The lingering and devastating consequences of medical malpractice

Medical errors affect hundreds of thousands of people every year. An estimated 250,000 people die as a result of these errors every year, according to data analysis from experts on patient safety from Johns Hopkins.

However, even if a patient survives a medical mistake or misdiagnosis, they can still suffer considerable damages that affect every area of their lives. In these situations, taking legal action to pursue compensation for these damages can be critical.

Continue reading “The lingering and devastating consequences of medical malpractice”

Surgical Tools Left Inside Patients

Ohio medical malpractice attorney Craig McLaughlin explains how he helped a client that was injured when a surgical team left a towel inside his body after he had an operation.

Any time you go in for a medical treatment or surgery, you expect the doctor and hospital staff to be professional and fully aware of safety protocols.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Whether it’s poor training or lack of attention to detail, medical staff can cause serious injuries and harm patients in the process. It is their duty to make sure that you are well cared for and not harmed in the process. However, there are times when medical mistakes occur, and few are graver than those that are made while in the operating room.

Surgical mistakes can come in many forms, from anesthetic errors, to operating on the wrong body part, to leaving surgical tools within the body. Some of the most common instruments left inside include scalpels, forceps, clamps, tweezers, sponges and syringes. Doctors may also leave scissors, scopes, tubing and measuring devices within a patient’s body as well.

When a foreign object is left inside a patient’s body, it can result in serious bodily injuries. These tools can pierce into organs and cause internal bleeding. Other items can cause infections, pain and lots of discomfort. Some tools can actually imbed themselves inside the body with tissue growing around them. If you notice pain or discomfort near your surgery site, it’s important to talk to your treating doctor immediately so that your matter can be checked.

If you are injured due to a surgical mistake or any type of medical malpractice, you should speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff are responsible to ensure that your surgery is safe and keeps you out of harm’s way. There are protocols in place to protect you as a patient and if you’re injured, you may need to bring a claim against those who harmed you in order to recover from the costs of your pain and suffering.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our website for details. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

R. Craig McLaughlin

Hospital Chain’s Revenue Strategy Puts Patients at Risk

Health Management Associates has been named in eight lawsuits alleging the for-profit hospital has been increasing revenue by admitting more patients—whether they needed inpatient care or not—resulting in unnecessary tests and other procedures. This bizarre quota system, with a goal of admitting at least half of all patients over 65 who visited the emergency room, was purportedly designed to defraud Medicare and Medicaid.

While this dubious scheme is chilling on its own merits, the patients involved may have suffered economic setbacks or even been subjected to dangerous conditions.

Each year, thousands of patients suffer harm due to avoidable mistakes, known as preventative adverse events (PAE). While many potential risks are associated with surgical procedures, such as post-op bleeding or anesthesia complications, just being admitted to a hospital carries some amount of risk.

Nosocomial Infections, also known Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs), are infections that patients acquire while receiving healthcare for other conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “In 2002, the estimated number of HAIs in U.S. hospitals, adjusted to include federal facilities, was approximately 1.7 million: 33,269 HAIs among newborns in high-risk nurseries; 19,059 among newborns in well-baby nurseries; 417,946 among adults and children in intensive care units (ICUs); and 1,266,851 among adults and children outside of ICUs.”

Older patients and those with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible to HAIs, which may include tuberculosis, septicemia, endocarditis, meningitis, hepatitis, hospital-acquired pneumonia, and illness due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA.

 

Source: “Hospital Chain Said to Scheme to Inflate Bills” by Julie Creswell and Reed Abelson, New York Times, January 23, 2014.

First Spine Surgeon Patient Awarded $1M, More Cases Pending

Medical MalpracticeA Hamilton County jury has awarded $1.04 million to Crystal Pierce, the patient of Dr. Atiq Durrani in the well-publicized medical malpractice trial of the Cincinnati spine surgeon. Hundreds of Durrani’s patients have also filed similar malpractice claims.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $500,000 for pain and suffering, $40,000 for lost wages, and $500,000 in punitive damages. However, due to Ohio’s damage cap laws, the amount will be reduced to a maximum of $790,000 – minus attorney fees and costs.

Local news outlet WCPO reports:

The eight-member jury found for Pierce in three of the four claims in her suit:

  • Negligence, based on accusations that Durrani violated the standard of care during her surgery on Jan. 30, 2009.
  • Lack of informed consent. Deters said Durrani operated beyond Pierce’s consent and that she never agreed to his use of BMP-2, a bone-growth hormone. The North American Spine Society had warned spine doctors not to use it in surgeries like Pierce’s, a witness for Pierce testified. Since then, some studies suggested it could lead to increased risk of cancer.
  • Fraudulent misrepresentation, based on the claim that she could be paralyzed if she didn’t have the surgery.

The jury did not accept the fourth claim of battery. Deters argued that Durrani’s surgery amounted to intentional, unconsented contact.

According to Dr. Keith Wilkey, who testified at the trial, Durrani used a commercial bone growth protein (INFUSE) despite warnings against its use from the North American Spine Society. He also told jurors that Durrani had misread or disregarded X-rays, chose a more painful and complicated procedure than other U.S. surgeons would have performed, and worsened Pierce’s condition by misplacing screws and plates in her spine.

