Medical Malpractice News and Views

Latest from Medical Malpractice News and Views

In 2001, the concept of “never events” was introduced.  The idea was that a never event was one which was identifiable, caused serious injury or death and was almost always preventable.  The original list has grown and there are now 29 recognized never events. Never events are grouped into seven categories. Surgical or procedural events Product or device events Patient protection events Care management events Environmental events Radiologic events Criminal events Examples of surgical events are operations on the wrong patient, on the wrong body part, right patient but wrong surgery or leaving a surgical instrument or foreign object behind…
I came across an interesting story recently that resonated with me because I have seen this in my practice.  A Kentucky woman who noticed a lump in her breast went to have it checked out at a local hospital.  The hospital performed a mammogram and then sent her a letter.  The letter stated that there was “no evidence of cancer” seen on the mammogram.  The woman, whose mother had died of breast cancer, was greatly relieved.  She should not have been. When the lump in her breast continued to grow, her concern returned.  After 10 months of pain, during which…
The Arizona legislature does not like you, if you have been a victim of medical malpractice.  They have enacted several laws which apply only to victims of medical malpractice and which are intended to make it more difficult for you to be compensated for the harm you experienced. Arizona began its life as a state as a bastion of progressive populism.  We had three provisions in our territorial constitution which gave power to the people:  Recall, referendum and initiative.  These provisions were so anathema to the moneyed interests that even then ran the United States that Arizona was prohibited from…
Medicine is an art, not a science.  There is far more that we do not understand about the human body than we do understand.  When you receive medical treatment or undergo a surgical procedure, no one makes you any guarantees.  Doctors hope for a good result when they treat you but everyone understands that the actual result may be far less than what the doctors were hoping for.  This has a definite application in medical malpractice cases. There are two main elements of proof in a medical malpractice case.  The first is that the health care provider did something wrong. …
People die in hospitals.  It is a fact of life.  Sometimes they die in spite of the very best medical care that we have to offer.  Sometimes, however, they die because they did not receive the care they should have.  Sometimes they die because of medical malpractice. If you have lost a loved one to a hospital death, please accept my condolences.  It is never a happy event.  Sometimes, the death has been expected for a long time.  Sometimes, however, it comes as a great shock.  Some of the ones that come as a great shock should not have happened. …
There are few things more devastating than a baby who dies or is badly injured during childbirth.  What should have been a happy occasion for celebration turns into tragedy.  The gaily decorated room at home prepared in anticipation of the arrival of the new baby is now a sad reminder of what could have been.  Sometimes, it is just God’s will that the baby will die or be damaged.  There is nothing anyone could have done.  Other times, the baby’s death or injury is due to human error.  That is when parents should come to see me. Human mothers have…
Most of the instances of medical malpractice I see in my practice are of the unintentional variety.  Someone made a mistake that ended up hurting a patient.  There is another variety of medical malpractice, however, and my partner and I do see it from time to time.  It is the intentional action by a doctor in violation of medical ethics which harms his (it is usually a male doctor) patient.  That is what I want to talk about today. Doctors who are defendants in medical malpractice cases benefit from the fact that the public has a great deal of respect…
An organism’s genome controls its destiny.  This is as true for the human genome as it is for the genome of the Covid-2 coronavirus.  It was less than 20 years ago that scientists first sequenced the human genome.  The project took nearly 15 years and cost over $2 billion.  Today, due to tremendous strides in computing power and other technical advancement, genomes can be sequenced in a matter of hours and for only $100.00. The Covid-2 pandemic has been both a curse and a blessing.  The curse part is obvious.  The blessing part is less obvious to the general public. …
Very few words stir more passion when discussing health care than “rationing.”  It sounds terrible.  It conjures up images of loved ones being denied life-saving treatment.  It gives rise to attention-seeking politicians claiming there are “death panels” coming for you and your grandmother.  A phrase with the same meaning, but not the same emotional overtones, is “resource allocation.”  Either way, they mean the same thing; rationing is here and has been as far back as you care to look. Here is an excellent article on the necessity of rationing health care and the ethics involved in that process.  I…
Last week I began the discussion of the necessary elements of an economically viable medical malpractice case with a review of the standard of care issue.  This week I will address the remaining elements. Proving a breach of the standard of care is only the first step in a successful medical malpractice case.  After proving a breach of the standard of care, you must prove that you were injured as a result and that your injury would not have occurred in the absence of the breach of the standard of care.  This is another area where the defendant provider has…
This is a question I hear on an almost daily basis.  In order to answer it, we must first discuss what is meant by  “having a medical malpractice case.”  There is a lot of ground to cover and I am going to take two posts to cover it. Technically, anyone who has been injured by medical malpractice has a malpractice case which could be pursued in court.  However, a malpractice case which has a chance of being successful in court requires quite a bit more. Medical malpractice cases are among the most expensive and complex cases an individual can have…
Our bodies are beautiful machines that evolved over millions of years to keep us alive and healthy.  My practice requires me to do a lot of studying about the human body.  I am continually amazed as I come into contact with the autonomic processes that go on behind the scenes.  For example, our kidneys have to excrete just the right amount of water to keep our sodium levels within the normal range.  Our immune systems keep constant watch for foreign invaders.  The autonomic system watches and controls our blood pressure, our heart rate, our respiration rate and so many other…
The latest marketing campaign directed at Type 2 diabetics is intended to sell them continuous glucose monitors (CGM’s).  Since there are estimated to be over 30 million Americans with Type 2 diabetes, there are a lot of potential customers. For those with Type 1 diabetes, glucose monitoring is a matter of life and death.  They are not able to make any insulin on their own and must frequently test their blood to know how much insulin to give themselves to keep their glucose levels in a proper range.  Too high a glucose level over a long period of time will…
“Blame the patient” is Play #2 in the medical malpractice defense lawyer’s playbook.  Play #1, of course, is “Deny, deny, deny.”  “Blame the patient” is #2 because it is so effective.  It plays into the human nature of the members of the jury. Psychological studies have shown that jurors, like all the rest of us, try to make sense of the world around them in a way that minimizes psychic distress.  This has profound implications when jurors hear a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff, the patient, is asking the jury to find that the doctor or the hospital made a…
The telehealth revolution is either coming or it is already here.  It depends on whom you ask.  Regardless of whom you ask, they will be quick to tell you that more is on the way.  As with any fast-growing field, there are many problems and many unanticipated consequences. A number of states changed their rules because of the Covid-19 pandemic to allow increased use of remote technology to deliver medical care.  The idea was that the pandemic was keeping many people at home, including those who needed medical care.  Even those who were willing to go out a little were…
If you live in a small town, you probably have a problem obtaining quality health care.  Big cities get the big hospitals and lots of doctors practicing every medical specialty you can think of.  Small towns get what is left.  They get a small hospital, if they get any hospital at all, and not very many doctors.  If you need specialty medical care and you live in a small town, you may have to go to the big city to get it.  These problems are baked into the system and are structural.  There is not much anyone can do about…