Articles Posted in Medical News

It is no secret that thousands of American patients die or are permanently and seriously injured by medical providers. More than 250,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. That staggering number makes deaths in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care centers the third most common cause of death in the United States. The number of Americans who die because of the negligent errors made by medical providers is higher than those who die because of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the causes of the deaths are not isolated to one common medical practice area.

The Johns Hopkins research involves a comprehensive analysis of four large studies. According to a report a year ago by the Washington Post, the Johns Hopkins report took into account studies from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2000 to 2008. The calculation of 251,000 deaths in a year amounts to nearly 700 deaths a day — about 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.
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“Leaders must commit to creating and maintaining a culture of safety.” National Patient Safety Foundation. Free From Harm: Accelerating patient safety improvement for 15 years after To Err is Human.  2015 (accessed Dec. 8, 2016). This is just a part of the Sentinel Event Alert publication of The Joint Commission Issue 57, March 1, 2017.

The core of the publication is that leadership in hospitals and medicine generally have a priority to be “accountable for effective care while protecting the safety of patients, employees, and visitors. Competent and thoughtful leaders contribute to improvements in safety and organizational culture.”

This alert acknowledges that hospitals, doctors, nurses and health care professionals must do a better job of protecting their patients from harm. The article states that “The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Database reveals that leadership’s failure to create an effective safety culture is a contributing factor to many types of adverse events-from wrong site surgery to delays in treatment.” Smetzer, J, et al. Shaping systems for better behavioral choices: lessons learned from a fatal medication error. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010; 36: 152-164.
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In the recent Illinois Appellate Court decision of McChristian v. Brink, it was held that the defendant’s attorney, representing a podiatrist and the podiatry clinic, was not prohibited from calling a controlled expert (Ill. S. Ct. Rule 213 (f)(3)) podiatrist to testify at trial when this expert was also one of the injured plaintiff’s treating podiatrists and a member of defendant’s podiatry clinic.

This court held that the Petrillo doctrine does not preclude ex parte communications with individuals who serve as the “corporate heads and are the decision makers of the defendant corporation.” Petrillo v. Syntex Laboratories, Inc., 148 Ill. App. 3d 581, 601 (1st Dist. 1986). The Petrillo decision and the many cases following that basic principle is that defense attorneys are not allowed to retain an expert who works for the same professional organization where the plaintiff received medical care.

In the McChristian case, the court ruled that the defendant medical group and doctor could utilize an expert witness at trial who worked for the same clinic as the defendant. Recent cases have expanded the Petrillo decision stating that a treating physician’s status can now be imputed to expert witnesses in the same professional association, even if they practice in different fields of medicine.
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Not-for-profit hospitals are tax exempt. Seven of the ten most profitable U.S. hospitals are nonprofit, according to new research. One hospital, located in Urbana, Ill., is involved in a contentious court battle. The decision could determine whether medical facilities are paying their fair share of taxes.

According to this study, delivery of patient care was a money-loser for 55% of hospitals in 2013, which was the year the study was done. About one-third of these hospitals made some money, up to $1,000 per patient. About 12% of those in the sample research group made more than $1,000 per discharged patient. The highly profitable hospitals were mostly for-profit corporations. In this group were Medical City Dallas Hospital in Texas and Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo.

The not-for-profit hospital Carle Foundation Hospital in Illinois claimed tax exemption, but state appeals court in January 2016 ruled Illinois law allowing hospitals to avoid taxes is unconstitutional.

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In this case before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were examined closely with respect to a subpoenaed nonparty deposition. The court stated that nonparties will be protected by undue burden and that, in weighing requests to depose nonparties, courts will consider four factors:

  1. The person’s nonparty status;
  2. Relevance of discovery sought;
  3. Need for discovery; and
  4. Breadths of the request.

In this case, the plaintiff Prabhjot Uppal graduated as a physician from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in 2005.  He obtained a residency at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

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A city of St. Louis Circuit Court jury found that Johnson & Johnson’s well-known white powder, Baby Powder and Shower to Shower and other products containing talcum, were the cause of the ovarian cancer and death of an Alabama woman. The Shower to Shower product line was sold by Johnson & Johnson in 2012. For decades, these products have been depicted in advertisements as beneficial for women and children.

The civil lawsuit was brought by Jackie Fox of Birmingham, Ala., which was part of a larger claim involving 60 other injured individuals. Fox’s claim was brought by her son who took over the case after his mother passed away in October 2015 at the age of 62. She died 2 years after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Fox underwent painful chemotherapy and radiation therapies in the effort to control her cancer.

It was alleged and proved in the lawsuit that Fox used the talcum powder as a bathroom staple for years. The jury deliberated for five hours after a 3-week trial. It was the first such case among more than 1,200 nationally that are still pending against Johnson & Johnson.

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Unfortunately, there are too many medical or hospital related errors that have injured or killed patients in the United States. According to a recent study by the Institute of Medicine, “Most people will experience at least one wrong or delayed diagnosis at some point in their lives, a blind spot in modern medicine that can have devastating consequences.” The institute’s report calls for urgent changes in many areas of health care. According to the report, the most significant change is that patients become central to a solution, said Dr. John Ball of the American College of Physicians. He chaired the Institute of Medicine committee.

The report indicates that medical providers must take patients’ complaints more seriously and make sure that the patient receives copies of test results and other records to encourage patients to ask, “Could it be something else?”

In other words, patients should be seeking other opinions from physicians to diagnose their ailments. This is a cultural shift. It could be the norm to finally get the right diagnosis or that the second opinion doctor calls the treating doctors to say it turned out to be this and not that. One of the most famous diagnostic errors occurred in 2014 when a Liberian man who was sick with Ebola initially was misdiagnosed in a Dallas emergency room as having sinusitis. The man returned two days later and eventually died.

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Eric Topol, M.D., is the director of Scripps Translational Science Institute, which is believed to be one of medicine’s most innovative programs about the digital future in medicine. The book written by Dr. Topol, “The Patient Will See You Now” was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review section on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015.

Commenting on the future of medicine and how it will be administered, he writes, “We are about to see a medical revolution with little mobile devices. Smartphones will play a role well beyond a passive conduit.”

Dr. Topol’s book says smartphones will be used to accomplish what doctors in their offices and at hospitals have been doing for many decades. The author says smartphones will be able to perform blood tests, medical scans and even parts of the physical examination. This is what Dr. Topol calls “bottom-up medicine.”

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The state of South Dakota has imposed a medical malpractice cap that leaves many who are injured or killed without a remedy. It was reported recently that a young woman who brought herself to a hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., because she was carrying a dead fetus for removal from her uterus found things going from bad to worse.

The hospital did a procedure to remove the fetus, but things in the recovery room left the woman in shock. The doctor who examined her did not notice that the first doctor who removed the fetus had perforated her uterus during the procedure. She was literally bleeding to death.

A nurse eventually noticed that something was wrong and rushed the woman back to the operating room where the doctors performed emergency surgery to remove her uterus. She survived the ordeal, but lost the ability to have children.

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In what appears to be a change in 100 years of law, the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta has ruled that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines can be successfully sued for medical malpractice by passengers who have been negligently injured or killed by the ship medical providers.

The federal appeals court refused to reconsider the decision that essentially opens the doors for cruise ship passengers to sue cruise lines for medical malpractice.

In a hearing that was held in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, Ga., the appeals court rejected a bid by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to revisit its ruling. The court noted that none of the 11th circuit judges voted in support of reconsideration.

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