Recently in Hospital Negligence Category

Judge Rules Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Suit Can Go To Jury

September 17, 2013

Nearly two years ago, Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced to four years in jail after a LA County jury found the doctor guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson's 2009 death. At trial, experts for the prosecution argued Dr. Murray was guilty of gross medical malpractice when he fatally infused the anesthesia drug propofol into Jackson for insomnia when the drug is intended for patients during surgery. An LA County jury is now hearing a civil wrongful death suit against the entertainment promotion company, AEG Live, brought on behalf of Jackson's mother and his children. Last week, the trial judge rejected AEG's motion to dismiss allowing the case to continue to go forward as both sides prepare for remaining witnesses and closing arguments.

The legal theory against AEG is less straightforward than the criminal medical malpractice case against Dr. Murray. The Jackson family lawyers argue AEG negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Murray to be Jackson's physician, paying him $150,000 a month, when they knew or should have known Dr. Murray presented an unreasonable risk of harm to Jackson. Specifically, the lawyers argue AEG contractually agreed to pay Dr. Murray $150,000 a month, an extraordinary figure for any physician to simply treat one patient, when AEG knew Dr. Murray was in desperate need of money and knew he would lose all his income if the tour was postponed or cancelled because of Jackson's deteriorating health. The lawyers argue this financial tension for Dr. Murray created a medical conflict of interest and ultimately contributed to Dr. Murray's decision to prescribe Jackson an illegal and highly dangerous drug in order to continue preparing for his tour.

AEG's lawyers argue they did not hire or control Dr. Murray--Jackson did. As a result, they contend they cannot be responsible for anything Dr. Murray did wrong. They further claim they had no way of knowing that Dr. Murray was giving Jackson the potentially fatal anesthesia drug, propofol, to treat Jackson for insomnia.

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Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filed After Baby Burned By A Light In Hospital

January 10, 2013

Nearly everyone has watched a nurse struggle to place an IV line in a vein. This is can be trying for both the patient and nurse. When the patient is a baby, this process is even more difficult. Recently, a nurse in California struggled to find a vein in a two month old girl's hand. When she could not find the vein, the nurse reportedly decided to ad lib with a new technique by placing a light to baby's hand to better see vein. According to the recently filed medical malpractice lawsuit, the baby started screaming but the nurse continued to use light, causing a severe burn to baby's hand and required multiple skin graft surgeries.

An intravenous line or IV is a tube that a nurse or other health professional inserts into a vein via a needle. The primary purpose of an IV line is to administer liquid directly into a patient's blood stream. The ability of a nurse to obtain IV access is an essential skill. Success is predicated on a variety of factors, including the nurse's knowledge, skill and experience, as well as the patient's individual anatomy.

When two month old Lyla Rose got sick, her parents took her to the hospital. According to the medical malpractice lawsuit, a nurse attempted to put an IV line but could not do so after much struggling. Rather than request help from another nurse, she decided a novel approach. She brought in a light and placed it on or near the baby's hand to try to better see her veins. Lyla began screaming at the top of her lungs in pain but the nurse continued to keep the light on her hand for several minutes, burning a hole in the Lyla's hand. Despite several subsequent skin graft surgeries, the lawsuit claims her hand has not fully healed.

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Medical Mistakes Amplified By New Electronic Medical Records Systems

December 17, 2012

Doctors and other healthcare providers are increasingly converting their paper-based medical records to electronically stored medical record systems. Proponents of electronic medical records systems have long promised a better, safer, and more efficient method of storing medical information on a patient. However, as a new study reveals, there are some unintended consequences to electronic medical record systems. These unintended consequences can turn a seemingly small medical mistake into full blown medical malpractice.

Over two decades ago, the Institute of Medicine began pushing the medical community to convert their paper medical records to electronic medical records. The push for medical providers to embrace electronic medical records was well-intentioned. They promised providers an improved system for doctors in which a patient's medical history would be stored in one, simple, easy to access place. This would allow a doctor from any part of the world to quickly view a patient's full history without relying on the patient's recollection or waiting weeks if not months for medical records to be transferred over.

Some twenty years later, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority conducted a study on the relationship between electronic medical records and patient safety. The Authority studied over 3,099 reports from various hospitals across the state detailing 3,946 medical mistakes, 2,700 of which involved near misses and 15 involved actual patient harm. The medical errors studied spanned from 2004 to 2012. Interestingly, the study found no significant change in the rate of medical mistakes from paper-based medical record systems to electronic medical records systems, with one exception: medical errors made using electronic medical records were typically amplified as they spread to other medical providers--other medical providers who relied upon the mistaken information. Thus, because electronic medical records systems are increasingly interconnected, the medical errors by one provider are often automatically transferred or propagated to subsequent medical providers--something that seldom occurred with the old paper-based medical record system.

