Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice & Medical Negligence

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team recently ran a Spotlight Investigation into the practice of surgeons conducting “simultaneous surgeries: at the esteemed Massachusetts General Hospital.  This practice involves a surgeon or surgeons ‘shuttling’ back and forth between separate operating rooms, operating on separate patients, for with entirely separate O.R. teams.  Sound crazy?  Well, MGH officials claim that it’s s ‘sound’ and ‘safe practice, which saves time and money, without elevating the risk of harm to their patients.

Don’t tell that to a patient by the name of Tony Meng.  As the Globe’s Spotlight Team recently reported, Mr. Meng was examined at MGH for neck pain, combined with tingling in his arms and fingers. An MRI revealed a condition that was creating compression of his spinal cord. Continue reading

I’ve written in this blog extensively on the subject of medical negligence.  Some people have a hard time believing that medical negligence (medical malpractice) is really all that prevalent.  But it is – far more than the average person knows.    Approximtely 400,00- people die of medical negligence every year in the united States.  That fact comes from recently published study in the Journal of Patient Safety and was conducted to update decades-old data that consistently stated that fewer than 100,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors.  While doctors, hospitals and medical professionals have always quoted that figure, there was just one, huge problem with it:  It was based on data over 30 years old – from 1984.  The present-day reality:  Over 400,000, each year.

While frightening, this fact doesn’t make doctors or nurses “evil” – it makes them human.  But these errors DO occur, and they DO cause the victims of these medical errors terrible consequences.  As a Boston medical negligence lawyer, I’ve seen these realities first-hand, and I know the damage and heartache they can cause.  The the laws of Massachusetts provide redress against these events, and I’m proud to represent the families and individuals that I do, who have suffered the consequences of medical malpractice. Continue reading

When most people think of medical mistakes, medical malpractice or similar, they think of surgical errors (such as operating on the wrong patient or body organ,) or medication mishaps.

Hospitals spend billions of dollars collectively every year in quality control, quality assurance, and patient review systems.  Almost every hospital has what is known as a Committee on Mortality & Morbidity Review, to review and hopefully correct any patient errors that occurred under its roofs.  Entire organizations, such as the National Institute of Medicine, exist to improve patient care in large-scale hospital settings.  Continue reading

This post is for all women out there who get mammograms – as a Boston injury lawyer, I can’t stress enough that you always need to get second, if not third opinions, to keep yourself safe. Otherwise, you may become a victim of negligence and medical malpractice.

Here’s a case that proves my point. A 46-year-old woman underwent mammograms in February 2006 and later, in February 2007, which were ordered by her primary care physician. Both of the mammograms were reported as normal, although the woman complained of nipple retraction. What’s notable here is what didn’t happen – there were no breast examinations performed in addition to the mammograms. Unbelievable to most people, but true.

Finally, in May 2008, the woman underwent yet another bilateral mammogram. This time it was reported as abnormal. Her right breast was biopsied, with ultrasound revealing that she had invasive ductal carcinoma. The woman underwent a right breast mastectomy in July 2008. She also had to withstand post-operative chemotherapy and further surgical procedures to eradicate her cancer.

Today’s post goes to show you that if you suffer a Boston personal injury due to any circumstances – including a Boston car crash – it is wise to always seek a second opinion from doctors. As a Dedham/Boston injury attorney, I know this for a fact, and now, here’s an unbelievable Massachusetts medical malpractice case that proves that point. I am sure you will be as shocked as I am when you read about it.

Back in February 2007 a man was involved in a Massachusetts motor vehicle accident and transported by ambulance to the emergency room. He complained of an inability to feel and move his limbs. Initially, he was diagnosed with an incomplete spinal cord lesion.

Unbelievably, the ER doctor discharged the patient (plaintiff) with normal exam results, despite his continued complaints of an inability to move.

File this under “You Should Always Get A Second Medical Opinion.” Because you never know when a medical doctor is going to give you the wrong information, and the next thing you know, you suffer serious injuries as a result. Sometimes, that “bad medical advice” can lead to death.

Such was the case in 2006, when Eric Dupre, 33 years old, of Fall River experienced chest pains, prompting him to visit a walk-in medical clinic in Somerset. The clinic’s doctor performed an EKG on him, which showed nothing abnormal. He was told to go home and rest. And he died 12 hours later.

His widow Michelle, and their two children, Riley and Zachary, filed a lawsuit alleging that Mr. Dupre’s death was the result of medical negligence by Prima Care, as well as that of the doctor, Dr. James Stubbert, and his physician’s assistant, Amber Mello. Just this week the case settled for $2.5 Million. As part of the settlement, all parties involved promised to not comment on the incident.

It’s the word we all never want to hear: cancer.

