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Providence Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Tying transitions of care to doctor errors

Every year, countless people in Providence County and throughout the rest of the U.S. suffer from mistakes made by doctors, surgeons, and other health care providers. While it should be remembered that health care providers are only human, many of these errors are the result of simple inaction or negligence. A report released by the Office of the Inspector General in 2010 showed that of the adverse events included in their study, 44 percent were preventable.

So what leads to this high occurrence of preventable doctor errors? In a great deal of these cases, it’s a breakdown in communication between providers. This has been shown to happen most during the transition of care from one doctor to another. These transitions can occur when a patient is referred to another provider, during a hospital stay, or at the time a patient is discharged from one facility to another.

The most common causes of medication errors

For many of those clients with whom we work here at the offices of DeLuca and Weizenbaum, the damaged trust between themselves and their health care providers following a medication mistake is the hardest thing they have to deal with. Learning to be an active participant in one’s own care can help to avoid such accidents. If one knows the root causes of most medication errors, then he or she may be more mindful when dealing with them. We’ll examine those causes in this post.

American Nurse Today reports that every year, 1.5 million Americans suffer as the result of a medication error. Multiple case studies involving prescription drug errors have shown that the most common causes of these mistakes are:

  •          Incorrect dosages or dosage strengths
  •          Medications taken by the wrong route of administration
  •          Incorrect medications being given

What causes doctors to misdiagnose patients?

Misdiagnoses have proven to be the most common type of medical error in the United States. When people in Providence County go to see their physicians, they trust that those practitioners’ expertise will lead to a correct diagnosis of their conditions. Yet it’s important to remember that diagnostic medicine is in essence a guessing game. You recite your symptoms to the doctor, and he or she makes a diagnosis based off of them. Laboratory tests and imaging studies are available to help confirm the doctor’s assumptions, yet in many cases, you won’t even progress to that point in an evaluation before your doctor settles upon a final diagnosis.

In a study shared by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, it was revealed that the most common cause of a misdiagnosis is simple physician overconfidence. Specifically, it stated that in many instances, doctors are so certain of their diagnoses that they often end the diagnostic process prematurely. Unfortunately for many doctors, it’s only through simple trial-and-error that they learn what the flaws in their diagnostic philosophies may be.

Periventricular leukomalacia: A leading cause of cerebral palsy

At DeLuca and Weizenbaum, we have seen firsthand how devastating it can be when a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. When these disorders can be traced to medical errors committed by Rhode Island health care providers, we help families hold these negligent providers accountable. In such cases, it is important to determine what type of underlying brain injury led a child to develop cerebral palsy.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, cerebral palsy can result from periventricular leukomalacia, a serious condition in which white matter in the brain is damaged due to an insufficient amount of blood flow or oxygen. As this type of brain tissue plays a key role in transmitting signals to muscles, extensive damage to this area leads to impaired motor skills.

The basics of a medical malpractice case

Those who have suffered physical injuries, financial loss or other types of damages at the hands of their physicians often want to gain a better understanding of their legal options. According to the National Institutes of Health, medical malpractice lawsuits are essentially negligence claims. As such, Rhode Island residents who choose to pursue such cases must establish the four elements of a negligence lawsuit: 

  •          The health care provider in question owed a professional duty to the plaintiff
  •          This provider breached this duty through his/her failure to properly follow the profession’s accepted standards
  •          This breach caused an injury to the plaintiff
  •          Damages resulted from these injuries, and these damages can be rectified through restitution

If these elements are all satisfied, plaintiffs may be able to gain compensation that will address their physical, emotional and financial losses.   

What is involved in the informed consent process?

Medical malpractice lawsuits in Rhode Island often involve issues of informed consent. According to the University of Washington School of Medicine, the informed consent process requires that health care providers disclose to their patients any information that they may need to make a decision regarding the acceptance or refusal of a medical intervention.

Patients must have voluntarily consented to their interventions and be competent in order for their decisions to stand. These requirements are in place to counteract the powerlessness that many patients can feel in medical situations, particularly those involving serious diseases and invasive treatments.

The dangers of an allergic drug reaction

Of all of the issues that clients bring to us here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum, medication errors are often the most difficult for them to comprehend. While it may take an initial adverse reaction in order for one to know that he or she is allergic to a medication, once that incident occurs, it is typically documented in a patient’s medical record. Even if an allergy is missed provider in the medical record, its presence usually shows up in the visit notes because clinical support staff are trained to ask for it during a patient’s assessment. Yet according to data shared by AmericanNurseToday.com, nearly 1.5 million patients suffer from a drug error every year in the U.S.

