Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A 66 year old man and his wife have filed suit against a Missouri hospital and two physicians claiming that they failed to provide emergency treatment to prevent the spread of flesh-eating bacteria.

Plaintiff was seen in the hospital emergency room with complaints of perirectal abscess and cellulitis. He was given a painkiller and oral and intravenous antibiotics, and discharged an hour and a half later. He was told to follow up with the doctor’s office the next day. When he tried to get an appointment for the following day, the office would not agree to an appointment until four days later.

Plaintiff’s expert has testified that one of the physicians made “egregious errors” by failing to immediately order lab tests and radiology procedures that would have determined the severity and extent of the Plaintiff’s infection. He further claims that a surgical procedure should have been performed within 24 hours, that Plaintiff needed immediate attention.

robotsurgeryThe Da Vinci Robotic Surgery System has had its fair share of the limelight lately, and we have told you a whole lot about it. In summary, we have a very cool new product to help surgeons. But it has had more than its fair share of problems on the path to becoming a game changing medical advance.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a new robotic surgery for certain gynecological procedures. The oophorectomy, removal of an ovary, is only the second FDA approved, robotic single-site gynecological surgery, with the first being a hysterectomy.

The procedure is performed through a one inch hole in the belly button and takes about an hour. In most circumstances a patient can go home that day or the next, and back to work in a week or two.

I’ve written quite a bit lately about complications with the da Vinci Surgical System. Let’s be honest, I’ve had a lot of material to work with. This time though, it might be a bit of good news that could be another important step towards the promise of what these robots could someday do.
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A small life life raft for Da Vinci?

A new report suggests that a number of serious and potentially life-threatening complications from robotic surgery may be avoidable with the use of a safety checklist, before and during an operation. Sounds simple, but true.

A study published this week in Patient Safety in Surgery, researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine found a decrease in problems stemming from robotic surgery when checklists were used during lengthy procedures, a time of “time out” before and during the surgery.

Including things such as checking pressure points to prevent nerve damage, checking for corneal abrasions, and checking patient positioning, doctors have found a decrease in the number of complications with the robotic surgery.

Now we know that checklists help doctors. This is not exactly breaking new ground. The Checklist Manifesto, a great book, showed us the stunning studies that show just how often patients are better served when doctors override their judgment in favor of an old school checklist. But it appears that with da Vinci surgeries, the need for a checklist is particularly acute.

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A settlement has been reached in the medical malpractice case against St. Joseph Medical Center and the doctor that allegedly placed unnecessary heart stents in patients between 2007 and 2009. A federal investigation and hospital review found hundreds of cases where stents were placed in patients’ arteries that were not medically necessary.

The medical malpractice case began in court in early April and was expected to last about three to six months. But, an attorney for the twenty one Plaintiffs involved in the suit said that a successful resolution has been reached. The details of the settlement have not been disclosed yet.

St. Joseph has had its fair share of trouble. In late 2010, St. Joseph Medical Center agreed to pay the United States $22 million to settle allegations under the False Claims Act that it paid kickbacks and violated the Stark Law when it entered into a professional services contract with MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates. The settlement resolved allegations of the payment of kickbacks under the guise of professional services agreements in return for the group’s referrals to the medical center. The settlement resolved issues related to 11 professional services agreements which were being investigated for being above fair market value, not commercially reasonable, or for services not rendered.

A Missouri lawsuit has been filed against a hospital and neurosurgeon for allegedly operating on the wrong side of a woman’s skull and brain.

Approximately five years ago, after a series of mini-strokes, 53 year old Plaintiff began having health issues. Plaintiff was scheduled for a “left-sided craniotomy bypass” – instead, she received a “right-sided craniotomy surgical procedure.” The second, and correct surgery, was performed six days later. The craniotomy bypass surgery was intended to prevent further strokes.

Her speaking ability had previously been affected, but prior to the recent surgeries, her speech was understood by family members. Now, she is unable to speak intelligibly. It is alleged that before the incorrect surgery, Plaintiff was mobile, cognizant, and able to care for herself. She now requires around-the-clock care for her basic needs. Just an awful story.

A lawsuit filed against the Cleveland VA Medical Center has settled for $500,000.

The lawsuit was filed after the death of a 59 year old veteran, who was being operated on to repair a hernia. What he was not told was that the VA surgeon had only been licensed for a few months, and that this was the first time that he had ever performed the procedure by himself. Experience matters is such a cliche. In surgery, data shows time and time again that experience is everything.

Sadly, a hole was made in the deceased man’s intestines during the surgery, allowing the contents of his bowel to spill out into his abdomen – a hole which the VA hospital failed to recognize for several days. The deceased became very sick after developing an infection, and died several months later.

The 6th Circuit on Monday affirmed summary judgment in a bizarre lawsuit against a Michigan medical examiner accused of improperly disposing of the plaintiff’s mother’s body.

Technically, a medical malpractice claim, this case was anything but. The decedent was a 88 year-old woman who hit her head in a nursing home and died two weeks later in the hospital. After her death, the medical examiner performed an autopsy in an effort to determine when the head injury caused the woman’s death. The doctor returned the body but kept the brain for further study. When the family learned that the brain had been kept and then disposed of, she filed a lawsuit.

The District Court certified a question to the Michigan Supreme Court on the issue of a next-of-kin’s property interest in a decedent’s organs following an autopsy. The Michigan high court shot down plaintiff’s claim, finding that a decedent’s next of kin does not have a right under Michigan law to possess the brain in order to properly bury or cremate the same after the brain is no longer needed for forensic examination. So when the case came back, the trial court granted summary judgment.

In Oceanus Insurance Company v. White, a Texas appellate panel reminds doctors that if you even think you might get hit with a lawsuit, you should put your medical malpractice insurer on notice. Quick.

In this case, the insurance company’s provided a cover page to the doctor’s malpractice policy that stated, “The coverage of this policy is limited for only those claims that are first made against the insured and reported to the Company while the policy is in force.”

The doctors’ defense was the obvious: “C’mon, where is the prejudice?”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers lose yet another “savings statue” case in Nevada. Malpractice lawyers just file too many cases way too late. This is a dangerous practice in any personal injury case because there are too many things that can go wrong filing a lawsuit at the last minute. But the problem is particularly pronounced in medical malpractice cases.

In Wheble v. Grzeda, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit without attaching an expert affidavit as required by Nevada law (and Maryland). Plaintiffs then filed a new complaint after the statute of limitations had passed reasserting the dismissed claims.

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A Minnesota neurosurgeon who won a defense verdict earlier this month just settled another malpractice claim.

The Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This rule applies with greater force with doctors who commit malpractice. This neurosurgeon is a clear example: he has had nine medical malpractice cases filed against him during his time at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. He has won some jury trials – malpractice cases are tough – but most of the suits against him have settled out of court.

This doctor, who I don’t name because this blog generally does not name names, does not get a break. He has another malpractice trial coming up in November.