Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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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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Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti work each day to help the victims of medical errors. We are confident that our work helps ensure that the legal rights of victims are honored and also plays a role in guaranteeing that future medical patients are less likely to be harmed by negligent physicians. That is why we remain disappointed that some doctors who have clearly been shown to pose a threat to all the patients they treat are allowed to continue working, risking the lives of many unknowing individuals who seek their care.

For example, The Chronicle recently reported on one cardiologist with a track record filled with allegations of medical mistakes, medication errors, fraud, and wrongful death. The doctor was most recently found to have overbilled Medicaid by $1.7 million for unneeded arthritis medication. He eventually pled guilty to the fraud and is awaiting sentencing.

However, the Medicaid fraud was only the latest in a string of legal problems for this particular doctor. In at least two other cities, the doctor was found to have run complex pill mills-dispensing drugs with reckless fury to those interested in acquiring much abused pill combinations. Two of those patients eventually died because of the medication error. The families of those victims have filed suit against the dangerous doctor.

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A renewed effort is being made to push through some changes that may ultimately eliminate thousands of medical mistakes and save hundreds of lives, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

We have reported on this blog about the frequency of mistakes made with medication tubing. Misconnections in tubing has played a role in many medical mistakes-often fatal-affecting all types of patients. The gist of the problem is simple: different tubing is not distinguished from one another, so medication intended for one part of the body, often ends up in the wrong location.

Tragically, infants are often the group most affected by tubing errors. Medication is frequently mixed inadvertently and then given to vulnerable infants. In one high profile case, morphine intended for a mother was accidentally connected to the tubing of her infant daughter. With these connections being made quickly, often in low light, the errors occur at an alarmingly high rate. Many nurses admit that they do not always check to ensure that the tube originates at the desired location.

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Reader’s Digest published a story recently that attempted to put a human face on the medical errors that destroy families as well as medical careers. The publication recently asked doctors to discuss errors that they have made, describing how the error affected them and their future as hospital professionals.

For example, Dr. Peter Pronovost explains how he made an error in the middle of a 36-hour shift. He hadn’t slept in 24 hours and was forced to discharge patients from intensive care to make room for several new patients. The doctor decided to move one patient who had esophageal cancer, removing his breathing tube and transferring him to another unit. Following that mistake, a series of complications caused the doctor to quickly reinsert the breathing tube and in his panic he had trouble with the process.

In another case, Dr. Bryan E. Bledsoe explained a mistake he made that cost a woman her life. The error ultimately led him to become a proud advocate for patients’ rights. He works to spread the message of health care safety, trying to teach physicians to treat patients with a personal touch.

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The Green Bay Press Gazette published an editorial this weekend concerning the high cost of medical mistakes on local residents, their friends, and family.

After a review of hospital inspection records, reporters discovered that most area hospitals did a good job of keeping patients safe and attempting to save lives whenever patients needed emergency care. However, every time a healthcare provider makes even a single medical mistake, the cause needs to be closely monitored and the victim needs to hold the offender accountable to help ensure that future errors are limited.

The costs of these errors is simply too high.