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Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Blog

Jury verdict of $130 million in birth injury case

After a ten year delay, a family was finally awarded $130 million in a birth injury case that reportedly involved medical malpractice. This was actually the third trial to take place. The verdict in the first trial was favorable to the hospital, but that verdict was later reversed. A second trial resulted in a hung jury, and the third ended with the above mentioned verdict.

Neither the attorney for the child nor the attorneys for the hospital are convinced this is the end of the matter, however. It's likely that attorneys for the hospital will move for yet another trial, or even attempt to have the jury set aside.

Electronic health records implicated in medication type errors

The debate continues as to whether electronic health records do more harm than good. A recent study of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System databases claims that thousands of medication and other types of errors are occurring due to use of the electronic records.

The great majority of the errors did not result in any harm to patients. Other errors that resulted in what was called "temporary harm" came about because of incorrect medication information was added to the records, and this resulted in administration of the wrong medication. In at least one case it resulted in significant harm where a patient that was allergic to penicillin was nevertheless prescribed the medication.

Outbreak of Hepatitis C blamed on surgeon

A jury awarded $524 million medical malpractice verdict to three individuals with at least two of the individuals stating that they had received Hepatitis C due to the unsanitary practices of a surgeon. It is claimed that a gastroenterologist reused vials of anesthesia and failed to sterilize equipment. It is also alleged that the practices of this doctor may have caused as many as 50,000 patients to have contracted Hepatitis C as well due to surgical errors.

Though the case was not tried in Pennsylvania, it could well have impact on cases tried here. It was reported that $500 million of the award was for punitive damages, and the remainder was for compensatory damages. As Hepatitis C can potentially be lethal, it is at least understandable why this verdict would be quite large.

Better communication means less medical malpractice

The research appears to be very simple: when doctors don't listen to their patient, they also misdiagnose symptoms and illnesses. Also, miscommunications to patients can lead to a variety of complications as well: failure to follow directions, medical complications and medication errors.

Even hospitals recognize the need for better communication between doctors and patients (though not completely out of the goodness of their heart). If the patients are able to communicate with each other, the patient is less likely to sue the doctor - even if a medical mistake occurs.

Teenage girl dies during wisdom tooth procedure

A 17-year old girl underwent wisdom teeth surgery, went into a coma and then died 10 days later. It is believed that the young girl's brain was deprived of oxygen at the time that the surgery was going on and this resulted in the teenager suffering from brain damage.

The girl's mother has since filed a medical malpractice case against the anesthesiologist, the oral surgeon and the medical center where the operation took place. It is asserted in the complaint that medical personnel failed to revive the girl after her heart had dramatically slowed. Failure to respond ultimately resulted in the oxygen deprivation to the brain.

Efforts made to limit elective early birth deliveries

Programs are in place to cut down on early elective births of children, but Pennsylvania seems to be behind on this trend. Elective birth deliveries in Pennsylvania remain as high as 26.2 percent. It is felt that too many doctors are scheduling deliveries for as early as the 37th week.

The suggested guidelines are that we wait until at least the 39th week for delivery as this is deemed safer for both the baby and for the mother. When labor is medically induced, delivery by Cesarean section often also becomes necessary. By asking women to hold off until at least the 39th week Cesarean type deliveries have also been significantly reduced.

Work shifts for doctors and medical mistakes

A study suggests that shorter shifts for doctors and other medical professionals may lead to more medical mistakes. Medical errors often occur during work shift changes because those just coming to work may not be as familiar with what has been going on regarding treatment of a patient.

A Pennsylvania doctor co-authored a paper regarding this phenomenon. Miscommunications take place, doctors and nurses taking over a case may not be as familiar with the patient's history, and they also may be less "emotionally vested" in the care for this patient.

Pennsylvania woman sues doctor over claimed surgical mistake

A Pennsylvania woman has brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against a physician asserting that a surgical error on his part has resulted in nerve damage, needless pain and suffering and the need for additional medical and surgical procedures. She described the injuries that she received as being severe and permanent in nature.

Like so often occurs, the woman's symptoms appeared relatively minor. She came to the doctor complaining of elbow pain. When medications and physical therapy did not appear to resolve her symptoms, the doctor then attempted an aspiration of a hematoma that appeared on an MRI, but the aspiration did not appear to be successful. She was then referred to another doctor, and the woman ended up undergoing surgical exploration and a nerve grafting procedure.

Children and the prescribing of medications

There have long been concerns raised in Pennsylvania and across the nation regarding the overmedicating of young people, but not all doctors seemed to have received the message. There remains a push for doctors to provide young people with medications that are supposed to boost a child's memory. This includes using stimulants that purportedly will affective cognitive functioning.

The American Academy of Neurologists (AAN) has recently released a study concerning this trend. The study's conclusions warn that prescribing medications for this purpose also increases the chances of cardiovascular problems developing, and young people becoming addicted to these and other types of medications.

Shortage of nurses may lead to surgical infections

A University of Pennsylvania study has produced an alarming statistic. Shortage of critical care nurses has been blamed in a large number of patient deaths. The researchers concluded that had Pennsylvania put into place a minimum nurse to patient ratio, more than 250 surgical deaths could have been prevented in 2010 alone.

This figure is significant in part because of the role these nurses play in preventing surgical and hospital-related infections. Also, the cost of an infection acquired during hospitalization can raise the cost of a hospital stay from on average $9,477 per patient to $43,000. 

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