Medical Malpractice News and Views

Latest from Medical Malpractice News and Views

You have a right to see your medical records.  Recent changes in the law and in federal regulations are increasing your rights in this area.  Know your rights and take advantage of them. If you have received medical treatment in the past couple of years, you have probably been invited to register to use a patient portal by your provider.  These portals have many uses.  You can schedule appointments, exchange messages with your provider and review your records.  These are all important and helpful actions and you should be sure to register and take advantage of them. Perhaps the most…
Medication errors can and do kill and injure patients in hospitals, outpatient clinics and as a result of doctor ordered prescriptions.  There are literally thousands of medications, which can be prescribed for patient use.  Many have confusing names.  Many have names which are very similar to those of other medications.  Many come in various dosage strengths.  In short, there are lots of ways to make mistakes in medication administration. People prescribe medications, fill prescriptions, issue medications in hospitals and deliver them to patients and people make mistakes.  The sheer number of medications, their similarities and their varying doses make human…
After years of fighting the proposal, hospitals in the United States were finally required to disclose their prices for the various services they provide.  The battle was long, hard and expensive.  Unsurprisingly, many hospitals and hospital chains are still in full resistance mode. The disclosure rule, which took effect on January 1, requires hospitals to disclose, not only their “sticker” price for various procedures and services, but also the discounts they give to insurance companies or health plans as well as what they charge uninsured patients.  The data are to be displayed prominently on a public web site.  The data…
As anyone who observes our health care delivery system in action knows, hospitals are hotbeds of medical errors.  It is not all their fault but it is a fact.  There are so many people participating in patient care.  There are so many medications being ordered and delivered.  There is so much communication between providers, which can lead to misunderstandings.  As the old proverb states, “To err is human.”  We are all humans and we all make mistakes.  However, rather than admit their mistakes, hospitals actively hide them. It is easy to understand why hospitals want to hide evidence of their…
A recurring theme in American political life is the insistence that consumers are the victims of rapacious medical malpractice lawyers, who sue at the drop of a hat and whose actions raise health care costs for all of the rest of us.  Some politicians, mostly Republicans, hold this belief as a matter of faith, even though they have never looked to see whether there is any truth to it or not.  There is not and here is an impressive study which shows that tort reform is just another way of making life easier and richer for malpractice insurance companies and…
Nurses are critically important health care workers.  They do most of the work of providing health care but get little of the rewards.  They work long and often inconvenient hours for not a lot of pay.  They are exposed to the worst infections we suffer and sometimes die as a result.  Perhaps it is not surprising, given their circumstances, that they occasionally make mistakes that kill or injure patients. Nurses are the backbone of the health care industry in this country.  They are probably its most essential workers.  They are the health care providers we see most often in doctors’…
It seems like every week or so we get a call from a potential client who reports that she was the victim of medical malpractice.  When we begin to ask for more details, it turns out the malpractice occurred more than two years ago.  This is a problem and here is why. Every state has established time limits on when a lawsuit can be brought.  The idea is that the longer a person waits to bring suit, the dimmer memories have become and the harder it is for the defendant to find the necessary witnesses and adequately defend himself.  The…
Defensive medicine is the name doctors give to the tests or treatment they admit are unnecessary but they order anyway out of what they claim is fear of being sued for malpractice.  It is an unethical fraud and the doctors who claim to be driven by fear of being sued are lying to themselves as well as to the public. The concept of defensive medicine arose in the 1970’s when the number of medical malpractice suits began to rise precipitously.  As malpractice insurance premiums began to rise, often for reasons having little to do with successful malpractice suits, medical practitioners…
If you want an example of why we in the United States pay more per capita for health care than anyone else but don’t get much for our money, look no further than the data being reluctantly released by hospitals about the different prices they charge for the same medical procedure.  You can find a good analysis in last week’s Wall Street Journal.  Here is an on line link.  Here are some important takeaways from the story, all of which I have seen before and many of which I have written about before. Hospitals charge wildly different rates for…
Last week’s New York Times ran an article about how rich hospitals profit from their patient’s car accidents.  The article showed how hospitals take advantage of old lien laws enacted to ensure patients received treatment in the days before widespread health insurance coverage to seize all or a part of the patient’s recovery from the person who injured them. The law of many states, including that of Arizona, allows a medical care provider to have a lien against the property of its patient.  The idea in passing those laws was to give hospitals and other medical providers assurance that…
In my job as an attorney representing victims of medical malpractice, it is critically important to be able to read and understand medical records and to be able to examine and cross-examine doctors, who appear as defendants or witnesses.  Both of these tasks require familiarity with medical terminology. When I first began doing medical malpractice work, I was intimidated by medical terminology.  How was I ever going to understand all these terms?  Turns out my concerns were unwarranted.  It is easy to understand the terms when you realize they are all put together pretty much the same way. Most medical…
I recently read an interesting summary of a medical malpractice case in which the doctor overextended himself and one of his patients died.  The lesson for doctors, which should apply to all the rest of us as well, is don’t let yourself get backed into a corner where you won’t have the ability to respond to developing problems. The doctor in question was an anesthesiologist practicing at a smaller hospital.  It was the weekend and he was scheduled to participate in the care of an older patient who had a lot of complicating medical conditions.  After examining the patient and…
If you read the news reports about medical malpractice trials, you would be forgiven for believing that the sky is falling, that the inmates are running the asylum and that juries are going crazy making multi-million dollar awards in every malpractice case that goes to trial.  Notwithstanding the barrage of news stories, nothing could be further from the truth. The news media thrives on sensationalism.  “Man bites dog!!!,” screams the headline.  The media has little interest in trials in which patients are sent home with nothing, which is the case over 85% of the time.  Study after study, many conducted…
Every state has a medical board.  While there are some differences from state to state, they are all alike in that their primary job is to protect the public from bad doctors.  They have been failing at this job for many years and continue to fail today.  Although it is not alone, I am going to focus today on the Arizona Medical Board.  It is emblematic of boards across the country. The Arizona Medical Board describes its mission as “To protect public safety through the judicious licensing, regulation and education of all allopathic physicians.”  Allopathic physicians are M.D.’s.  There are…
A recent study by the RAND Corporation discovered that hospitals across the United States charge private health insurers far more than they charge Medicare for the same services.  The amount by which hospital bills exceed what they are paid by Medicare varies widely by location but one fact is consistent:  prices are highest where there has been hospital consolidation. The basis of our economic system is the free market.  Goods and services, and hospitals offer both goods and services, are bargained for in the marketplace.  Good products and services are more highly sought after and can command a higher price. …
One of the requirements of federal law is that hospital records be recorded electronically.  The requirement for electronic medical records (“EMR”) has a number of justifications, including portability.  Patients are entitled to have a copy of their medical records.  When the record was paper, that meant someone had to copy all the paper.  The patient had to pay for the time of the person copying the chart and for the cost of the copies.   A chart of almost any length could get quite expensive.  With electronic records, the patient, who asks for a copy, is given a computer disc onto…