When one experiences an allergic reaction to a medication, every second counts. A delay in treatment can lead to a patient experiencing any number of problems, including: 

How can cancer be misdiagnosed?

Patients in Providence may feel as though given today’s advanced diagnostic tools, the missing or misdiagnosis of a serious illness by a doctor or other healthcare professional to be an impossibility. Yet it should be remembered that healthcare providers are subject to the same errors in judgment as the rest of the general population. According to information shared by ABC News, every year 1.3 million people are diagnosed with cancer. Yet researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital found in their own study that nearly 1 on every 71 cases studied showed a cancer misdiagnosis.

You might be wondering how an illness as serious as cancer can be missed or wrongly diagnosed. Cancer symptoms can often mimic the signs of other, less-serious ailments. Thus, should you present to the doctor with problems, there’s a possibility that he or she will immediately rule out cancer as a possible cause in favor of other, more common diseases. Without any accompanying radiological or laboratory studies that could show the presence of cancer, doctors could easily incorrectly diagnose you, leading to a delay in treatment that could potentially be life-threatening. 

Cerebral palsy resulting from birth injuries

Parents in Providence and all over the world no doubt feel that even though challenges are inherent with raising the children, the joy and love that their children bring to their lives makes enduring such challenges well worth it. Yet that’s not to say that those feelings make dealing with parental struggles any easier. Children will often demand the utmost from their parents’ emotional, physical, and financial resources. With handicapped children, that demand is often lifelong. What’s unfortunate is that many handicaps are often preventable.

Cerebral palsy is among these. This condition is the result of a brain injury or malformation that hinders muscle control and coordination, resulting in impaired oral and motor skills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently estimates that one in every 323 children in the United States has some form of cerebral palsy. According to CerebralPalsy.org, there are four main causes of this particular type of brain injury

Surgeon sued for not removing woman’s entire appendix

Doctors in Providence and throughout the rest of the U.S. are called upon daily to exercise their expertise and judgment in making fast decisions in attempts to save the lives of their patients. While some degree of allowance may be given in such circumstances, there are still basic standards of care in place that healthcare providers are expected to follow in nearly every medical and surgical encounter. A failure to do may easily be seen as doctor negligence by the patients who surrender themselves to those judgments.

This very scenario is at the heart of a medical malpractice lawsuit currently being argued in North Carolina. A woman is suing the surgeon who performed her emergency appendectomy for not completely removing the organ during the procedure. The original procedure was done after she presented at the emergency department on Christmas Eve in 2009 for abdominal pain. Later, she was seen by another provider because of the same symptoms. It was discovered that nearly a third of her appendix hadn’t been removed. The surgeon explained his actions by saying that a portion of the woman’s appendix was hidden behind her colon. Yet another surgeon testifying on the woman’s behalf stated that the standard of care was to remove all of the appendix down to only a 5mm portion, and that general surgeons should be trained on how to do so even when it’s view is obstructed by another organ. 

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Cases of Interest

  • $15.7+ Million - Class Action Lawsuit Settlement
  • $10 Million Settlement - Brain Injury
  • $8.7 Million Verdict - Loss of Limb
  • $5,200,000. - Infant Brain Injury
  • $4,700,000. - Failed Spinal Surgery
  • $4.5 Million - Birth Injury Settlement
  • $4,000,000. - Wrongful Death Verdict For Failure to Diagnose Cancer
  • $3.6 Million Settlement - School Bus Negligence
  • $3,500,000. - Construction Site Injury Settlement
  • $3,000,000. - Construction Site Injury Settlement
  • $2,900,000. Settlement - Failure To Properly Treat Eye Cancer
  • $2.65 Million Settlement - Failure to Diagnose Brain Swelling
  • $1,607,000. Verdict - Negligent Prescription of Drug
  • $1,500,000. Verdict - Negligent Prescription of Drug
  • $1,250,000. Settlement - Failure To Treat Infection
  • $1,250,000. Settlement - Failure To Diagnose Fracture In Cervical Spine
  • $1.2 Million Settlement - Emergency Room Negligence/Wrongful Death
  • $900,000. - Physician Failure To Transfer Child With Life-Threatening Condition to Proper Hospital
  • $850,000. Settlement - Birth Injury
  • $700,000. Settlement - Failure to Advise Patient of Medical Finding
  • $300,000. Verdict - Slip and Fall
  • $375,000 Settlement - Auto Accident
  • $375,000 Settlement - Premises Liability
See all Cases of Interest

DeLuca & Weizenbaum, LTD.

DeLuca & Weizenbaum, Ltd. | 199 North Main Street | Providence, RI 02903 | Phone: 401-354-7233 | Toll-Free: 888-876-9415 | Providence Law Office Map

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