Articles Posted in Failure to Diagnose

“Safety advocates said that without access to public data, it has been too easy for hospitals to excuse poor outcomes by blaming mothers’ health problems.”

-USA Today

Hospitals Blame Mothers When Things Go Wrong

“To know that this happens is our country, that’s unacceptable.” 

-Sue Sheridan, patient safety advocate, in To Err Is Human

The medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti recently watched To Err Is Human, a newly released documentary showing the frequency and impact of medical errors upon American families. To see the facts relating to the frequency and severity of medical errors combined with the heart wrenching story of a family forever changed by these mistakes has left a lasting impression on all of us.

veteran health care

Medical Mistake Leads to Terminal Cancer Diagnosis for Green Beret

The story of Sgt. 1st Class Rich Stayskal, as published on January 14, 2019 in Stars and Stripes, an independent news source to the U.S. military community, is tough to get through. Stayskal is a former Marine who later became a Green Beret but is now battling a terminal stage IV metastatic lung cancer. The husband and father of two says his military doctors missed a diagnosis opportunity that could have saved his life in 2017 when he first presented symptoms and a scan showed the illness.

But unlike similar malpractice claims patients can bring against the private medical community, Stayskal can’t do much because of a military rule known as the Feres doctrine. Feres prohibits military servicemembers from suing the government and is a rule that can only be changed via an act of Congress or a ruling by the Supreme Court. The rule, which has been upheld for more than 68 years, was meant to maintain a “no-fault” compensation system in the military where combat-related deaths and injuries are possible.

medical malpractice lawsuit

History of Common Malpractice Errors May Be Unknown to Patients

A recent investigation led by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today and MedPage Today found that even when surrendering a medical license because of unprofessional conduct such as sexual assault, medical malpractice or prescription abuse, physicians simply leave their bad history in one state and move their practice to another while continuing to make deadly mistakes as risky medical experts. Equally disturbing is that if a physician voluntarily surrenders his license, the public may not ever be able to access or gain knowledge about why the surrender occurred. Although the National Practitioner Data Bank has more than 1.3 million records of “adverse actions” going back to 1990, files can only be accessed by hospitals, insurers, and state medical boards. Individual states can file a complaint, but only if prompted to inquire of a physician offender’s harmful patient history.

Additional investigative findings published in December 2018 from the news organizations included:

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit group dedicated to hospital safety, has released their biannual Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, showing an overall improvement in Illinois hospitals since the spring. According to Leapfrog, the survey measures hospital patient safety by the number of “errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.” Participation by hospitals is optional and this fall, 110 Illinois hospitals agreed to take part. According to the data collected, Leapfrog rated Illinois hospitals as #13 overall, an improvement from #15 this past spring.

In a time where the increasing problem of medical errors is finally being given the platform it deserves, the survey is more relevant now than ever. The Leapfrog Group, citing an often quoted 2016 Johns Hopkins study, notes that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Patient safety and healthcare provider accountability is essential for all hospitals and healthcare organizations. Below is our analysis of the Fall 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report for participating Illinois hospitals.


Illinois & Metro Chicago Hospital Results

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.

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.

“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.

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

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.

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