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Articles Posted in Surgical Malpractice

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The plastic surgeon who treated Kanye West’s mother the day before she died has given up his medical license in California.  Donda West, the longtime Chicago, Illinois resident and mother of rap artist Kanye West, died the day after cosmetic surgery at the hands of Dr. Jan Adams.

Adams has had a host of legal and personal problems since 2001, including four malpractice judgments, two DUI arrests and convictions and allegations that he failed to pay child support.  Rather then fight proceedings against him, he voluntarily gave up his medical license.

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The Chicago Sun-Times reported today in its health column about a frequently misdiagnosed medical problem in newborns called malrotation.  Malrotation is an abnormal alignment of the bowels which can cut off blood flow to the baby’s intestines.  Malrotation occurs in 1 in 500 births, and most cases are diagnosed within the first year of life.

The condition is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms are often confused with other, less serious conditions, like acid reflux or colic.  The condition can have serious consequences if it goes undiagnosed.  The longer the blood flow is cut off from the intestines, the more harmful the condition can become.  Undiagnosed and untreated it can result in death.  The gold standard treatment is a surgical procedure which untwists the bowel.

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Sadly, medical mistakes continue to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States.  There are close to 100,000 preventable deaths a year in America making medical errors the fifth leading cause of death in our country.  A culture of shame and a lack of accountability often times prevents full disclosure of medical mistakes to the victims or their families.

In Great Britain steps are being taken at the legislative level to change the secrecy that often involves a medical mistake.  Legislation is being introduced which would make it a doctor’s duty to inform the patient or his family if a medical mistake has occured.  This duty of candor will be imposed upon all health care providers and their corporate managers.

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Five medical malpractice cases pending in California settled this week for a sum of $1 million.  The settlements arise out of improper patient care that occured at a Northern California kidney transplant center that has been at the center of a controversy revolving around a poor record of patient care.

Federal and state investigators forced the hospital to close after the transplant waiting list grew to 1600 patients in 2006 while the center did less then 70 transplants.  It has been alleged that these transplants were either delayed or not performed due to bureacratic barriers at the the institution which caused some of the patient’s conditions to decline or die before they could receive life saving treatment.

The low dollar figures in these settlements are emblematic of the unfairness caused by California’s arbitrary cap on medical malpractice damages which sets the maximum compensation for these types of claims at $250,000.  This cap figure has remained unchanged since it was imposed in the 1970s.  The Supreme Court in Illinois is currently deciding the constitutionality of caps on medical malpractice awards.

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The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered litigants in medical malpractice cases to take steps to resolve those matters in order to decrease the court’s backlog.  Two senior judges have been assigned in Clark County to conduct a settlement marathon in May in the hopes of resolving the 216 oldest cases on the court’s docket.  The Judges plan to hold up to eighteen settlement conferences a week.

Apparently Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, has more then 400 medical malpractice cases pending statewide.  This number seems relatively small in comparison to the number of cases we have pending in Cook County, Illinois.

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Alex Parker of the Chi-Town Daily News is reporting that according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the University of Chicago Medical Center is guilty of violating a federal law by not giving an elderly patient who later died adequate medical treatment.  The University of Chicago’s own internal investigation demonstrated that its staff did not follow the U of C’s own policies and procedures when caring for the patient.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is a federal law that requires every emergency room to offer stabilizing treatment to any patient who comes to the emergency room for treatment, regardless of ability to pay.

Anyone who meeds medical care at an emergency room is absolutely entitled to be triaged and monitored regardless of the circumstances.  EMTALA absolutely forbids hospitals from engaging in the practice of patient “dumping” including outright denials of treatment or a referral to another ER.  This practice often occurs when a low income or senior citizen appears at an ER facility and does not appear to be able to pay for care.

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The United States Department of Health And Human Services has offered the public some advice on how to protect themselves against unintended medical errors.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services medical errors are one of the nations leading causes of death.  Here are 20 tips to help avoid unintended medical consequences:

1. The single most important way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team.

That means taking part in every decision about your health care. Research shows that patients who are more involved with their care tend to get better results. Some specific tips, based on the latest scientific evidence about what works best, follow.

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The National Academy of Science is reporting that close to 100,000 people who die each year are the victim of preventable medical mistakes.  A medical mistake can mean a doctor chose the wrong type of care in response to a medical problem or provided the correct type of care but carried it out incorrectly.

church lady.jpgComedian Dana Carvey is one of the lucky ones.  Mr. Carvey believed he was having a double coronary artery bypass which would save his life.  Instead his doctors bypassed the wrong artery.  Luckily, he survived the mistake.  He has filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against the surgeon who made the mistake.

The sugeon claims he made an honest mistake, in part because Mr. Carvey had an unusual anatomic architecure.  Carvey doesn’t see it that way.  “It’s like removing the wrong kidney. It’s that big a mistake,” the entertainer told People magazine.

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MarineCorpsSeal.jpgShould an active member of the United States military be able to sue the United States Government for medical malpractice?  The answer according to the United States Supreme Court in Feres v. The United States, 24 U.S. 135 (1950) is no.  The Feres doctrine, as it is commonly know, prohibits an active member of the military and not on furlough from suing the United States for injuries caused by another member of the military.  This bar does not extend to family members of active military personnel.

A congressman from New York has introduced legislation in congress to reverse the Feres decision and make the military accountable for the medical malpractice of military doctors.  The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009 is the subject of hearings that are currently before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.  Carmelo Rodriguez was a Marine who died in 2007 after military doctors misdiagnosed a melanoma on his left buttock.  Motivated by his memory, Sgt. Rodriguez’s family has spearheaded this legislation.

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corruption.jpgJessica Fargen reported in today’s Boston Herald that a Boston Medical Malpractice defense attorney hired by one of the area’s largest malpractice insurance companies advised a doctor that he could avoid being served with a summons in a major medical malpractice lawsuit if he left the country.

Dr. Eran Bar-Mer finished his fellowship at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center and was travelling cross-country with the intention to emmigrate to Israel.  Allegedly his insurance company appointed lawyer advised him that he was “lucky” to be leaving the country and the jurisdiction of the court.  He was ultimately served with the lawsuit when he returned to Boston on business two months later.

Legal proceedings are adversarial in nature.  Most lawyers believe in punching hard but punching fair.  When a member of the bar advises a defendant whom he represents to leave the jurisdiction of the court to avoid service things have gone a little too far.  Hopefully this lawyer has simply lost his way.  It is sad when the greed and corruption that has become pervasive in corporate america taints the legal profession.

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