A common critique lobbed against medical malpractice lawyers like ours at Levin & Perconti is that lawsuits are directed against doctors and hospitals that do not act negligently but simply have patients that happen to suffer severe medical problems. In reality, medical malpractice lawsuits are more often focused on rooting out those individuals and institutions that continually make clear mistakes leading to patient death and suffering. Far from scaring away competent doctors, the preservation of justice for patients is a way of ensuring that the medical profession (like all professions) is held to a reasonable standard of competence.
All too often a single institution shows a shocking and repeated lack of proficiency.
The Los Angeles Times recently discussed a local hospital that has come under fire for several incidents that led to multiple patient deaths. The repeated examples of medical problems at a single hospital highlight the reality that many medical errors seem to be committed by a small segment of the medical community that repeatedly performs below standards.
Three years ago at this hospital, Olive View, a 51 year old man was rushed in after ingesting very toxic oleander leaves. Unfortunately, contrary to law, the hospital did not have enough vials of the antidote available. The man died as a result of the basic failure to have proper medication ready for emergencies. That same year state investigators fined the hospital after the death of a young woman following a gallbladder removal. Investigators discovered that the massive infection that developed after the surgery was caused by improper follow-up care by doctors and nurses. Only a week after that death, a man died in the emergency room of the facility after waiting three hours complaining of chest pains. The medical staff could have prevented the death if they had only performed a simple test to ensure that he was not having a heart attack.
But that is not all.
A few months later an infant suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen after doctors delaying performing a C-section. The year after that, 2009, the hospital received two additional state fines for inadequate care related to mental health patients.
Olive View is clearly an institution that has made repeated errors that have literally killed patients who sought medical care at the hospital. The medical mistakes came in a variety of forms, but all show a clear failure to act competently and in accord with the law. This hospital, and others like it, needs to be held responsible for these problems.