Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

In the current age of high technology, rapid advancements, and designer drugs, it may seem surprising to some to realize that one of the most important tools when it comes to patient safety in the medical field in Illinois continues to be proper hand washing. Studies show that effectively washing your hands can significantly reduce the numbers of germs and bacteria on them, preventing the spread of these infection-causing agents and improving the health conditions of those around you.

Medical settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, urgent cares, and doctor’s offices, tend to be rife with germs. Sick patients continue to enter these settings and leave their germs behind, enabling others and even those who arrive after sick patients to become ill. Commonly touched surfaces like door handles, drinking fountains, pens, and countertops are some areas where gems are known to linger and to spread from patient to patient, quickly enabling a massive number of individuals to fall ill.

There are two primary types of people who spread germs in medical settings: patients and employees. Patients often have less of an ability to wash their hands and remain germ-free as their access to sinks may be limited and as an ongoing condition may leave them covered in germs regardless. Employees, including physicians, nurses, receptionists, and custodial staff, have more access to sanitary options for hand washing and also have a greater need to wash their hands frequently. Though patients are likely to be confined to one room or one limited area, employees are more apt to move from room-to-room, interacting with a greater number of patients and therefore allowing them to cause a greater germ spread if their hands are dirty.

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Every day of the year, American patients present to a hospital or other medical facility in need of help. Some need urgent, emergency care that was not planned ahead of time. Others are undergoing a scheduled procedure or testing to help identify a problem or issue. No matter why someone needs medical help, though, they should be able to rest assured with the knowledge that the devices used in their care are clean and sterile.

However, recent reports have indicated that sterility is a serious issue with some endoscopes, and in particular duodenoscopes, and that patients are paying a very high cost as a result.

Recent years have seen a rash of outbreaks of superbugs related to the use of duodenoscopes in medical settings, so-called antibiotic resistant infections that can be very serious or even fatal in some cases. A report issued by the Senate Democratic staff investigating such infections since 2010 concluded that up to 350 patients may have been infected at 16 hospitals. The report, released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, notes that the exact number of infections is difficult to determine due to suspected underreporting but that more than twelve deaths have been tied to superbugs after a scope was used on a patient.

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A newly published report in the medical journal Neurology links a popular pain medication with the increased presence of birth defects when that medication is used by pregnant women. The medicine, Lyrica, is primarily used in the treatment of fibromyalgia and other nerve conditions associated with pain but has some use in broader treatment here in the United States.

Lyrica is manufactured by Pfizer and has had a history of issues in the public media since its introduction into the medicinal market domestically. Notably, Pfizer was fined a record $2.3 billion in 2009 for reportedly promoting Lyrica and two other drugs for treatment of conditions that had not been approved by medical regulators after Pfizer pleaded guilty to mislabeling the drug with an intent to defraud or mislead.
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Recently, a new study out of Johns Hopkins University made waves when it concluded that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 250,000 deaths every year. Others have been quick to verify the status of medical mistakes as causing so many lives in recent days, including Chicago-based commercial insurer CNA.

CNA states that of all the claims brought against hospitals, those involving death predominate over all others. Based upon the number of claims closed in a 2015 study, death claims accounted for the highest portion at 34.3 percent of all claims.

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It’s a reality that many people do not like to talk about: mistakes in healthcare. The fact remains that doctors, nurses, and others in the medical field are human and are prone to errors and mix ups just like anyone else is, but unlike those in different professions, the results can be tragic when a mistake is made in a medical context. It has been difficult to get numbers that accurately reflect the number of medical errors that happen annually, something that prompted a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, who concluded that medical error is now the third leading cause of death among Americans.

That should seem like a shocking statement. Medical errors, which by definition are mistakes and therefore avoidable, are causing more American deaths than anything other than heart disease and cancer. Medical mistakes are killing more people than accidents, strokes, respiratory diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and all other ailments that befall us as a nation.

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Chicago residents who are experiencing a medical problem often present to a hospital, physician’s office, or surgical center, trusting that those who work in these facilities will be responsible with patient care and will focus on safety. Yet new data released by the Food and Drug Administration suggests that patient safety may have been lacking in numerous medical facilities across the nation that used certain types of gastrointestinal scopes to diagnose illnesses.

The FDA reviewed procedures known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, commonly referred to as ERCP. It involves running a surgical scope down a patient’s esophagus for either diagnosis or treatment purposes of problems related to the digestive tract. The scopes themselves are called duodenoscopes and they are manufactured by several different companies and used in countless medical facilities across the nation.

The FDA’s research concluded that at many as 350 patients in at least 41 medical facilities were exposed to tainted duodenoscopes between January 1, 2010 and October 31, 2015.

