July 2009 Archives

July 21, 2009

Why Saying Sorry For Medical Malpractice Is The Right Thing To Do

Victim's of medical malpractice at Chicago area hospitals should not expect an apology from those doctors or the hospital that is at fault for their injury. It has long been the custom and practice of Chicago area physicians to never dare to apologize or admit any mistakes, no matter how devastating.

Not so at the University of Michigan. Doctors there say that admitting their mistakes upfront and offering fair financial compensation saves time, money and hurt feelings. According to a 2009 article in the Journal Of Health And Life Sciences law, the effectiveness of taking responsibility of medical mistakes goes beyond common decency. According to the article, malpractice claims against a health system with a policy of offering early apologies and settlements fell from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006, while the backlog of open claims went from 262 in 2001 to 106 in 2006 and 83 in 2007. Between 2001 and 2007, the average time to process a claim fell from about 20 months to about eight months, costs per claim were halved and insurance reserves dropped by two-thirds.

There is evidence that this approach is catching on in the Chicago area. Apparently the University of Illinois is considering adopting an apologize and settler early approach to adjusting malpractice claims. This type of forward thinking makes sense from both a financial and humanitarian perspective.

July 21, 2009

Steelers Quarterback Roethlisberger Sued For Sexual Assault

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been named as a defendant in a civil sexual assault complaint filed in Washoe County District Court in Reno, Nevada, according to the Associated Press. The lawsuit accuses the former superbowl champion of assaulting a woman in July of 2008. Apparently Mr. Roethlisberger is one of nine defendants listed in the complaint.

"Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone ... The timing of the lawsuit and the absence of a criminal complaint and a criminal investigation are the most compelling evidence of the absence of any criminal conduct. If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated," David Cornwell, Roethlisberger's lawyer, said in a statement released early Tuesday.

Roethlisberger played his college ball at Miami (OH) and was the 2004 AP Rookie of the Year. At the age of 23 Roethlisberger became the youngest Superbowl champion quarterback in NFL history, captaining the Steelers to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XL. He won a second superbowl last season, defeating the Arizona Cardinals in Superbowl XLIII.

July 20, 2009

Chicago Area Freak Car Accident, Car Crashes Into A Fitness Club

Two victims of a Saturday morning Chicago area car crash were hospitalized after a vehicle crashed through a suburban Chicago fitness club window. The car accident occured at Curves Fitness Club in suburban Lake Zurich.

Lake Zurich police spokespeople announced that a 65 year old woman drove her 2002 Buick into the establishment while trying to park the car. Apparently the driver believed she put the car in reverse when she actually put the car into drive, crashing through the window.

July 20, 2009

Chicago Man Dies, Four Others Critical In Crash

A 35 year old Chicago man was killed and 4 others were seriously injured early Sunday morning in a car accident in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. The 5 vehicle crash occured at 3:30 am at the intersection of 31st Street and California.

One of the vehicles involved in the crash fled the scene and its occupants are wanted for questioning by the Chicago Police. The crash is currently under investigation by the Major Accident Investigation Unit of the CPD.

July 17, 2009

Chicago Eye Doctor Faces Discipline After Being Sued For Medical Malpractice 50 Times

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Dr. Nicholas Caro is facing disciplinary charges from The Illinois Department of Professional Regulation after being sued for medical malpractice 50 times in Cook County.

In the complaint against Dr. Nicholas Caro, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation claims Caro failed to properly diagnose a patient's keratoconus, a pre-existing eye condition that should have ruled him out as a candidate for Lasik surgery. Caro has yet to respond to the allegations. The agency is asking that Caro's license be suspended or revoked because of his conduct.

The IDPR has been criticized for not aggresively prosecuting physicians who repeatedly subject their patients to risky and harmful medical care and treatment. The IDPR is the Illinois state agency empowered to discipline a doctor's license in the case of misconduct.

July 15, 2009

Federal Lawsuits Over Malpractice At Illinois Veteran's Hospitals Settle

The second federal lawsuit against the Marion, Illinois Veteran's Hospital has settled in the wake of substandard care at the hospital which resulted in the Hospital suspending surgical procedures for the past two years. Surgeries at the hospital were halted after the Veteran's Administration found that patients had died at the facility due to substandard care and treatment. The terms of the settlement are undisclosed.

The VA has been critical of the marion facility, finding its prior administration to be dysfunctional and inefficient. The Veteran's Administration has been under harsh criticism for the operation of its hospitals which has been highlighted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

July 13, 2009

Black Chicago Area Nursing Home Residents Get Worst Care In The Nation

A study prepared by the Chicago Reporter shows that black Chicago area nursing home residents receive the worst quality care in the country. There is just one nursing home in the Chicago area rated excellent by the federal government where the majority of the patients are black. These homes have more federal violations, medical malpractice and personal injury claims against them then majority white nursing homes.

The Reporter analyzed records from over 15,000 nursing homes nationwide in order to determine whether disparities exist in the quality of care based on a variety of factors, including race. The Reporter found that the worst rating was given to 57% of Chicago area nursing homes where the patient population was majority black.

