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Providence Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Overmedication cited as reason for woman’s death

Most medical experts in Providence County would agree that up-to-the-minute diagnostic testing and an observance of a patient’s current symptoms are both required in order to deliver adequate care. Any deviation from this standard could result in inappropriate therapies or interventions to be ordered, the application of which could potentially cause one’s condition to worsen even to the point of death. If such deviations are discovered, those affected by such errors may justly wonder why they ever happened.

Such is the question being posed through a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania man who recently lost his wife to a subarachnoid hemorrhage (or bleeding on the brain). He claims that the doctors who treated his wife failed her in two ways: they dismissed laboratory results showing abnormal partial thromboplastin time levels (clotting factors that indicate bleeding problems) as incorrect, and continued to administer the blood thinning medication Heparin. They then failed to heed her complaints of persistent head and neck pain, which the lawsuit claims were indicators of her being overmedicated. She subsequently become unresponsive and required intubation and admittance into intensive care. Her family later made the decision to withdraw care. She died the following day.

Dealing with a wrong site surgery

Of all of the expectations that you may have of your healthcare providers in Providence County, the most basic may be that they know which area or body part needs to be treated whenever you go in for surgery. Yet for many of the clients that we here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum have worked with, even that basic expectation is not met. Most may imagine a wrong site surgery as being a grandiose error such as a doctor amputating that wrong body part. In truth, however, these errors can go far beyond that.

A wrong site surgery is any procedure performed in the incorrect area or on the wrong part of the body. Incidents may include:

  •          Operations on paired structures that are done on the wrong side.
  •          Procedures done in the correct anatomical area but on the wrong part.
  •          An incorrect procedure being performed on the right body part.

Defining how heuristics can negatively impact healthcare

As healthcare providers in Providence County are only human, they are subject to judgment errors just like everyone else. The outcomes of their errors, however, are often tragic. Indeed, information shared by Johns Hopkins Medicine shows medical errors to be the third highest cause of death in the U.S.

One of the more common causes of medical errors may be the fact that doctors often rely heavily on “heuristics” when delivering care. Heuristics are guidelines that are commonly accepted in the medical community that doctors often use during the diagnostic process. They are often based on a number of different factors. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists the following four factors as being the most common for forming heuristics in healthcare:

  •          Recent experience
  •          Initial diagnostic impressions
  •          Collateral information
  •          Expert opinions

Who is as fault for your medication error?

Medications are an essential element of healthcare. At the same time, they also can pose a serious risk to patients in Providence County. If you are prescribed a medication by your doctor, you likely have full confidence that he or she understands exactly what affect it may have on you, and that your pharmacy will fill and label your prescription correctly. Most share this same assumption, yet the 100,000 hospitalizations and 700,000 emergency department visits that occur every year that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists as being due to adverse drug events seems to cast doubt on such confidence.

Who is responsible if you have an adverse reaction to a prescribed medication: your doctor or your pharmacy? The answer may vary depending of the determined cause of the error. If your doctor was not clear in communicating his or her prescription to the pharmacy, then it may be hard to argue that liability should not lie with him or her. Even clinics that communicate with pharmacies through electronic media may still cause errors by using the wrong brand name or recommending an incorrect dosage.

Hospital found liable for botched patient transfer

Medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Providence County may often list multiple defendants. That may be due to those initiating such action believing that several parties failed them in their cases, from the doctors and clinicians that treated them to the facilities where they were seen. Those hearing of these cases may think that in order for an award to be granted to a malpractice victim, a jury must find every defendant listed in a case as being liable. That actually is not the case.

A recent ruling in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Massachusetts illustrates this point. The lawsuit had been filed by a family that lost an elderly member to alleged negligence back in 2008. After deliberating, the jury returned a decision finding the hospital he had been cared at negligent in arranging his transfer to a critical care unit (despite it not finding individual defendants listed in the lawsuit as also being liable). In the lawsuit, the family alleged that after the man had been admitted with cardiovascular problems, his condition worsened to the point of needing to be transferred to a critical care unit. Yet the transfer ended up being delayed for several hours, during which time the man became unresponsive. Several days later, he died.