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Hospitals Efforts To Avoid Gov't Penalties May Reduce Medical Mistakes

December 3, 2012

Beginning November 2012, the federal government will impose penalties on hospitals that have excessive patient readmissions. A hospital readmission is when a patient is discharged and then readmitted shortly thereafter because of a condition or complication related to the first admission. Under the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, if hospital readmissions become excessive, the federal government considers this a type of medical mistake. In an effort to avoid excessive and unnecessary healthcare costs, the federal government will no longer provide medical reimbursement to health providers that have excessively high rates of readmission.

So how will these federal penalties on excessive patient readmissions improve patient care and reduce the rate of medical malpractice? The answer seems to be yes. According to patient care advocates and at least some hospital administrators, these government penalties will force hospitals to take long overdue steps designed to improve patient safety. By penalizing hospitals for excessive hospital readmissions, doctors will be have to reexamine how they evaluate whether a patient is truly ready for discharge. This requires that doctors be accurate in their diagnosis before discharge and accurate in their assessment of the patient's condition at discharge.

Regarding diagnosis, some patients are misdiagnosed at or before discharge. As a result, the patient will return to the hospital because the treatment plan does not fit the patient's actual condition. Improving the accuracy of patient diagnosis will reduce the rate of unnecessary hospital readmissions. Regarding patient assessment at discharge, many hospital readmissions stem from discharging a patient when they are not in stable condition. While at home, the patient's condition worsens. As a result, the patient is taken back to the hospital, often, with an even greater medical problem than existed any time before discharge. Implementing hospital policies and procedures designed to more accurately assess a patient's condition just before discharge will also reduce the number of hospital readmissions.

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Suit Alleges Doctors Mistakenly Declared Boy Dead To Parents

November 7, 2012

The Chicago parents of an eight-year-old boy have experience an emotional toll that no parent should ever have to endure. Within four and half hours, they were told their son had died from cardiac arrest, experienced the devastating grief of mourning their son's death, made funeral arrangements for him, only to be later told their son is in fact alive. Even more amazingly, this all happened in a respected Chicago area hospital. Since then, the family filed a lawsuit alleging doctors committed medical malpractice when they mistakenly declared their son dead. As a result, the family claims they experienced severe emotional distress.

On February 18, 2012, eight-year-old Jaylen was taken to Mercy Hospital in Chicago after he went into cardiac arrest. While in the hospital, doctors told the family their son had died. The parents wanted doctors to continue working on Jaylen but they were assured there was nothing left that could be done. The official time of death was called at 9:52 AM.

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Gov't Wants Patients To Report Medical Mistakes

November 2, 2012

Research indicates that 25% of patients in and out of hospitals experience adverse medical events. Over the last couple of years, the federal government has implemented a policy of prohibiting Medicare and Medicaid funding for hospital care stemming from medical mistakes. The idea is that the government should not have to pay for medical mistakes committed by doctors and hospitals. By penalizing hospitals for their preventable medical errors, the government hopes this will also encourage hospitals to worker harder at reducing their rate of medical malpractice. In the past, the government has learned about incidents of medical errors in hospital by relying on self-reporting by hospital staff and administrators. The government's latest plan is to implement a system that also allows patients to report medical mistakes by hospitals and doctors.

In a sample flier, the government asks: "Have you recently experienced a medical mistake? Do you have concerns about the safety of your healthcare?" If so, the flier urges patients to contact a new "consumer reporting system for patient safety." Federal officials say information provided by patients will be analyzed by researchers from the RAND Corporation and ECRI Institute. Both entities are nonprofit organizations that investigate medical errors.

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Jury Found No Malpractice After Young Women Died In NY Hospital

October 10, 2012

On May 30, 2007, twenty-two year old Sabrina Seelig called 911 complaining that she had been vomiting, was dizzy and her limbs felt heavy. She had been working all night long on a college paper and had taken the stimulant Ephedra to stay awake. After telling the 911 operator she felt she may be experiencing poison, an ambulance came and took Sabrina to the nearest hospital in New York City, Wyckoff Height Medical Center--a hospital with a reputation for questionable medical treatment. There, hospital staff strapped her arms down to the bed and allegedly left her unattended for hours. During this time, none of her friends or family knew where she was. That night, Sabrina was found foaming at the mouth and with a racing heart.

Later that night, Sabrina's friends finally learned that she was at Wyckoff. They went to the hospital to find Sabrina in a small bed, unconscious closed off by curtains. When they saw Sabrina, she had various tubes coming out of her. What they did not know is that Sabrina had already suffered profound brain damage. They asked nurses what was wrong. Each time, they got a different answer. When Sabrina did not wake up the next morning, they knew something was seriously wrong. They called Sabrina's parents in Portland, Oregon, who immediately got on an airplane to New York even though staff told them they need to rush because their daughter was going to come out of it soon.

