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The retained surgical sponge case is probably the most classic example of clear-cut medical malpractice. When a surgeon or nurse leaves a surgical sponge or instrument inside a patient’s body during surgery, Pennsylvania law recognizes that this is an error so obviously beneath accepted standards of care that the usual rules requiring a Plaintiff to have a medical expert are relaxed.
We would all like to think that these kinds of medical mistakes are uncommon. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PSA), in a startling report issued recently, tells us otherwise. Here is a link to the report:
Why do conservative politicians and lawmakers continue to bark about the need for medical tort reform? Why does ALEC and other corporate lobbying groups want so badly to limit the rights of those most seriously injured because of medical errors? After all, every legitimate study shows that the “cost” of medical liability payments to those who are the victims of medical malpractice represents but a nanoparticle out of total annual health care costs.
When the administrative office of Pennsylvania’s court system issues data on the numbers of case filings, the number of medical malpractice cases is consistently down from its high points. Data on the results of jury verdicts, even in the “judicial hellhole” that is Philadelphia (as characterized by tort-reform proponents), show an overwhelming advantage for the defendant doctor or hospital.
Even prominent tort reform advocates admit, when pressed, that our legal system is not being inundated with frivolous medical malpractice claims. Victor Schwartz, the general of the American Tort Reform Association, one of the most influential voices for curbing the rights of victims of medical and hospital errors, has conceded: “It is ‘rare or unusal’ for a plaintiff lawyer to bring a frivolous malpractice suit because they are too expensive to bring.”
Why do Republicans continue to press this issue then? The answer, plain and simple, is money. Any rule or restriction that limits recovery for those injured by medical mistakes – such as a cap on the amount of monetary damages a plaintiff may recover in a civil lawsuit – means more money in the hands of medical malpractice insurance companies.Continue Reading
The Pennsylvania Record by Jon Campisi A New Jersey woman who claims she developed complications at the site of an intravenous line on her forearm while she was undergoing a kidney transplant at a Philadelphia hospital, an injury that required a second surgery, has filed a malpractice claim against the medical institution. Philadelphia attorney Derek [...]Continue Reading
In the days after the Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that Republicans would retake control of the United States Senate and then, as their top priority, would “repeal and replace Obamacare.” On July 1st, Fox News’ Chris Wallace challenged Sen. McConnell on how he would then deal with 30 million uninsured.
McConnell’s back-of-the-hand remark to Wallace – “That’s not the issue” – received the most attention in the media. Though insensitive, politically and otherwise, McConnell’s attempt to explain the “replace” part of his prescription was more worrisome.
First, McConnell said, Obamacare would be repealed. No ifs, ands or buts. Second, the Kentucky Republican promised, Obamacare would be replaced with “more modest reforms,” like “lawsuit reform,” which he claimed was necessary because of the “billions and billions” hospitals and doctors are paying every year because of lawsuits.
Tort reform? That old Republican chestnut? A cap on money damages as a way to solve the problems with our health care system by reducing health care costs? Why yes, McConnell and others say and have said for years as they receive steady donations from insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce and others promoting talk of “frivolous lawsuits” and “jackpot juries” and “judicial hellholes.”Continue Reading
For as long as I can remember, Consumer Reports has been the name most closely associated with straight up ratings of innumerable consumer products and services from dishwashers to cameras to, well, you name it. Last week, Consumer Reports issued its first-ever review of hospitals across the country with a focus on patient safety.
If you’re a patient or you might someday be a patient, if you’re a physician or a nurse or a hospital administrator or, frankly, if you’re breathing, these results should be disturbing.Continue Reading
One of the most common questions we hear when we take on a new case to investigate is whether a doctor or nurse might alter the medical records. The simple answer is yes.
There are all sorts of ways to uncover the “doctoring” of records. If there is a suspicion of medical records alteration, for example, it may be possible to retain a handwriting expert, someone who can identify changes to records based on use of different inks or writing in different hands.Continue Reading
In 2010, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommended that patients share in decision-making with their physicians when there is more than one medically appropriate course of treatment. This certainly is a profoundly good idea but it shows that the AMA is really late to the party.
When it comes to surgery or any invasive procedure, the law requires that a patient give informed consent beforehand. In order for consent to be informed, a patient must be provided relevant information about the risks, benefits and alternatives to the procedure.Continue Reading
No one should be surprised to learn that medical errors occur in hospitals, even the finest medical centers. The extent to which hospitals fail their legal obligation report “adverse events,” however, is shocking.
According to a recently released report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services, in the nearly 200 hospitals surveyed, hospital staff failed to report 86 percent of adverse events to incident reporting systems. Here is a link to the full report: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-09-00091.asp.
As a condition of participation in Medicare, hospitals are required to track, analyze and report adverse events, which are defined as occasions when harm to a patient results from medical care. Although an adverse event may occur in the absence of a medical error – whether an error with a prescription, or a failure to perform a procedure correctly or inadequate monitoring – the fact is that many adverse events do result from error.Continue Reading