Nursing homes have to comply with a variety of state and federal regulations that govern the quality of care required of their patients. There is a particular need to regulate nursing homes as they are usually operated as a for profit business and the patients are typically infirm and/or elderly. In 1987 the federal government passed The Omnibus Budget Reconcilliation Act which outlined the rights of nursing home patients, including the right to be properly evaluated at the time of admission and regularly thereafter as well as the right to have a doctor care for them.

July 8, 2009

Cerebral Palsy And The New ACOG Guidelines For Fetal Heart Monitoring

In the July issue of The Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynecology the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology ("ACOG") is rolling out its revised practice guideline for Fetal Heart Monitoring. According to the New York Times, the college hopes the new guidelines will do away with inconsistent interpretations and cause a reduction in the rate of caesarean sections, which is as high as 40% in cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

More then 85% of the more than four million babies born in the United States are subjected to continuous fetal heart monitoring. The force behind the revised ACOG guidelines, Dr. George Macones, a Washington University OB/GYN, believes that continuous fetal heart monitoring became the standard of care before studies could be done to show that the benefits of monitoring outweigh the risk of caesarian section. The college believes that fetal heart monitoring has caused a rise in caesarian section and forcep deliveries, is used by lawyers to bolster meritless malpractice claims and has not reduced the incidence of Cerebral Palsy and/or fetal death.

The new ACOG bulletin explains that the new guidelines do not affect the risk of Cerebral Palsy because more then 70% of Cerebral Palsy occurs due to factors that arise before labor and delivery. The new guidelines create three classifications of fetal heart tracings which depart from the traditional reassuring vs. non-reassuring dichotomy. The new categories are normal, indeterminate (not to be read as dangerous) requiring re-evaluation and abnormal. The college expects to further refine these guidelines in the coming years.

This is an interesting but not suprising change of position from ACOG. Fetal heart monitoring is, for the most part, non-invasive and risk free. Caesarian Section is one of the safest surgeries practiced in modern medicine. Cerebral Palsy is a devastating condition. Is the college motivated by providing better and safer care to its patients or protecting doctors from malpractice litigation which, they claim, has led to soaring malpractice premiums. Only time will tell.

July 7, 2009

Suburban Chicago Mom Killed, Daughter Injured In Bicycle Accident

Darlene McCue of Bristol, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, was killed on Sunday when her bicycle was hit by a Yorkville man who was driving a pickup truck. Her daughter, age 25, was also injured in the accident and remains in fair condition at Rush-Copley Hospital. The pickup truck was driving east on Kennedy Road when it struck the two cyclists who were travelling in the same direction.

Police cited the truck driver for improper lane usage. Early investigations do not show any sign of alcohol or drug involvement. Bicycle accidents and injuries are often tragic. Following basic safety guidelines will help to prevent a bicycle tragedy.

Here are some tips to help you remain safe when riding your bicycle:

1) Always wear a helmet. Helmets are lifesavers and significantly reduce the liklihood of brain injury in the event of a crash.

2) Ride with, not against traffic. This will help you avoid a situation where a driver turns right into traffic and cannot see a bike rider.

3) Dont ride on the sidewalk. Drivers coming out of alleys or intersections don't always look to the sidewalk for bicycle traffic.

4) Get a fron headlight and wear reflective clothing for night riding.

5) Choose your route carefully. Avoiding busy streets can put you out of harm's way.

July 6, 2009

Does Medical Malpractice Reform Belong In The Healthcare Debate?

What does reforming medical malpractice have to do with the current health care reform debate that is a hot topic in Washington and here in Illinois? Not much, at least according to one ranking United States Senator.

"I honestly really don't see this as a health care issue," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). The Senator, a former Rhode Island attorney general, argues that medical malpractice is more of an "intruder" into the debate to protect insurance companies, hospitals and doctors from being accountable for their mistakes.

There is very little objective evidence that malpractice reforms, like capping damages awards, have any impact on health care costs. California, which has had caps on medical malpractice awards for more then thirty years, has not seen health care costs reduced over that time period. The argument that doctors are practicing defensive medicine by ordering expensive tests to protect themselves from litigation is equally unpersuasive. Susan Steinman, the American Association for Justice's director of policy, argued that hospitals and doctors seek additional tests to make more money, not because of the fear of lawsuits. Defensive medicine is not nearly the issue that doctors make it out to be and is more of a red herring to distract from real problems with the health care system, she said.

July 1, 2009

Fatal Injury In Southside Chicago Metra Train Crash

A Chicago man was critically injured and another chicago man was killed when they were sucked under a Metra Train on Chicago's Southside yesterday. The accident occured yesterday in an area between the Metra tracks near the 7500 block of south exchange avenue in the city's South Shore neighborhood.

The electric train was travelling at 8 miles per hour, according to a spokesman for Metra, when the men were sucked under the train and dragged along the tracks.