When Sabrina's parents arrived, they were told various specialists were attending to their daughter. However, when doctors did not seem to provide any clear answers on what was wrong with their daughter, they had Sabrina transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. There, doctors tried various therapies to help Sabrina while friends and family sang songs to her--but it was too late. Several days later, Sabrina was declared brain dead. The following day, she was taken off life support.

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Birth Injury And Neonatal Death Higher At Night: New Study

October 2, 2012

Absent a scheduled cesarean section, women generally have no choice over the specific time they will deliver their baby. According to a recent study, the specific time a baby is delivered can have a significant impact on whether the delivery may result in a birth injury. The study found that there is a 32 percent to 47 percent greater likelihood of a birth injury or death during the night shift compared to daytime deliveries. These higher rates of birth injury and death not only compromise patient safety, they increase the number of costly medical malpractice lawsuits--particularly those that result in brain damage.

The recent birth injury study involved more than 700,000 births at all Dutch hospitals between 2000 and 2006. Researchers found that newborns born at small community hospitals between the evening and early morning hours, meaning between 6 pm and 8 am, were 32 percent to 47 percent more likely to die or suffer a birth injury than those born during the day. With larger hospitals, the rate of birth injury or newborn death was less pronounced during the night shift though the rate was still definitely higher compared to the daytime.

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Medical Mistake Causes Wrong Patient To Receive Kidney Transplant

July 27, 2012

Organ donation provides a second chance at life for thousands of people every year. Currently, over 100,000 patients are waiting for an organ transplant. Earlier this month at one Texas hospital, there were 330 patients waiting for a transplant. Unfortunately, because of a medical mistake by the hospital, the wrong patient received a kidney transplant. Remarkably, the patient who did receive the transplant was a match for the kidney and, therefore, no harm was done to that patient. Sadly, the intended recipient never received the transplant making that patient a clear victim of medical malpractice.

Every year, there are medical malpractice lawsuits involving patients receiving surgery on the wrong body part. This has resulted in various wrong site surgeries, including those involving the wrong limb being operated upon and the wrong breast being removed. Few if any medical malpractice suits have been filed in which the wrong patient received an organ transplant.

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Report Gives Failing Grade To Seven Chicago Area Hospitals

July 25, 2012

In June 2012, a not-for-profit group representing corporations and public agencies that purchase health benefits for employees issued their annual survey of Illinois Hospitals. According to Leapfrog Group, based in Washington DC, seven Illinois Hospitals received failing grades regarding the healthcare they provide to patients. All seven failing hospitals identified are located in Chicago. In addition, Loyola Medical Center, Loyal Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and the University of Illinois at Chicago were among thirty hospitals that barely received passing grades.

Reducing the number of hospitals errors has become an increasingly priority for the federal government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (or CMS) now requires that hospitals report all medical mistakes in order to receive federal funding. The purpose of this requirement is to encourage hospitals to carefully analyze their mistakes in order to reduce these mistakes in the future. Decreasing hospital errors should also reduce the number of needless patient injuries and deaths, as well as the number of medical malpractice lawsuits arising from these medical mistakes. However, according to a recent report issued by the Department of Health & Human Services, hospitals rarely report their medical mistakes despite CMS's requirement. In fact, only 1 out of 7 hospital errors are reported by hospitals according to the federal government. Consequently, it does not appear hospitals are identifying and analyzing their medical mistakes--at least publically. Fortunately, the federal government and private organizations have identified this problem and have effectively called out hospitals for failing to report their errors in several public reports.

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Illinois Hospital Injected Experimental Drugs In Patients Without Their Permission

June 29, 2012

Drug studies on patients can provide great medical benefits to the general population, though they do carry risks to the patients being studied. For a variety of legal and moral reasons, no drug study can be performed on a patient without their knowledge and consent. Apparently, Chicago area's Advocate Healthcare forgot or ignored this requirement when they performed a drug study on numerous patients without their knowledge or consent. In doing so, the healthcare provider has exposed itself to potential medical malpractice and other potential civil actions including battery.

Before any drug study can be performed on patients in the US, the party seeking to conduct the study must comply with various safety regulations. This includes presenting the study to the Institution Review Board or IRB, the body responsible for overseeing research on human patients. The IRB must then check the study against FDA regulations. In addition, the FDA reviews the proposed study on their own to determine whether the study meets certain guidelines including those related to patient safety. If the IRB and FDA sign off on the drug study, there is one additional and critical hurdle which must be complied with before the study can be performed: knowledge and consent from the patient.

