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Providence Medical Malpractice Law Blog

What is a “never event” surgical mistake?

Not all instances of medical malpractice are the same. In some Rhode Island cases, healthcare providers may make errors that result in minor harms. On the other hand, certain types of medical interventions are at high risk for serious injuries. The invasiveness of surgical procedures, for example, increases the chance that an error will lead to a severe complication. As such, strong steps should be taken to eliminate all preventable surgical errors, which are also known as “never event” surgical mistakes.

According to a study published by Johns Hopkins Medicine, about 80,000 never event errors were committed from 1990 to 2010. The study found that in 6.6 percent of cases, these errors resulted in patient fatalities. In 32.9 percent of cases, patients were left with permanent injuries. Included in the never event category are the following types of errors:

  • Leaving foreign objects in a patient
  • Incorrect surgical procedures
  • Removing the wrong body part or organ
  • Operating on the wrong area

Surgical site infections due to doctor negligence

Today, advanced surgical technologies allow doctors and surgeons in Cranston to perform interventions that were once believed to have  been impossible. When prepping for surgical procedures, many patients may take the view that their upcoming procedures are routine and without risks. However, it should be remembered that even though today’s surgeries are typically performed by skilled professionals in sterile environments using state-of-the-art equipment, the threat of surgical complications still remains. One such threat is the risk of acquiring a surgical site infection.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, SSIs occur in about 1 to 3 percent of all surgical cases. They can range from simple inflammation around a surgical incision to infections in the muscle, fascia, and even the underlying vital organs. These types of medical events should be taken very seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that roughly 75 percent of deaths associated with SSIs are related to the infections themselves as opposed to secondary complications.

Pinpointing the reasons behind medication mix-ups

For those clients that come to us here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum after having suffered from a dangerous drug reaction, their first question is often how could skilled doctors and pharmacists could make these mistakes. Often, prescription errors are chalked up to poor communication between providers. However, as we’ll discuss in this post, medication mix-ups aren’t always that simple.

There are literally thousands of prescription and over-the-counter medications available to assist with various forms of treatment. Due to this diversity of drugs on the market, pharmacists have more room for error when it comes to filling a prescription with the wrong medication. Similarities between drugs can easily lead to mistakes. Often, medications that are variants of the same drug with different dosage strengths have very similar names. An example of this, as described by the Department of Pharmacy Services from The SUNY Downstate Medical Center, is Novolin and Novolog. Both are human insulin products, yet a confusion of one for the other can lead to complications such as hypoglycemia.

Why are heart attacks misdiagnosed more in women than in men?

Many in Pawtucket may be under the same assumption regarding heart disease and heart attacks that the rest to the country is. That assumption typically is that men are more much more likely to die from a heart attack than women are. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. In fact, information collected by the American Heart Association and shared by CNN shows that 62 percent of women survive their first heart attack, as opposed to 77 percent of men.

Why then would it seem that heart disease has a gender bias? It could be due to the fact that women are also more likely than men to experience a heart attack misdiagnosis. Heart attacks already rank high on the list of conditions most likely to be misdiagnosed. The reason behind this is that the earliest symptoms of a heart attack, namely severe heartburn, chest pain, or pain in the extremities, closely resemble the symptoms of other, less harmful ailments. These can include an anxiety attack, a gallbladder infection, or a pulmonary embolism.

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.

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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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