Dr. Durrani, who is still facing hundreds of additional civil suits and a 36-count federal fraud indictment, has fled the country and is reported to be in Pakistan. However, the jury could not consider that fact in their deliberations. By order of the judge, they were only told that Durrani had chosen not to testify.

 

Source:

“First plaintiff wins malpractice case against Mason spine doctor Atiq Durrani” by Greg Noble, WCPO, January 14, 2014.

Medical Mistake Leads to Infant Death

      

 

The birth of a baby should be a joyous occasion. However, sometimes things do not go as planned.

Each pregnancy has its own challenges, such as health risks and the possibility of complications. Ideally, doctors and nurses should provide competent care, addressing issues as they arise and bringing the baby safely into the world. Unfortunately, health care professionals can make mistakes, placing mothers and their vulnerable infants at risk.

Such was the case for one of our clients. In her ninth month, she was brought to the hospital after going into labor but was told by her doctor that she wasn’t ready yet. He assured her everything would be okay and sent her home with a fetal monitor in place. Yet, when the doctor went home, he inexplicably ordered the fetal monitor to be turned off and the baby died that very night. Had the fetal monitor been turned on, it would have alerted medical staff to the situation.

Birth injury cases

Through the use of expert testimony and diligent preparation, we were able to prove that the doctor failed to provide an acceptable standard of care, not only for the baby, but also for the mother. He put them both at risk and in the end, this family lost their child due to the doctor’s negligence and carelessness. While no amount of money can fully compensate a family for the loss of their child, we were able to help this young couple achieve financial security so they can focus on recovering. Aside from restitution, jury awards and settlements serve another purpose: they put doctors and hospitals on notice, allowing them to learn from their mistakes in order to spare other families the same heartache.

In addition to inadequate fetal monitoring, causes of birth injuries may also include inadequate prenatal or postnatal care, mistakes made during birth, or reactions to drugs taken during pregnancy. Injuries to the mother or baby may be caused by the medical mistakes of physicians, nurses, health care facilities, or other medical care service providers.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above, read our blog, or explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

David J. Elk

Ohio Bill Gives Doctors More Immunities

Tort reform is alive and well in Ohio. Amid the rancor surrounding the federal government shutdown, a reprehensible bill has been proposed in the Ohio House of Representatives. If passed, House Bill 276 would grant even more immunities to health care providers.

Among other provisions, the bill states that if a physician admits he or she made a medical mistake, which caused death or serious harm to a patient, then that statement would be ruled inadmissible — preventing it from being used against the doctor in a court of law. If you or I were involved in an auto accident and we admitted the crash was our fault, we would be held liable for our actions. This begs the question: Why should doctors be treated differently?

Tort Reform

Proponents of tort reform have argued that litigation is to blame for the rise in medical costs. They maintain that by limiting jury awards and settlements, thereby lowering medical malpractice payments for doctors, patients will see a decrease in medical bills. During the health care reform debate, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called medical malpractice the “biggest cost driver” in medicine. Republicans in Congress have made it a perennial priority to pass legislation that would restrict patients’ ability to seek redress in court.

However, a recent study by Public Citizen, an independent consumer advocacy group, shows that despite reduced litigation and smaller payouts to victims, the nation’s health care bill has continued to rise.

“Since 2003, medical malpractice payments have fallen 28.8 percent,” the report states. “If medical malpractice litigation were truly the ‘biggest cost driver’ in medicine, then declining payments should have pulled overall health care costs down. But the nation’s health care bill has risen 58.3 percent since 2003.”

New Legislation

Introduced by Rep. Peter Stautberg (R-Anderson Twp.), H.B. 276 would amend section 2317.43 and enact sections 2305.27 and 2323.40 of the Revised Code to provide special immunities to health care providers. The Ohio Association for Justice plans to fight the proposed legislation. They shared a summary of the bill in a recent email.

  • The bill says that admissions to the patient or patient’s family that the doctor committed an error or is at fault would be inadmissible in court. Ohio’s current apology statute makes expressions of sentiment inadmissible, but statements of fact that an error occurred during a procedure are admissible.
  • The bill bans medical negligence claims when the chance of a patient’s survival is less than 50%. In loss of chance cases today, the injured patient’s recovery is reduced proportionally based on loss of chance, but this would bar all recovery.
  • The bill grants immunity to hospitals and other health care facilities when the treating physician is an independent contractor. The hospital would have a duty to notify the patient that the facility is not liable for the actions of doctors who are independent contractors.

Prior tort reform legislation in Ohio placed caps on the amount an injured party could receive, thereby reducing the volume of litigation. However, as we previously shared, medical malpractice litigation can actually improve patient health by drawing attention to problem areas.

Joining Rep. Stuatberg as co-sponsors of the bill are Representatives John Becker (R-Union Township), Terry Blair (R-Washington Twp.), Louis W. Blessing, III (R-Colerain Twp.), Bob D. Hackett (R-London), Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), Gary Scherer (R-Circleville), Barbara R. Sears (R-Monclova Twp.), and Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell).

 

Sources: 

House Bill 276, 130th Ohio Gen. Assembly, proposed September 30, 2013.

No Correlation: Continued Decrease in Medical Malpractice Payments Debunks Theory That Litigation Is to Blame for Soaring Medical Costs” Public Citizen, August 2013.