Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

daniel-frank-201417-300x200Under House Bill 1215, introduced in February 2017 by Rep. Steve King, R-IA, there would be a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages for civil malpractice cases involving elderly and dependent adults. While California has a similar cap, it does not apply to lawsuits involving negligence and abuse toward the elderly and dependent adults. Lawmakers stress that the bill is intended to reduce healthcare costs and increase access to healthcare – it is even named “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.” Since the federal government is adversely affected by malpractice lawsuits for individuals insured through Medicare, legislators estimate it could save the government $62 billion in the next 10 years. However, many healthcare providers and attorneys feel this law would take away a crucial protection against elder abuse and interfere with state’s rights.

Elder Protection Issues in HR 1215

As David R. Cohen of Stark and Stark pointed out, civil lawsuits are one of the only ways elderly individuals and their families have to recover after an elderly person or dependent adult is significantly injured or killed due to negligent, reckless, or intentionally harmful medical care. Civil cases enable victims and their families to be reimbursed for their expenses and compensated for their pain and suffering, which can be severe in elder abuse situations. These civil cases also serve to make fraud in nursing homes and other care organizations known to the public, increase accountability, and improve the quality of care adults receive.

file0001812797650-300x214National Health Care Decisions Day (NHDD) has become a week-long event held from April 16 through 22. The purpose of this event is to encourage adults across the U.S. to learn more about planning for their future healthcare needs, including drawing up advanced directives. Without knowledge regarding advanced directives, elderly individuals and their families can find themselves in difficult positions. Loved ones may not have the power to make necessary medical and financial decisions or may not know what their elderly family member would want. Without considering future situations and taking the legal steps to solidify what individuals want for their future care right now, it may end up being too late.

NHDD is More Than Information

NHDD is more than an informative week, which could fall short of being actually helpful for most individuals. Between April 16 and 22, both public and private health care providers across 50 states will offer free and simple-to-use tools for individuals and their families to learn about and create advanced directives. The information and tools also facilitate discussions amongst family members about what they want or need if they were to become physically or mentally incapacitated. Organizations like AARP, the American Bar Association, Livestrong, Supportive Care Coalition, and the Human Rights Campaign participate.

Trust is a fundamental part of almost all human relationships.  We trust that our spouse will be loyal, that our mechanic will be capable, and that other drivers will follow the rules of the road.  Perhaps there is no relationship in which trust is so important as that between a patient and a doctor.  We put our health and our lives in their hands, as well as the well-being of our children, because we believe they have adequate training and will remain true to their oath to do no harm.  Sadly, as our San Francisco wrongful death lawyer knows all too well, sometimes things go horribly awry.  While not every negative outcome is cause for a lawsuit, when medical providers fail to adhere to a proper standard of care and the result is harm to the patient, a medical malpractice lawsuit, wrongful death, or another civil claim may be appropriate.

Tragic Death of a Young Girl Following Dental Procedure in San Ramon

While it is far too early to know what went wrong and if someone is legally at fault, a tragedy occurred at a Northern California dental office last weekend.  According to SFGate.com, a three-year-old girl died last Saturday following a dental procedure at a medical office in San Ramon.  Emergency responders were called to the office around 10 AM on Saturday when someone reported that the child had stopped breathing following treatment.  The girl was taken to San Ramon Regional Medical Center where doctors pronounced her dead.  It is not known whether the child was under anesthesia nor do officials know the nature of the dental procedure performed that morning.  Medical and fire personnel declined to release details or comment on the case citing patient privacy laws.

Every year thousands of Californians suffer serious complications—including death—due to medical negligence. According to a 2015 report in the Los Angeles Daily News, ten of California’s largest hospitals “were penalized a total of $700,000” for “serious deficiencies in care.” For example, one San Francisco hospital was fined $100,000—its ninth penalty from state officials—when a patient was blinded after a patient received an injection against doctors’ orders.

Health Plan Not Liable for Its Own Hospital’s Malpractice

chiropractorUnfortunately, California law can limit the liability of large health care companies whose policies often facilitate medical errors. Here is a recent example from Los Angeles County. A 67-year-old woman was taken to a local emergency room. She presented with symptoms of headache, nausea, and vomiting. An emergency room physician ordered a series of tests, including a CT scan to check for any possible brain damage.