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Every person gets sick or injured at some point in their lives and will need medical care. Often, when that person presents to a doctor, hospital, or physician, the ill patient will defer to the doctor’s judgment in determining what the issue is and what course of treatment to follow. But a new study is highlighting the risks of that deferral as more people are becoming the victims of incorrect diagnoses during their lifetimes.

The Institute of Medicine recently reviewed diagnosis errors in an effort to quantify the issue and to address these failings that seem to be mostly ignored by the public. Unlike other forms of medical malpractice, diagnosis mistakes rarely receive widespread coverage in the media even though their results can be deadly. A failure to recognize life-threatening symptoms, a failure to identify cancer, or even a failure to contain a patient with a highly contagious disease are all examples of why diagnosing is a critically important step in the healthcare process.
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We know that misdiagnosis occurs in family practice offices in Illinois, but before this year there were no comprehensive studies done to determine how often misdiagnosis occurs in a typical family practice in the United States. Recently an article was published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealing that in 190 cases in a family practice setting, a total of 68 unique diagnoses were missed.

In the study, researchers reviewed medical records of 190 occasions of diagnostic error. These were errors that happened between October 1, 2006-September 30, 2007. They were detected in two settings. The first setting was a large urban Veteran Affairs facility with 35 primary care providers. The second setting was a large private health care system with thirty-four family medicine primary care providers. The goal of the study was to determine what potential contributory factors can lead to misdiagnosis.

Researchers found that pneumonia, decompensated congestive heart failure, acute renal failure, cancer, and urinary tract infections were the most commonly missed diagnoses. Just under 79% of the misdiagnoses were related to “process breakdowns” in the encounter between patient and practitioner in the clinical setting, meaning there were many communications breakdowns. In 80% of the missed diagnoses, the doctors involved did not consider all possibilities and prioritize them appropriately, thereby missing the correct diagnosis.
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According to the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a Maryland man died from rabies 17 months after receiving an infected organ during a transplant surgery. In addition, CDC officials stated three other individuals who received organs from the infected donor, including an Illinois man, are receiving anti-rabies injections as a precautionary measure. Illinois State Epidemiologist Dr. Craig Conover said the Illinois transplant patient is currently undergoing tests in an effort to determine whether he has any indicators of infection.

After the Maryland man died, health authorities reportedly launched an investigation into how he contracted the rare disease. CDC scientists then allegedly tested tissue samples from the decedent and the organ donor. The tests purportedly confirmed that both men died as a result of rabies. Transmission of the rabies virus through a solid organ transplant is apparently extremely rare. In most cases, humans contract the disease after being bitten by an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted through saliva and sharing both utensils and cups. Between one and three people die as a result of rabies infection throughout the United States each year. The last confirmed case of human rabies in Illinois reportedly occurred in 1954.

The incubation period for contracting rabies is normally one to three months, but can be much longer. Unfortunately, if anti-rabies shots are not administered soon after exposure, the disease is always fatal. Because rabies is rare and the window during which organs remain viable for transplant is short, most organ donors are not tested for the disease. Despite the fact that the organ donor at issue allegedly suffered from encephalitis, no rabies testing was performed on the 20-year-old because doctors allegedly did not suspect the virus played a role in his death. At the time, physicians reportedly believed the young man suffered brain swelling as a result of exposure to a food-borne toxin.

Sadly, some experts purportedly believe the Maryland man may not have been exposed to the virus if new transplant recommendations that were published nine months after he received the organ were followed in his case. The federally funded United Network for Organ Sharing now purportedly urges physicians to use caution when an organ donor suffers any brain inflammation. The organization reportedly published the guidelines more than seven years after the first known case of rabies transmission via an organ transplant killed four patients in Texas.

Medical negligence occurs when a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional fails to provide a patient with the prevailing standard of health care. Medical malpractice may also result when a doctor fails to accurately diagnose or effectively treat a patient’s medical condition. Individuals who suffered harm as a result of medical negligence in Illinois have up to two years from the date they learned of the injury to file a lawsuit. If you were hurt or a loved one died as a result of medical negligence, you should contact a quality medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case.
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Recently, Cook County commissioners voted to pay $20 million to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Cook County’s public health system. The lawsuit was brought by a mother after her three-year-old boy sustained irreversible brain damage as a result of a cardiac arrest after surgeons at Stroger Hospital tried to repair his undescended testicle.

The cardiac arrest happened in December 2011 while the boy was recovering from his surgery. Personnel at Stroger Hospital waited for five minutes before initiating CPR after his heart stopped beating. It took 15 minutes for a pulse to emerge once the child came back. According to CBS, the lack of oxygen, coupled with the heart attack, caused his brain injury, which will be permanent. The structured settlement will be covered with taxpayer money.
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