Good Doctors Learn From Malpractice; Bad Doctors Lobby For New Laws

A week ago, the Wall Street Journal published an excellent article, “Clues to Better Health Care From Old Malpractice Lawsuits,” which detailed the way that malpractice insurers and medical safety groups have been pouring through thousands of closed malpractice cases to see ways they can improve health care.   As the Wall Street Journal says:   There are common themes in claims from almost every medical specialty—including failure to properly diagnose a patient or poor technique in a procedure. But data collections from different specialty groups are also helping to identify issues unique to different types of doctors, including primary-care ... Continue Reading

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Death From Medical Error: Even More Common Than The Headlines Say

A recent article in the British Medical Journal made the headline-grabbing claim that medical errors were now “the third leading cause of death in the US,” behind only cancer and heart disease. Medical errors, in their estimate, caused more deaths each year than motor vehicles, firearms, and suicides combined.   The backlash from the medical profession has already started. STAT News posted an equally-provocative article, written by an assistant professor of medicine, “Don’t believe what you read on new report of medical error deaths.” MedPageToday grumbled about the “superficial coverage” and made several complaints. Skeptical Scalpel said the article “shines ... Continue Reading

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When Will Hospitals Learn How To Use Heparin?

Heparin is one of the most basic medicines used in medicine, the primary anticoagulant used by hospitals, which is why it’s part of the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.   But anticoagulants are so powerful that they are used as rat poison. Anticoagulants make a patient 10 times more likely to develop intracerebral hemorrhage, and thus all of them -- Heparin, Coumadin, warfarin -- have to be used with the utmost caution.   The Legal Intelligencer reported yesterday:   A Philadelphia jury has hit the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with a $44.1 million verdict for failing ... Continue Reading

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The Doctors Company’s Dubious Medical Malpractice Statistics

This morning, MedPage Today — which should know better — began their “Morning Break” with this description and link: An analysis of closed claim data from The Doctors Company suggests that physicians spend about 10% of their professional life dealing with malpractice claims, but most of those claims are closed with no money paid to the plaintiff. Goodness! That sounds incredible. Turns out, it is incredible. In fact, it’s false. The linked post by “The Doctors Company” at The Doctor Weighs In says: The average physician spends over 10 percent of his or her career consumed in defense of an ... Continue Reading

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Could Jeremy Carter’s Death Have Been Prevented?

Earlier this week, Jeremy Carter, the grandson of Jimmy Carter, died at 28 years old from an apparent heart attack. As his brother Josh wrote in a heartbreaking blog post,   He had a whole battery of tests just a couple months ago. He couldn’t eat well and his legs ached. He had nearly every doctor at Emory look at him. They ended up prescribing him Vitamin A and Vitamin D. After all that. He got the full work over and really just needed vitamins. If a 28 year old heart is going to go out, shouldn’t they have found ... Continue Reading

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PA Supreme Court Rejects “Assumption of Risk” In Malpractice Cases

Years ago, a family friend hired a contractor to do some basic work around the house, and paid half the cost as a deposit. Mid-way through, it became clear the contractor was doing a terrible job and that everything would need to be redone, so they terminated the agreement and brought in someone else. The contractor sued my friend in small claims court, asking for the balance of the contract. I told the friend to counterclaim for the initial deposit, and to bring to the hearing evidence of the faulty work. At the hearing, my friend showed a short video ... Continue Reading

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Doctor, Before You Save My Life, Can I See Your Hospital Contract?

Yesterday, my wife called me on her way back from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s oral arguments to tell me about Green v. Pennsylvania Hospital et al., a medical malpractice case. She swiftly assigned me two tasks: first, I had to figure out who the appellate lawyer for the plaintiff was (because they had done an excellent job), and, second, I had to write about the case. I had a hunch about the excellent lawyer, and the docket confirmed it was indeed Howard Bashman, proprietor of the impossibly productive How Appealing. I’ve admired Bashman’s appellate work before, including referencing his briefs ... Continue Reading

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The Pennsylvania Medical Society’s Hypocrisy On Malpractice Cases

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently picked up on a story that has been around the Philadelphia legal community for a while, i.e., the $1 million in sanctions entered against attorney Nancy Raynor in the Sutch v. Roxborough Memorial Hospital case. Raynor was defending Roxborough Hospital in a medical malpractice case in which the hospital failed to inform a patient or her doctor that her chest x-ray had revealed a potentially cancerous nodule on her lung. Twenty months later, the patient was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. She died six months later, and her relatives sued. The decedent was a smoker. ... Continue Reading

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Studies Again Show Dangerous Doctors Bigger Problem Than Defensive Medicine

If I told you that, every week, between 4,200 and 8,400 people were poisoned by contaminated food, would you say restaurants needed special protection from negligence lawsuits because fear of such lawsuits would force them to clean too much? “Defensive cleaning,” so to speak.   If I told you that, every week, between 4,200 and 8,400 people were killed in fires caused by bad electrical wiring, would you say electricians needed special protection from negligence lawsuits because fear of such lawsuits would force them to insulate too much? Call it, “defensive wiring.”   Of course you wouldn’t. Thankfully, I made ... Continue Reading

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ACOG Improves Its Guidelines On Brain Injury At Birth (A Little)

For lawyers who represent birth malpractice victims, few phrases conjure up as much ire and frustration as “the ACOG report,” the shorthand for a 2003 document put out by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (“ACOG”) called “Neonatal Encephalopathy and Cerebral Palsy: Defining the Pathogenesis.” Despite its title, the report made no effort to explain how a doctor could determine the cause of a particular child’s cerebral palsy, and it made no effort to explain how the incident of neonatal encephalopathy (i.e., newborn brain damage) could be reduced. (Bob Schuster has a little more on its origins, and MedScape ... Continue Reading

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