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Study Shows Hospitals Rarely Report Medical Errors, Despite Gov't Mandate

June 12, 2012

In order to receive Medicare payments, hospitals in the United States must report all their medical errors. Each hospital error is supposed to be tracked, analyzed, and used to improve patient care. Based on an investigation conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals rarely comply with this requirement. In fact, the report issued by the Department shows hospitals only report 1 out every 7 medical errors that occur. According to the inspector general, more than 130,000 Medicare beneficiaries experienced one or more adverse events in hospitals in a single month. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, this report is certainly troubling but hardly surprising.

In order to receive payment under Medicare, hospitals are required by law to "track medical errors and adverse patient events, analyze their causes" in order to improve patient care. Adverse events include medication errors, severe bedsores, hospital acquired infections, delirium from painkiller overdoses, and excess bleeding from improper use of blood thinners. To accomplish the governments reporting mandate, hospitals should have a clear system that allows hospital staff to report these events to hospital management. Without such a system, there is no reason to expect hospital would comply with the government's requirements.

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Avoiding Patient Deaths From Alarm Fatigue: Technology & Training

May 19, 2012

As we all know, hospitals can be a loud place. Medical device alarms seem to be going off constantly. Whether from hospital beds, medication pumps, and other medical devices, hospital staff can become so desensitized to these sounds that they no longer hear alarms or begin to ignore them. This is commonly referred to as "alarm fatigue." According to investigations conducted by the Boston Globe in 2011, hundreds of patients may die every year from alarm fatigue. The Food & Drug Administration is also aware of the problem. Just recently, the FDA announced new measures to reduce alarm fatigue including more intense pre-market reviews of medical devices equipped with alarms. As a medical malpractice lawyer that has prosecuted an alarm fatigue case that resulted in a patient's death, I know alarm fatigue can have deadly consequences. Although the FDA's new efforts should reduce the risk of alarm fatigue, I believe hospital and nursing staff must also do more.

About ten years ago, I represented the family of an Alzheimer's patient who, while wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, triggered a stairway alarm at an Illinois nursing home. The alarm had gone off numerous times that day. After my clients' father triggered the alarm that lead to the third floor stairway, no one conducted a head count or initiated any other safety protocols such as locking down all exits. Instead, the alarm was simply re-set and the staff went back to what they had been doing. In the meantime, my clients' father proceeded to down to the first floor, walked through the lobby and out the front door of the nursing home without anyone noticing. Once the nursing home staff later realized he was missing, it was too late. Despite an intensive search by local authorities, family and friends, my clients' father remained missing for nearly a week before he was found dead a in a wooded area one mile from the nursing home. He had died from exposure.

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Family Of Former Sun Times Owner Reaches Medical Malpractice Settlement

May 14, 2012

The family of a former Chicago Sun Times owner recently reached a $10 million dollar medical malpractice settlement against the University of Chicago Medical Center where he died. In March 2011, James Tyree was undergoing treatment for stomach cancer at the University of Chicago Medical Center. When hospital staff removed a dialysis catheter from Tyree, air bubbles entered his blood stream which ultimately led to his death. According the Cook County Medical Examiner, the death was "accidental." The family's lawyer maintains the death occurred because of medical malpractice. Of the $10 million dollar settlement, half will go to the James Tyree Charitable Foundation and the other half will go to the family.

At the time of his death, Tyree was just 53 years old. He had been a board member of the University of Chicago Medical Center and was involved in numerous local charities. In 2009, Tyree had previously led a partnership that acquired the parent company of the Chicago Sun Times out of bankruptcy and other local papers. Tyree left behind a wife and children.

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Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Verdict $78.5 Million

May 9, 2012

On May 4, 2012, a Philadelphia jury returned a $78 million medical malpractice verdict involving a severe birth injury suffered by a now three year old boy with profound brain damage. Although the amount of the jury verdict is extremely high, the amount of medical expenses needed to provide a life time of care for the little boy is also very high. The type of medical mistake made by the hospital may have also contributed to the large verdict where hospital staff inadvertently concluded the baby had died while in utero only to later learn the baby was alive.

In August 2008, Victoria Upsey arrived at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center for labor and delivery. Early on, hospital staff determined there were signs the baby was suffering from signs of fetal distress. An ultrasound was performed. However, according to the medical malpractice lawyer for the family, the hospital failed to provide a trained ultrasound technician and the equipment used was antiquated. As a result, hospital staff mistakenly assumed the baby had died in utero. Later, another ultrasound was performed which showed the baby was, in fact, alive but struggling for oxygen. This prompted an emergency cesarean section but it was too late to avoid brain damage. Based on hour plus delay between the first and second ultrasound, the baby's condition continued to deteriorate. Had a proper ultrasound been performed from the beginning, the family's malpractice lawyer argued the baby would not have suffered severe brain damage.

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