That was the very word that Mary White heard on Friday afternoon in May 2007. Her gynecologist called her to say that the polyp that she had had removed a week prior was actually “an aggressive uterine cancer.” The gynecologist told her she needed additional surgery urgently. to remove the cancer. Not surprisingly, she panicked at this information and had her uterus removed. Not too long after the surgery, however, she received another unexpected phone call. This time, her gynecologist informer her that in fact, she did not have cancer at all, and never did have cancer. The surgery removing her uterus, and rendering her sterile for life, was needless.

You don’t have to be a Boston medical malpractice attorney, as I am, to understand the tumultuous and devastating emotions that Ms. White suffered due to those two phone calls. Anyone would sympathize and empathize with her circumstances.

As I frequently say, the devil is in the details.

In a recent Massachusetts medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff was awarded a $350,000 settlement, both parties involved in the dispute argued whether the patient’s health problems were the result of a robotic surgery, or simply a case of hemorrhoids.

The settlement was the result of a botched surgery. The female patient underwent a robotic-assisted total hysterectomy and ovary removal for uterine fibroids and cysts. In the process of removing her uterus, the doctors also wound up damaging a substantial part of her sigmoid colon. This required an emergency loop ileostomy, in which she had to live with an ostomy bag so that waste could be drained. The patient was going to testify that she was never explained the risks of robotic surgery. This is that “small detail” which, in effect, turned out to be quite huge.

It is said that life is ironic. Occasionally an event comes along to prove that point, and today’s post is a tragic reminder of that.

The case is ironic because it involves catastrophic consequences of medical negligence, with the victim being a doctor and surgeon. The plaintiff doctor, 61 years old, underwent elective surgery for a condition known as cervical stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The operation required the placement of surgical screws into the spine, and the neurosurgeon performing the surgery drilled a hole into the plaintiff’s spinal cord. In the process, the surgeon punctured what is known as the dura of the spinal column, which is the membrane covering the spinal cord. The plaintiff awoke from the surgery a quadriplegic.

Following the surgery, the plaintiff underwent extensive inpatient physical rehabilitation for two months. Following months of physical therapy and medical management, he slowly – and surprisingly – improved. Before his rehabilitation began, he had to be lifted out of bed by an electric lift in order to be placed into a wheelchair. He had to be essentially “retrained” in every aspect of daily living, including not only basic ambulating, but in controlling bladder and bowel movements, and basic motor skills. Upon inpatient discharge, the plaintiff then had to undergo more extensive physical therapy for several additional months. He progressed from a wheelchair, to walking with forearm crutches, to using a walker, and he now walks with a cane. All in all, a miraculous recovery, most likely due to the fact that even though the doctor performing the surgery perforated the membrane covering the spinal cord, the spinal cord itself wasn’t punctured.

Medical negligence and medical malpractice usually involve mistakes in judgment on the part of a physician, nurse, or other health care provider. But an interesting source of medical negligence is on the rise in many American hospitals: It’s called “alarm fatigue”, and it most commonly affects nurses rather than doctors.

Think back to the last time you were on a patient ward in a hospital. Chances are, a great many of the patients were hooked up to some type of electronic patient monitoring system – whether for the purpose of monitoring heart rate, breathing, blood pressure or other vital signs. These machines are highly sensitive, and are designed to sound an alarm to the nursing station in the event of the slightest change in a patient’s medical status. That sounds good – until you consider the practical reality that if a patient so much as leans too much on a tube, or unintentionally pulls a wire out of its input, an alarm will sound. Sometimes, if a patient sneezes and breathing is momentarily interrupted, an alarm will sound. Now combine this with the reality that on any given hospital patient ward, there are perhaps 50 or more patients at any given time. The result? Patient monitor alarms going off left and right. The practical reality is that a cacophony of alarm noises can result at nursing stations, and eventually, the alarms no longer produce the result they were designed to: An immediate human response to investigate any medical emergency. The Boston Globe reported on this new development recently (click on link for story.)

All of this poses an interesting legal question: Should nurses and hospitals be held legally liable for medical malpractice if medical harm or death results from a patient not being responded to appropriately, due to ‘alarm fatigue’? As a Dedham, Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, my professional opinion is thus: It depends. Nurses are human beings. They are responsible for the care of several different patients at any one time. If a hospital floor or patient ward is regularly experiencing a cacophony of alarms, many of which are non-emergent or not life threatening, this can produce a desensitizing effect among the nursing staff. To my knowledge as a Boston, Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyer, there are no accurate statistics yet available as to what percentage of patient monitor alarms are in fact false alarms, but if the actual number were high, it would be understandable, from a human behavior perspective, why some nurses would not respond as quickly as if the false alarms were very low. The unfortunate result is that, eventually, a patient in genuine medical distress is not going to be responded to appropriately – and a medical negligence suit is likely to follow. One Massachusetts medical negligence lawsuit based on ‘alarm fatigue’ has already been brought.

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