When Californians go to the doctor, we place our trust in that medical professional. We believe that the medical professional is highly skilled and capable of performing services in a way that will help us live healthier, happier lives. We don’t expect that a medical professional will cause serious injury that may compound the reason that brought us to them in the first place. Malpractice can cause extreme difficulty in your life or in the life of a loved one. Medical malpractice can cause financial hardship from subsequent medical bills and procedures. It can also take its toll on our mental and emotional well-being. It is a serious issue facing local residents, and an attorney experienced with personal injury as a result of medical malpractice can help you evaluate your claim. ecoli

How do you prove medical malpractice?

While each individual case is distinctly different, there are some general elements that must be proven in a medical malpractice case. Medical malpractice can be thought of as medical negligence, and there are common negligence elements that must always be proven in most circumstances. If you think you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should consider the following general requirements:

syringePatients place trust in their health care providers; they trust their doctors to provide a diagnosis and offer safe, effective treatment options. Unfortunately, sometimes health care providers take advantage of that trust. An increasing number of doctors across the country are alleged to have participated in a scheme to file false claims with insurance companies while using counterfeit parts in spinal surgeries. As recently as this month, new doctors alleged to have used fake parts in surgeries have been identified.

Nationwide Scheme to Submit Fraudulent Insurance Claims

Beginning last summer, more than two dozen lawsuits have been filed against a variety of defendants for participating in a scheme to use fake parts – such as screws and hardware – in spinal surgeries across the country. According to a Southern California Public Radio report, a Murrieta distributor, Spinal Solutions, manufactured fake non-FDA approved parts, which were provided to hospitals and doctors who submitted claims for more expensive FDA approved parts. Providers billed insurers as much as $12,500 for parts that cost as little as $300. The lawsuits allege that there are thousands of surgery patients who may have unknowingly had counterfeit parts used in their spinal surgeries.

Medical facilities are growing.  Hospitals stretch across multiple blocks and often seem like a small city.  Visitors often need to stop at an information desk or consult a map to find their destinationhospital.  In addition to medical personnel, large medical centers may employ dozens of workers in non-medical roles.  Injuries can and do occur on hospital grounds, including many that don’t stem directly from medical care.  In this post, our San Francisco injury attorney looks at a recent appellate ruling that clarifies the law on hospital slip-and-fall accidents and other instances in which standard negligence (as opposed to medical negligence) leads to an injury on hospital grounds.

The Facts and the Lower Court’s Dismissal

In June 2010, heart health concerns led to Asma Pouzbaris being admitted to West Anaheim Medical Center.  When she left her bed to use the bathroom, Pouzbaris slipped and fell.  According to the Complaint filed in the Superior Court of Orange County, the floor had recently been mopped but no warnings had been posted.  Responding to the defendant’s request for summary judgment, the court ruled the claim was barred by the statute of limitations.  Recently, the appeals court reviewed the trial court’s decision and, in a ruling available via the California Judicial Branch’s website, reversed and found the suit was filed in a timely manner.

Upon finishing medical school, newly minted doctors take an oath, promising to make patient well-being their top priority. Most doctors remain committed to this goal throughout their career. Sadly, however, a small number go astray and misuse their powers, usually for financial gain. Attorney Greg Brod, an Oakland prescription drug injury lawyer, works with families left grieving because a doctor fueled a dangerous fire and contributed to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

Podiatrist Accused of Writing Prescriptions for Profit

prescription.jpgAccording to sources cited by the Contra Costa Times, a San Leandro podiatrist is facing charges involving the illegal sale of prescriptions, the same offense he was convicted of in 2008. District Attorney Nancy O’Malley of Alameda County said that Dr. Tan Nguyen wrote more than 5,000 prescriptions in the last year, mainly for highly addictive narcotic painkiller as well as tightly controlled muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety medications.

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Typically the prognosis for anyone undergoing a routine form of surgery is good to excellent. And certainly a tonsillectomy would fall into the category of one of the most routine of surgeries. That’s why Bay Area personal injury attorney Gregory J. Brod is as shocked as the rest of the community and the nation over the tragic case of a teenager in Oakland who is now clinically brain dead after having her tonsils removed.

Procedure Done in Hopes of Controlling Sleep Apnea
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Jahi McMath, 13, checked into Children’s Hospital Oakland for tonsil surgery on Dec. 9. McMath suffered from sleep apnea, which is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which the afflicted person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, and her doctors felt that removal of her tonsils would help alleviate the sleep apnea.

