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Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Blog

Doctor penalized for poor record keeping

A Pennsylvania doctor was recently assessed a civil penalty of $2,000 and ordered to enroll in a remedial education program due to purported problems with the keeping of medical records. The doctor apparently did not note in the records changes in a patient's medical condition, nor did the doctor report the symptoms reported when prescribing a particular patient a controlled substance. It seems the doctor also failed to record details in prescribing the controlled substance.

The danger in errors in recordkeeping is that future medical providers are often in the dark as to what medications the patient is already taking. Combinations of certain medications can often result in adverse consequences and even overdoses for the patient.

Birth injuries and medical malpractice caps

Medical caps seem to be part of the discussion anytime a medical malpractice case is filed. Though the claimed intent of these caps is to compensate only legitimate medical malpractice claims, what it has instead often led to is confusion as to how much such legitimate claims should be awarded.

For example, a 4-year old boy from another state had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy that likely resulted from medical mistakes made by the doctor in the delivery room. The fund put in place to compensate the boy was part of a legislative package that went along with limitations put upon jury awards in medical malpractice cases.

Patient dies as result of anesthesia application

A Pennsylvania man with a history of heart disease was administered general anesthesia during cataract surgery and subsequently died. The eye doctor performing the surgery has now been sued for medical malpractice as a result of the man's death.

The allegations of the complaint suggest that the patient was a poor candidate for receiving this kind of anesthesia. It is also asserted that he was given too much anesthesia to begin with, and this resulted in the patient at first convulsing and suffering a severe loss of blood pressure. Eventually, the patient died of brain damage.

Doctors often reluctant to report medical mistakes

Federal requirements regarding the reporting of medical errors are apparently still open to interpretation. According to certain doctors, the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 was passed to encourage physicians to report errors while at the same time be shielded from public disclosure of these errors. Yet certain states have issued court rulings that may disclose more information than these same physicians are comfortable with.

One case concerned a woman that died purportedly due to a surgical error by physicians. The woman's family requested certain medical records regarding the woman's care, but the physician objected by claiming these records were protected by the federal act. Both the trial court and court of appeals disagreed with the physician's interpretation and allowed the medical records to be produced.

Patient's untreated infection leads to amputations

A patient wakes up and discovers that his hands and legs have been amputated due to an infection called methicillan-sensitive staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). This infection was originally misdiagnosed and, because it was left untreated, eventually resulted in the need for the removal of the limbs.

This patient has now brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital for its repeated failure to diagnose the correct condition. The patient had been told that he was suffering from bursitis when the correct diagnosis would have been MSSA.

Woman's cervical cancer missed for number of years

Washington Hospital, located about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, now finds itself in the center of a medical malpractice lawsuit. A former female patient claims a pathologist at the facility misread pap smears and other tests for close to five straight years before she finally was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The hospital has been reviewing its procedures, but also maintains that there are no indications that its practices have been deficient when it comes to a failure to diagnose while reviewing these types of tests. The pathologist in question stated that the reviews of this test "did very well," also.

Unnecessary mastectomy performed due to misdiagnosis

A woman was awarded $964,487 from her medical providers after a purported unnecessary mastectomy was performed upon her. This all came about due to tissue from a biopsy likely being misdiagnosed.

A lump in the woman's breast prompted what is referred to as a needle core biopsy. A pathologist reported that the tissue showed signs of "infiltrating ductal carcinoma grade I," and as a result surgeons decided to go forward with the mastectomy. However, two separate post-op examinations of the tissue showed no signs of this kind of carcinoma.

Doctor's stem cell procedure blamed for brain damage

A doctor recently testified at a medical malpractice trial about the actions of another physician. That physician apparently had removed bone marrow from one portion of the patient's body and injected this marrow into woman's circulatory system and brain. The testifying doctor apparently was shocked by what he heard, but the other physician let the doctor know that he had "good luck" with this procedure.

Apparently, the good luck has now ended as the woman was admitted to the hospital for brain damage one day after this procedure took place. A complaint has been filed against the treating physician stating that he had committed medical malpractice.

Medical technology and medical errors

As medical science becomes more high tech, we also need to understand the risks that come along with this technology. One particular problem with such devices is that the timers on these devices do not always work in the way intended.

One can only imagine the types of problems that may exist when medications are administered at the wrong time while using infusion pumps, or when anesthesia is provided at the incorrect time. Patients also have been known to be exposed to unnecessary radiation and have suffered radiation burns in the process.

Electronic medical records have led to medical mistakes

Though keeping electronic medical records on file was designed to make hospitals more efficient and improve on the level of care, there can be a variety of problems with this sort of system as well. For example, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's system recently crashed for a number of hours. Fortunately, the hospital had an alternate database that had patient's files available to remedy the problem.

Though keeping records in this manner was designed to speed the system up, many doctors and nurses have found the systems to instead be time consuming and not always user friendly. And there have been cases where the wrong medication was ordered for a patient that could have resulted in disastrous consequences.

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