Articles Posted in Hospital Negligence

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A joint effort by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica has shared disturbing news of a former top heart transplant center’s failure rate. In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cited Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, Texas for having twice the expected number of deaths between 2014-2016 in post transplant patients. CMS has given the facility until August to improve their outcomes before they are deemed ineligible to receive federal funding. The citation caught the attention of the Houston Chronicle, who began asking questions of former cardiologists, transplant patients and the loved ones of those patients who had died at the facility. Investigative journalists also spoke to patients with success stories. However, despite several successes, the number of fatal mistakes and omissions of truth made by the surgical team, and in particular its lead surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, are astonishing.

Hospital Acquisition the Beginning of Turmoil

Baylor St. Luke’s, the adult teaching hospital for Baylor College of Medicine, has long been seen as one of the best heart transplant centers in the country. Some of the first heart transplants ever performed were done at the hospital in the 1960s, and the surgeon credited with surgically implanting one of the first LVADs (Left Ventricle Assisted Device) is the founder of the heart transplant program at the hospital. For decades the facility enjoyed a reputation as one of the top heart transplant centers in the country, if not the world. Patients would travel from all over to be treated there, and the hospital’s website features their doctors bragging about the hospital’s accomplishments. But most of those were in the past.

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Ratings from the annual Hospital Safety Grade Report from Leapfrog Group are now available and 15 Illinois hospitals have lost their ‘A’ rating since last year. This year, Illinois has 30 hospitals who received an A, down from 45 just last year. The Hospital Safety Grade Report “scores hospitals on how safe they keep their patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.” According to the Leapfrog Group, the focus is to bring patient safety information to the public and reduce the number of hospital mistakes and injuries, incidents that are responsible for 440,000 deaths each year.

Data is collected from hospital surveys, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and secondary sources, including the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey. In all, 27 different patient safety measures are evaluated, the data is weighted and then each hospital is given a rating (A-F). It is important to note that free standing pediatric hospitals, long term care facilities, and specialty centers (such as cancer treatment hospitals) are not included in Leapfrog’s annual Hospital Safety Grade Report.

Of the 27 measures, 12 related to Process and Structural Measures (everything from ‘Hand Hygiene’ to ‘Identification and Mitigation of Risks and Hazards’) and 15 related to Outcome Measures (from MRSA and CDiff infections, all the way to death during surgery). To view the 27 measures, please click here.

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“‘With our technology, every single time a woman dies [in childbirth], it’s a medical error.'”

In May of this year, ProPublica joined forces with NPR to tell the story of Lauren Bloomstein, a NICU nurse at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey.  After years of taking care of thousands of new babies, Lauren and her husband, orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Larry Bloomstein, were finally about to bring their own child into the world. 20 hours after delivering their daughter, Hailey, Lauren Bloomstein was gone. Her cause of death was complications due to HELLP syndrome, a rare pregnancy-related condition considered to be a severe variant of Preeclampsia. In the hospital where she had tirelessly worked to save others, physicians and nursing staff ultimately failed her. A first-time mother who had lost her own mom as a child was dead at just 33 years old.

HELLP Syndrome & Preeclampsia: What Are They?

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America’s medical malpractice system may have its flaws, but it serves an extremely important purpose, especially in the case of wrongful death cases. Unfortunately, in some countries, there are laws that not only can prevent families from recovering financially after their loved one’s death, but that can actually force the family to pay the costs of the doctor who caused the death.

Doctor Responsible for Father’s Death Sues Son

The Telegraph reports that Rory Gray, a man whose father was killed by doctor, has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds in court costs in Germany. The doctor, Daniel Ubani, is from Germany. Dr. Ubani traveled the the U.K. and treated Gray’s father, ultimately giving him a massive (and lethal) drug overdose. He injected Mr. Gray’s father with a dose ten times greater than a safe amount of diamorphine. The overdose was due at least in part to a language barrier due to the doctor’s not speaking English well.
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The goal of a medical malpractice lawsuit is often an emotional one: to hold a negligent medical provider accountable for their actions or failure to act that caused an injury or death of a patient. Nothing can reverse what has been done, but victims or their families nevertheless seek justice. In addition, victims or families also seek to be compensated for the injury or loss. While this too will never change what happened, it is a necessary element for plaintiffs to seek redress in the form of damages in order to maintain a legitimate claim. What potential litigants should understand, however, is the scope of possible damages they may seek, and what specific damages are possible in the state of Illinois.