Just after her surgery, McMath seemed healthy and alert, but later that evening she began to bleed and then she went into cardiac arrest. After experiencing a massive swelling in her brain, McMath was pronounced brain dead three days after the operation. Tests conducted since the operation have shown no brain activity.

McMath’s family has sought to keep her on life support, but her mother said that staff at the hospital had been pressuring her to sign paperwork to take McMath off life support and release her body to the Alameda County coroner’s office. In response, the McMath family attorney has delivered a cease-and-desist letter to officials at the hospital to keep the teenager alive.

Hospital Staff Remains Mum
Children’s Hospital Oakland officials decline to discuss the specifics of the case, claiming that the family has denied them permission to speak on the matter. As is the case in such situations, privacy laws forbid a hospital from releasing information concerning a patient’s condition or care without his or her consent.

Meanwhile, the McMath family understandably has maintained a vigil for their stricken teenager. And the family had been touched by the outpouring of support from strangers.

“A lot of people here don’t know my daughter, and they came out to pray for her, said Nailah Winkfield, the girl’s mother. “I can’t wait to get back to the hospital and tell her how many people are praying for her.”

Indeed, many are praying for her recovery, and news of her condition has spread around the world. McMath’s story has resonated on social media, where there has been an upwelling of support for the family.

For their part, the family is appreciative of the support and maintains hope that McMath will recover.

“We’d like to thank everyone across the nation who took time to pray for Jahi,” said Omari Sealey, the girl’s uncle. “We feel rejuvenated, we feel recharged, and we are ready. We are praying for a medical miracle, but we are also praying for the hospital to have more compassion.”
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One doesn’t normally expect to sustain personal injury when checking into a hospital or other medical facility, but unfortunately a significant number of patients are wrongly harmed or die every year while receiving medical care in the United States. And the perplexing death of one San Francisco hospital patient has left questions unanswered, including whether medical malpractice was involved.

Medical Examiner Investigating Cause of Death
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the body of Lynne Spalding, 57, was found by a San Francisco General Hospital employee in a stairwell about 10 a.m. Tuesday. As shocking as the discovery of the body of the mother of two and native of England was, the fact that Spalding was reported missing from the hospital more than two weeks before adds to the bizarre nature of this story. Spalding was last seen at SFGH on the morning of Sept. 21, two days after she was admitted to the hospital for complications resulting from an infection, and she disappeared from her room during a scheduled check by hospital staff on that day. Spalding’s friends have speculated that she may have been disoriented as a result of medication for her condition, and the San Francisco medical examiner’s office is attempting to determine the cause of her death.

While the exact cause of Spalding’s death remains to be determined, one thing that is certain is that SFGH had a duty of care for her and would be responsible for any incompetence on the part of hospital staff that led to her injury or death and that any such negligence would be the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Typically one of the questions involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital is whether the attending physician or physicians of the harmed patient is or are considered hospital employees or contractors, a factor that may impact the hospital’s liability.

Medical Errors Growing Problem in United States
The tragic death of Spalding stands out as grim example of when things go wrong at a hospital and may very well have been avoidable, but preventable errors at medical facilities include a wide range of never-should-have-happened phenomena, such as sponges left inside surgical patients, administration of improper medications, use of contaminated equipment and other types of mistakes. And it may come as a surprise to many, but medical errors are an increasingly deadly occurrence in the United States.
According to a recent report in Forbes magazine, 1999 statistics showed that 98,000 people were dying every year from preventable errors in American hospitals. However, the magazine goes on to say that a new study reveals that as many as 440,000 – or four times as many – people die from preventable medical errors in the United States. Putting the new numbers in perspective would mean that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, more deadly than auto accidents or diabetes but in line behind notorious killers such as cancer and heart disease.

Another disturbing fact that came to light this year concerns the record of hospital care in the San Francisco Bay Area. While Bay Area hospitals generally get high marks for keeping patients alive, at least half of all the region’s medical institutions posted worse-than-average death rates in one or more medical procedure or patient condition in 2010 and 2011, according to a recent report in the San Jose Mercury News. SFGH was among the many regional hospitals that registered worse-than-average death rates in some categories compared with the state average.
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