Articles Posted in Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Malpractice

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We have been covering the crisis involving the Veterans Affairs health care system for weeks now. On Thursday, June 12, 2014, Congress held another hearing on the problems and what can be done about them. Veterans have been subjected to long waits for medical care that have resulted in both delayed diagnoses of medical conditions and in deaths. CNN reports that tens of thousands of newly returned veterans are waiting 90 days or longer before they receive care. The VA officially acknowledges that twenty-three people have died due to these problems, but CNN has found dozens of others who died waiting for medical care in Phoenix.

The reasons proffered for the problem during the hearing are not terribly complicated. First, the number of veterans needing care has increased dramatically due to prolonged wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The second reason, however, is much more sinister. The VA’s bonus system for managers rewarded them for meeting goals regarding access to treatment. This seems reasonable, in that it should encourage innovation and faster treatment. But in practice it resulted in fake waiting lists and other manipulations of the waiting list system. It’s like a parent telling a child that she will give him five dollars for every “A” on his report card. In theory, it should lead to good grades. But what happened here is that the child decided he just didn’t have what it takes to get the As, so he forged his report card to get the cash anyway.
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An Arlington soldier is dealing with the repercussions of a medical error in difficult way. The 21 year old airman lost his legs after a botched gallbladder surgery at a military hospital, according to the Star-Telegram. The victim had agreed to have laparoscopic gallbladder surgery after enduring stomach problems. During the procedure, an instrument being threaded through his stomach nicked his aorta artery, cutting off the flow to his legs. He was then transferred to another medical hospital, where both of his legs were amputated. His lawyer believes that this constituted gross violations of the US medical act. To read more about this specific medical malpractice case, please click the link.

Currently, however, the medical malpractice victim is in a battle with the U.S. court system. According to a 1950 Supreme Court decision, military personnel or their families are not allowed to collect damages from military doctors for medical negligence. This is known as Feres Doctrine. Not only will the medical malpractice victim not be able to recover for medical damages, his wife will be unable to file for loss of consortium. Currently, a Congressman is introducing legislation in order to change that policy.

The “Feres Doctrine” only applies to those active men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who suffer injury at the negligent hands of other members of the Armed Forces. Since military personnel staff military hospitals, this keeps those victims of medical negligence from being able to file suit in federal court. This doctrine greatly hinders the rights of military medical personnel. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti support recent efforts to invoke legislation that will override this doctrine.

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New problems have emerged at the troubled VA Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. This has prompted Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to order a “top-to-bottom” review of the facility. Senator Durbin and other Illinois lawmakers met with the VA secretary after a report this week found ongoing problems at the facility, where nine patients died in surgery in six months ending in March 2007. This is a mortality level more than four times the expected rate. Durbin blamed the nine deaths on “medical malpractice” and called the newly disclosed problems “appalling” and “inexcusable.” The Marion VA’s interim director has been replaced and more personnel changes are scheduled. The new report identified problems in four areas: quality management; physician credentialing and privileging; medication management and environment of care. The final problem area relates to infection control standards and cleanliness of the hospital. The 30-page report identified that two physicians performed procedures for which they lacked privileges. Additionally there was a failure to screen deaths within 30 days of surgical procedure. To read more about the failing hospital, please click the link.

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Serious safety issues continue to plague an Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital. This comes even after major surgeries were suspended two years ago because of a spike in patient deaths. Surgeons at the medical center in Marion, Illinois performed procedures without proper authorization. Also, patient deaths were not assessed adequately and miscommunication between staff members persist. The medical center’s is not taking the corrective actions to improve patient care. The hospital has been under intense scrutiny since 2007 when a former surgeon resigned after a patient bled to death following gall bladder surgery. The VA found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 which were the result of substandard care at the hospital. Additionally, a report found that the hospital did not sufficiently monitor 87 percent of the physician’s employed. There were strong problems with infection control, including MRSA. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is outraged by the substandard care that is occurring at the Veteran’s Hospital. To read more about the medical malpractice, please click the link.

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The government has settled three medical malpractice claims on behalf of its navy hospital totaling 2.77 million dollars. Four other medical malpractice claims are in talks to be mediated at a later date. The settlements stem from accusations of medical negligence in birth, failure to diagnose a disease, and an amputation after negligent care. According to the article, “the hospital has resolved more that two dozen negligence claims since 2001.”

Read more about the navy hospital settlements here.

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The government has reportedly settled a medical malpractice suit with a widow of a veteran over an Illinois Veterans Affairs Hospital medical procedure. The widow’s husband allegedly received a blood infection after a biopsy. The man’s estate claims that the physician was medically negligent during his treatment at the Illinois hospital. That same physician has been connected to other medical malpractice claims.

Read more about the Illinois medical malpractice suit here.

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A veterans’ hospital allegedly has exposed patients to infectious bodily fluids after treating them. A medical malpractice attorney claims that his clients were given false diagnoses at the hospital telling the patients they tested positive for infections that later came out negative. This gave his clients tremendous emotional distress, he claims. The medical malpractice attorney is filing multiple medical malpractice claims against the veterans’ hospital.

Read more about the veterans’ hospital medical malpractice suits here.

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At a veterans’ hospital, 92 veterans were given incorrect radiation doses to treat their prostate cancer. According to the article, “most veterans got significantly less than the prescribed dose while others received excessive radiation to nearby tissue and organs.” Since then, the medical center has stopped all prostate cancer treatment because of the medical errors found. Thus far, none of the patients have filed a medical malpractice suit against the medical center.

Read more about the veterans’ hospital here.

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After long debate, a federal bill has been proposed that would allow military families to sue for medical malpractice. Currently there are laws in place that make it nearly impossible for GIs and their families to sue for medical malpractice. This proposed law is unique because the federal bill would hold the government, not doctors, accountable for non-combatant related injuries. In one example of military personnel unable to sue, a GI had the wrong breast operated on to remove cancer. She was unable to sue. Her medical malpractice attorney claims even convicted felons in prison can sue the government for medical malpractice, but military personnel cannot.

Read more about this medical malpractice debate here.

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A woman died after giving birth to her first born on a military base. Her parents thought they may have a medical malpractice case because during surgery a uterine artery was cut causing massive internal bleeding and two surgical sponges were left in her abdomen afterwards. Unfortunately for the family, a legal precedent prohibits medical malpractice lawsuits when military service members are killed or injured by negligence, according to the article. The parents say the hospital claimed their daughter bled to death.

Read more about the military medical malpractice precedent here.