As has been publicized in the world of personal injury law, the 2010 case of Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital significantly altered the landscape of medical malpractice law by finding the cap on the recovery of non-economic damages in such actions unconstitutional. This cap had been legislated in 2005 until its invalidation by the highest court of the state. This grounds for such action rested in a classic separation of powers argument, in which the Illinois Supreme Court determined that it was not up to the legislature, but rather up to the judiciary (either judge or jury) to assess damages on a case-by-case basis.

Non-economic effectively differs from economic damages in that economic damages focus solely on making the victim economically whole again, or at least as much as possible. Lost income, loss of potential income, medical expenses, and other hard and more easily calculable figures make up the category of economic damages. Non-economic damages on the other hand include awards for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other similar damages that cannot be so easily quantified, but nevertheless are quantified if a judge or jury determines a case merits such an award to further compensate a victim. Punitive damages also exist as a means of punishing defendants for their acts. However, punitive damages are not allowed against medical providers for medical malpractice in the state of Illinois.

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Trust. It is at the center of your relationship with so many people that you interact with everyday. A relationship based on trust is perhaps most evident when it comes to medical care. Nothing is more important that your health, and with the complexities of modern medicine, patients are often at the whim of their medical caregivers. While patients can ask questions about their options, in the vast majority of situations, patients simply do whatever their doctor tells them is necessary.

After all, you are visiting the doctor because they have supposedly spent years learning and training in order to provide the very specialized advice and care that you need. But mistakes happen all the time. Sometimes the errors are unintentional, at other times they are influenced by a doctor (or facility’s) desire to increase profits. In all cases, those unreasonable mistakes are unacceptable and patients deserve compensation when harmed.

Unnecessary Care

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The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed in 2010. However, it was only last year that its constitutionality was upheld, and it is only this year (and subsequent years) that much of the plan actually takes effect. We can expect much discussion, argument, and confusion related to the bill as it rolls out. Hopefully the goals outlined in the measure are met and healthcare for all of us becomes more affordable and safer.

One of the most well-known components of the bill include a push to move toward electronic health records (EHRs). It seems natural that as technology advances the medical community would take advantage of the many benefits of electronic records, with easy storage, comparison, transfer, and safety checks. Of course, the switch is not without its issues, as it is incumbent that the transfer be done carefully to avoid issues like theft, unauthorized transmission, or glitches which risk the health and safety of patients.

Federal Government Patient Safety Plan

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One need only look at the political debates raging all across the country to understand how those seeking to gain political advantage cite studies to support their claims. Of course, proper research is indeed an important way for all of us to understand various issues. But the problem is that there are many biased outfits which release “studies” solely to create the appearance of support for their favored position. This makes it incredibly difficult for community members to parse through the nonsense and get honest information.

Unfortunately, few credible organizations exist to properly weigh the merit of each study or research effort that comes out. For example, over the last few weeks many publications have spread information on a new “Institute for Legal Reform” study on the need for tort reform. The ILR, you may not be surprised to learn, is the advocacy group run by the U.. Chamber of Congress. The latest report is claimed to be a fair analysis of “state lawsuit climates” for business.

Many media outlets went on to tout the study as important and proof of the need to make legal changes. However, experts have repeatedly noted that the study “lacks elementary social scientific objectivity [that is]…substantively inaccurate and methodologically flawed.”

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Thousands and thousands of plaintiffs appeal their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court every year. However, only a fraction of those cases will ever be heard by the Court. That is because the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) is selective about what cases they take. They have a limited schedule and only agree to hear cases that may have significant nationwide impact or settle legal issues on which there is disagreement in lower courts.

Recently the Court released a list of some of the cases it has agreed to take on this term (which begins in October). According to the Huffington Post, one of those cases involves claims of medical malpractice and battery by military doctors on the island of Guam. Interestingly, the case is making headlines because it was filed by the plaintiff himself, without a lawyer at all (known as “pro se”). It is rare for any appeal to be filed without an attorney and it is downright unheard of for those cases to be added to the SCOTUS schedule.

Medical Malpractice, Battery, & The MIlitary

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After looking at the summary information about claims of tort reformers and the reality of tort reform, it doesn’t take long to realize that the public gets very little out of the deal. Those hurt by medical mistakes lose legal rights and certain incentives to improve patient safety are gone. Little is gained by most in return. So who actually is pushing for these laws? The answer, unsurprisingly, are those few big interests that stand to gain from limiting payouts following medical mistakes. One of the most important supporters of these laws is the insurance industry–specifically those companies who provide medical malpractice insurance

The Medical Malpractice Insurance Interests

The Center for Justice & Democracy med mal briefing book summarizes some important recent work on the state of the industry and the effect of tort reform.