matters even more complex is the fact that in instances of medical malpractice, patients are already sick with some injury or ailment. This adds confusion, because in virtually all cases the defense alleges that any adverse event–such as the patient’s death–was caused by the underlying ailment that brought them to the doctor originally–and not anything related the professional negligence.

All of this is why expert witnesses are so critical in these cases, explaining what happened in a particular situation, outlining the proper standards of care, and arguing whether the doctor’s conduct in any specific case did or did not meet those standards.

Some immediately assume when hearing the phrase “medical malpractice” that it immediately involves a clash between medical professionals and legal professionals. In popular parlance–particularly when discussing political fights dealing with malpractice–the storyline always portrays the legal industry and the medical industry at odds with one another.

But that is a drastic oversimplification that, among many things, distorts the real complexity of medical errors.

For one thing, attorneys working on these matters do not simply take any case that walks in the door. Virtually all lawyers will listen to concerns of potential clients and take the case only if actual negligence seems to have occurred and the means to win damages as a result of the negligence is possible. Lawyers are not out to “stick it” to doctors every chance they get.

Patient safety advocates often explain the value of transparency when it comes to medical errors. Sloppy service, negligent treatment, and harmful conduct by medical professionals can only truly be understood and addressed when those involved have an idea of the scope and nature of the problem. What’s more, that data needs to be available to everyone–include patients–who can then make hospital choices based on these safety records. Once medical decisions are based on quality accountability tools, then the worst-performing medical facilities may eventually be spurred to change their practices to shape up. Combined with legal accountability following medical malpractice, open information is a critical tool in tackling the still too high instances of medical mistakes.

All of this makes a recent decision from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quite questionable. As iHealthBeat explained in an article this weekend, CMS have announced that they are making some changes to their popular “Hospital Compare” website. Hospital Compare is a free public site that allows patients to investigate hospitals on a large number of safety measures. It is a very helpful tool when patients and their families are making choices about what hospital to attend for a surgery or other medical procedures.

Yet, it seems that CMS officials have decided to remove certain medical errors records from the website. Specifically, data on patient development of eight different conditions, errors that fall under the rubric of “hospital acquired conditions,” are slated from removal from the website during the annual update set to take place in July. Those eight conditions include:

Medical malpractice refers to all cases where there are claims of professional negligence caused by doctors, nurses, and other care providers. Sometimes these are traditional negligence claims filed by the patient themselves when they are injured as a result of medical errors. At other times, when the patient dies as a result of the mistake, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed. In each case medical malpractice is the heart of the matter, but some of the procedural steps are different depending on who is actually bringing the lawsuit–the patient or a family members following a death.

Wrongful Death Suit after Surgery Delay recently reported on a jury verdict in one of those wrongful death cases following medical malpractice. It is an example of the serious consequences of delayed treatment–in this case a failure to order emergency surgery in time. According to the story, the original case was filed by a widow after her 56-year old husband died on Christmas Day in 2008.

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