Articles Posted in Failure to Diagnose

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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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It was a heartbreaking case that likely sends shivers down the spines of all mothers and fathers in Chicagoland. The parents of a young woman stood proud as they watched their 26-year old daughter walk across the stage as a medical school graduate. After decades of study, they watched their little girl grow up to be a doctor.

Little did they know that tragedy was just around the corner.

Less than two weeks after her graduation, the young woman began experiencing significant headaches. Eventually, she went to a medical center, explaining that she had suffered days of headaches that went unabated in addition to developing unexplained bruises. The young doctor was admitted to the facility as doctors began tried to figure out what was ailing her.

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Recently, an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit was filed in Madison County after an eye doctor failed to diagnose his patient’s eye condition. According to the Madison Record, the patient claims that the doctor failed to even specify what eye condition the man suffered from, nevertheless monitor or treat the condition. The man continued to remain a patient of the eye doctor for over two years until his problem became debilitating.

In the claim, filed June 9, the plaintiff asserts that as a result of the doctor’s ophthalmological error, he sustained much pain and suffering due to the undiagnosed eye condition. Subsequently, the plaintiff suffered a permanent disability to his eye which ultimately caused his inability to work and lost wages. The plaintiff seeks an undisclosed judgment in this two count lawsuit.

In order to deliver the most relevant medical malpractice news to our readers, we are continuously reading reports about new cases. We have observed that the number of malpractice cases against ophthalmologists and optometrists is on the up-rise. Although this report does not specify the specific condition the plaintiff’s suffered, we read a lot about cases involving complications during Lasik eye surgery. This voluntary, permanent corrective eye surgery has unfortunately caused various complications, especially if performed by a negligent doctor. In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, a self-proclaimed “World’s Best Eye Surgeon” was sued for medical malpractice when he improperly performed Lasik surgery four times on a single patient whose vision did not improved after the previous surgeries. Ultimately, the patient was rendered legally blind.

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The San Francisco Chronicle posted a story yesterday on the all too common errors that hospitals make when attempting to diagnose deadly medical problems. It was explained how sometimes a patient does not receive a misdiagnosis-told the wrong thing-but instead a missed diagnosis-told nothing at all.

The story’s author explained that her own brother –in-law suffered from just such an error. He was a healthy young man who started having blackouts. He was not sure what caused the symptoms, but he went to a doctor to get it checked out. Without ordering a single test or inquiring further, the doctor told him that he was fine, with no medical issues. But the next day the young man suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was the victim of a missed diagnosis.

To help curb these and similar problems the author suggests that the American Medical Association have a medical corrections specialist available to work with those that commit errors, ensuring that it never happens again. In addition, many physicians could do a better job of following through with checklist procedures to ensure that basic oversights do not have deadly affects on unsuspecting patients.

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This week United Press International discussed a troubling report from some state health officials indicating that more than half a dozen young babies died in that state in the last year alone because of one particular type of medical mistake.

In a letter sent to doctors, clinics, and hospitals, a state Department of Health official indicated that eight young children under the age of six months had died the previous year because of medical professionals who failed to diagnose them with whooping cough in time for proper lifesaving treatment.

The health official explained, “In several cases, the infants were treated only for nasal congestion or mild upper respiratory infection. By the time these infants develop severe respiratory distress, it was usually too late for any intervention to prevent their tragic deaths.”

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A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed recently after a terrible medical mistake led to the sudden death of a young 20 year old woman.

As reported in the Mankato Free Press, Elizabeth Moen was 19 years old when she made her first trip to a local clinic in late January 2008. Elizabeth was admitted to the hospital following the visit after reporting severe headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and stiffness in her neck. These are all common symptoms of subarachnoid hemorrhage. According to Medline Plus, these hemorrhages involve bleeding between the brain and the tissues surrounding it.

However, regardless of the symptoms, the doctor at the clinic failed to test for the hemorrhage and instead diagnosed Elizabeth with migraine headaches. After leaving the hospital, Elizabeth went to visit the doctor again after continuing to suffer from the same problems. The doctor’s solution was more pain medication. At no point did the health care professional order follow up visits or warn Elizabeth that anything other than migraines could have been involved in her health issue.

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A highly sophisticated bacteria strain known as MRSA has long been one of the leading causes of infections in hospitals. MRSA is a form of staph infection, but it is much more dangerous to patients than the typical staph infection because MRSA cannot be treated with first-line antibiotics. In 2005, there were over 368,000 hospitalizations because of the infection, and 68% of all staph infections are now of the MRSA variety.

Science journalist Maryn McKenna recently explained in an NPR interview that hospitals have long been a breeding grounds for the infection. Bacteria prefer living in weak immune systems. Sick or weak residents at hospitals -like the elderly, HIV infected, chemotherapy patients- all have weak immune systems. Those same patients also likely have many skin cuts for IVs. The combination of weak body defenses and many entry points make hospitals the ideal breeding ground for staph infections.

McKenna also notes that it is sometimes difficult for hospitals to eliminate the bacteria in its patients. She notes that many health care workers often fail to take simple steps, like washing hands, which have a serious effect on the bacteria. She points to a recent survey that indicated nearly 50% of “hand washing opportunities” are missed by healthcare workers..