The potential complications associated with LGA babies

Like most expectant parents in Providence County, you hope that your unborn baby grows and develops at a healthy rate. Some may think that the larger that a baby grows during gestation, the better. However, as we here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum LTD have seen, large baby deliveries can often be complicated. Macrosomia is the term used to describe babies who are large for their gestational age. Your potential for having an LGA baby can often be spotted during your pregnancy in time for you to attempt to manage the factors that can contribute to this condition.

How much does your baby need to weigh to be classified as LGA? According to the online publication VeryWell.com, the average weight of babies born in the U.S. is 7lbs., 7.5 oz. Babies born at 8 lbs., 13 oz. or above are considered to be LGA. Birth statistics shared by VeryWell.com shows that roughly over 320,000 babies were born in this weight category in 2013.

Early discharges potentially affecting patient diagnoses

When patients seek care at a hospital in Providence County, they likely all share the assumption that they will not be sent home until the clinicians they see know what is wrong with them. However, that may not always be the case. Diagnosing a patient’s condition is typically a process rather than an event, with doctors often being asked to consider a number of factors before making a definitive diagnosis. Yet all of the information needed to make such a decision may not be available at the same that providers believe the patient is ready to be discharged. Indeed, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality cites “assessment and communication of problems that remain unresolved at the time of discharge” as among the most common reasons for hospital readmissions.

Among the elements needed in order to correctly diagnose a patient are:

  •          An in-person physical assessment (including a review of a patient’s bodily systems).
  •          A pathological review
  •          Laboratory tests
  •          Imaging studies
  •          A patient’s response to medication

Why is it so hard to find a good primary care doctor these days?

You may have noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a primary care physician in Providence County these days. Why is that? Information shared by the Center for Health Journalism of the University of Southern California shows that American medical schools churn out an average of 20,000 graduates a year. So why can’t you seem to find one of these new doctors?

The answer may lie in a paradigm shift within in the medical industry. Survey results released by The Physicians Foundation showed that in 2014, only 17 percent of physicians claimed to be operating in private practice, whereas 54 percent reported being employed by a hospital or healthcare association. Much of the reason behind this decrease in private practice physicians may be due to the heavy financial and regulatory demands required to run a medical clinic. Increased patient volumes due to more people having health insurance since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act combined with millions of Baby Boomers earning Medicare eligibility may require more resources than family practice doctors can come up with on their own.

Are you any safer in a clinic than in a hospital?

If you are like most in Providence County, then you likely view going to the hospital for treatment with a certain degree of apprehension. Yet due you exhibit the same hesitancy when visiting a local healthcare clinic? Information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that compared to hospitals, clinics handle much higher volumes of patients seeking outpatient services. Their data shows that in 2012, over 928 million Americans sought care from physician’s offices and clinics, while in 2011, just under 128 million people went to hospitals for such services. Given the huge discrepancy in the number of visits between the two types of facilities, you might assume you have a greater risk of suffering from a provider error at a clinic.

Statistics regarding medical errors, however, typically come from hospitals, potentially implying that clinics are safer. While many may argue that errors in clinics are underreported, there may be some logic behind the assumption that hospitals may pose a greater risk to you. They do care for patients with a much broader range of conditions, thus exposing you to more infectious disease-causing pathogens. Plus, as the services provided in a hospital are more extensive than those offered in clinics, you may also be more likely to suffer greater harm from a procedure done in such a setting.

Medical center facing lawsuits from five former patients

When Providence County residents think about the hospitals and healthcare clinics in the region, they likely hold a certain degree of respect for the resources these facilities offer and the service provided by those working in them. However, even the most respected hospitals with the most decorated staffs may not be immune to mistakes. Some may argue that a single error here or there should not be used to damage a healthcare facility’s reputation. At the same time, failing to report such incidents and to attempt to hold the providers responsible for them accountable could be end up perpetuating the problem of a single facility producing an alarming error rate.

A recent series of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Virginia seemingly shows how frequent errors at a single facility can be. A local law firm submitted claims against a VA medical center in the area on behalf of five separate clients. Each is of different ages, ranging from a young man of 34 to an elderly 81-year-old. Each of the plaintiffs is also seeking compensation for different types of errors. One alleges that complications from a reverse vasectomy procedure left him with neurological damages and still unable to conceive. The family of another claims that an undetected broken femur likely contributed to his death.

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