Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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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

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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 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 family of a 70 year old wife and mother was recently awarded $10 million after a Columbia, South Carolina jury found the urologist who failed to treat her liable for her death.

Life-Saving Information Not Shared with Patient

The woman, Joann Bannister, was being monitored by her primary care physician, Dr. Jerry Robinson, for a growth on her left kidney. After a 2011 visit with Dr. Phillip Kinder, a urologist with Columbia Urological Associates, she was told by her primary care doctor that the growth would potentially lead to removal of her kidney, but he put off immediate treatment and requested that she schedule another appointment in 6 months. 4 months later, Mrs. Bannister was back in Dr. Robinson’s office, this time complaining of lower back pain. Dr. Robinson sent her for a CT scan that revealed the kidney growth had gotten larger. The radiologist who reviewed the CT scan advised removal of the growth to test it for cancer, but for unknown reasons, Dr. Kinder, her urologist, never communicated this information to her.

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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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As reported in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, our attorneys at Levin & Perconti have successfully negotiated a $2 million settlement for the family of a thirty-three year-old woman who died in 2010 at Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. This is just one of many successful cases handled by the firm for families who have lost loved ones.
In this case, Lisa Rivera was an insulin-dependent diabetic. She went to the hospital because she was experiencing shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with having fluid around her lungs, and the hospital did a procedure to treat that problem. After the procedure, Ms. Rivera suffered persistent pain, for which the hospital medicated her. Her doctor also ordered that she be given a long-acting form of insulin. She had a reaction to the medication and stopped breathing. The hospital revived her but she wound up in intensive care.

The lawsuit was in part over nursing staff’s failure to document a diet change order for Rivera when she was not eating food by mouth. Failing to document the change in diet meant she received too much insulin. Her blood-sugar levels dropped as a result, and she went into a diabetic coma. She did not survive. The suit also alleged that a doctor’s failure to review Ms. Rivera’s chart and catch the problem contributed to her death. The hospital’s defense was that Ms. Rivera was receiving regular dialysis due to kidney failure and that her life expectancy was short anyway. Regarding what happened in this case, John J. Perconti, one of Ms. Rivera’s family’s lawyers, said, “There was a total lack of communication between the nurses and [the doctor], which led to this hypoglycemic episode.”
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If you watched any television news or stumbled upon the front page of any newspaper last week, chances are you know that the United States Supreme Court issued important rulings related to gay marriage. Two opinions were released.

In one the Court found that defendants in a case challenging lower court rulings on California’s gay ban amendment (Prop 8) did not have standing. That decision effectively ends the ban in that state, though its ruling will not technically have effect elsewhere in the country.

The second case was a bit more far reaching. In that decision (U.S. v. Windsor, view opinion here), the Court found that Section 3 of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) violated the U.S. Constitution. This section of the law, passed in 1996, prohibited the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples, regardless of whether those unions were legal in their individual states. This law therefore prevented same sex couples from many different benefits and obligations associated with inheritance rights, Social Security benefits, tax privileges, immigration rights, and well over 1,100 others–including many that touch on the civil justice system.

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There are many dangers hidden in the very places where we are supposed to heal. For example, many hospital rooms have bed with rails on the side. These bed rails are familiar to everyone. They are usually made of metal and run along the side of the sleeping space, presumably to prevent the sleeper from rolling off accidentally. While that general principle seems logical, those working on patient safety matters appreciate that bed rails usually cause far more harm then they prevent.

That is why many are leading efforts to get these bed rails off the market for good with the hopes of protecting hospital patients, nursing home residents, and other who sleep in spaces with the rails.

National attention was brought to the issue late last year with one of the leading anti-bed rail activists, Gloria Black, was profiled in a comprehensive New York Times article. Black began fighting in 2006 after her mother’s untimely death. The senior died in a nursing home after her neck became trapped in a bed rail and no one was around to help. It was a shocking tragedy, but, as Black soon found out, not all that rare.

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It is a story out of a mother’s nightmare. A woman gives birth to a healthy child. As is customary, the nurses take the child and eventually let the mother bond with her new addition for the first time. They wrap the baby in blankets and place her in her mother’s arms. This is a one of those moments that a mother never forgets…cuddling her newborn for the first time, dreaming about where life will take the little bundle in the years and decades ahead. Exhausted after the grueling labor, the mother slowly drifts into a sleep while holding her baby.

She awakes later to horror. The child is still in her arms, but the young girl is not breathing. She died as a result of co-sleeping–being smothered without the ability to breathe.

This tragedy seems like something from a movie, but a similar story has lead to a recent medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a team of nurses.

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WREG News reported today on the developments in a malpractice lawsuit that was filed following the death of a young woman several years ago.

The wrongful death suit was commenced by the family of the victim who died August 13, 2005 at the Parkhill Clinic for Women. The lawsuit has led to a trial which began last week and continued today with testimony related to the conduct of the medical facility and the doctor involved in providing the care to the woman.

The victim had given birth only two weeks before her death. According to the suit the woman had high blood pressure following the birth. But that problem was not noticed by the medical professionals. Additionally the woman was not even given a physical before her release following the pregnancy. Only two days after her discharge she fell into a coma. She was rushed to a local hospital but never regained consciousness and died a week and a half later.
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