Articles Posted in Delayed Diagnosis

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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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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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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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The Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer rights advocacy group out of New York Law School, has compiled a review of medical malpractice incidents and has publicly shared their findings. Entitled “Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers,” the briefing examines recent medical studies and investigations of both inpatient and outpatient groups and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice organizations.

The data brings deficiencies in medical care into the spotlight, specifically the care Americans receive within hospitals. Below is a summary of information from the report our medical malpractice attorneys think is particularly informative and worth sharing. All data sources can be found in the CJ&D briefing. We have included the page number of the report that contains the source for each statistic.

HOSPITALS:

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A February 10th article in Medical Economics tackles the issue of legal responsibility for physicians treating one of the estimated two million patients with a BRCA mutation or Lynch Syndrome. 1 in 400 Americans are carriers of the BRCA gene mutation, said to be associated with a 50-70% higher risk of developing breast cancer and a 15-64% higher risk of ovarian cancer. Lynch Syndrome, a condition linked to a 70% higher risk of colorectal cancer, is found in 1 in every 350 Americans. The condition is also associated with elevated risk of endometrial, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary cancers. The problem with these conditions is that experts believe nearly half of those who carry the BRCA gene or Lynch Syndrome will find out they have cancer without knowing previously that they are carriers, leaving medical economists to speculate that a potential legal crisis will occur when patients realize that a simple screening recommended by their physician could have ultimately prevented their cancer or saved their lives. Giving clarity to the magnitude of the potential situation, Medical Economics says that the average medical practice has 2400 patients, 6 of whom will be carriers of the BRCA mutation and 7 of whom will be found to have Lynch Syndrome.

Giving Detailed Family History Could Save Your Life

Under the Affordable Care Act, most insureds who meet a specific set of criteria are eligible for cancer and genetic screening and according to Medical Economics, millions of them have not been referred by their doctor for testing. The journal recommends physicians obtain a complete family history as it relates to cancer, using whatever method of collection will gather the most thorough information without adding to an already robust workload. In the case of obtaining a proper cancer history for each patient, experts agree that the time spent to gather the information is a worthy cause. Even allowing a patient to self-report information through an electronic questionnaire that can be imported into their electronic medical record (EMR) is beneficial.

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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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Proper preventative testing is an important part of detecting health problems early enough to provide life-saving treatment. It is for that reason that there has been a recent push to encourage everyone to receive yearly tests for particularly common ailments. One of the most prominent examples of this trend is the encouragement for women to receive yearly mammograms.

However, some women recently found out that their testing was completely useless, because the results were never examined by a doctor at all.

ABC News reported on a bizarre case of medical mistakes involving a willfully negligent hospital employee. Rachel Rapraegar was a radiology technician at the Perry Hospital in Perry Georgia. While in the position she gave mammograms to hundreds of women who came in to ensure that they did not have breast cancer. However, instead of taking the test and giving the results to the doctors to examine, Rapraegar never showed the actual doctor anything. Instead, she simply marked the results as negative and sent the patients on their way.

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A new study in Business Week reports than over half of pediatricians admit to making false diagnosis, missing diagnosis, or delaying diagnosis once or twice in the past month alone. Pediatric trainees are even more susceptible to error, with over 77 percent of them making diagnostic mistakes in the last thirty days.

Even more startling is that over half of those doctors admitted that their missed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis resulted in direct harm to the patient. Because of that it should not be surprising that virtually one out of every three medical malpractice lawsuits stems from a doctor’s inaccurate or failed diagnosis.

These diagnostic errors have various causes, but the report indicated that the most common include a doctor’s failure to properly gather a patient’s medical or exam history, errors on medical charts, and failure to follow up on abnormal test results.

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A medical malpractice attorney has filed a motion for a new trial after blaming a local paper for jury tampering. According to the plaintiff’s medical negligence attorney, agents associated with the newspaper handed out copies of the publication near the courthouse while the trial was taking place. The paper allegedly was covering the trial as it happened and that lead the plaintiff’s attorney to accuse the paper of jury tampering. The client sued her physicians for their delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. To read more about the medical malpractice attorneys‘ allegations, follow the link.