Medical Malpractice: Injured

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Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice laws are aimed at protecting the patient from negligent medical treatment. These cases usually arise when the patient has been injured due to the improper actions of a healthcare professional. Take note, though--these cases can also arise through the inaction of the healthcare professional.

Medical malpractice is governed by state law and each state varies. But the basics are the same: the healthcare professional owes a duty to the patient and that duty entails competence in performance. But in order for there to be a duty, there must first be a special relationship between the medical professional and the injured party. For example, a doctor in a restaurant owes no duty to help a stranger at another table who is having a heart attack, unless the doctor comes forward and agrees to help.

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You'd like to think that a hospital would be one of the most clean, sterile environments around, considering it is where so many people go to get treatment for infections. And you'd also think that, of all the clean, sterile places within a hospital, its bedrooms, complete with clean sheets and linens, would be high on the list. But according to recent lawsuits, that wouldn't be the case, at least for a few Pittsburgh-area hospitals.

Two wrongful death lawsuits had already been filed against two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals, linking five deaths to heavy mold growth found in the hospitals' linens. And now a third lawsuit claims mold outbreak has taken another life.

In general, we want to encourage people to say, "I'm sorry" if they've made a mistake. It's the decent thing to do and it can promote good will and closer relationships. But in the realm of litigation, admitting to a mistake may mean admitting to millions of dollars worth of civil liability.

In an attempt to strike a balance between decency and legal protections, many states passed so-called apology laws, allowing physicians to express sympathy to patients and families without it being used against them in medical malpractice lawsuits. The idea was that giving doctors and patients a chance to reconcile would reduce the number of lawsuits or the amount at stake in those suits. But that hasn't been the case.

When a person is diagnosed as having an illness, a doctor is generally the one who makes that decision. That’s because doctors have been specially trained to make diagnoses, are certified by medical boards, and are more often than not insured against making errors.

A lawsuit filed in Ohio last year against a cognitive clinic shows just how destructive a wrong diagnosis can be — especially for a serious illness like Alzheimer’s. The lawsuit includes 50 plus people who all allege they were misdiagnosed by the clinic. Among the most heart-wrenching tale involves one man who committed suicide after learning of the misdiagnosis, only for his wife to learn that an autopsy revealed no Alzheimer’s disease at all.

Specifically, the case alleges that the clinic’s director, while holding a PhD, was not properly credentialed, nor trained, to make diagnoses, yet he would diagnosis patients, and sometimes whole families, with Alzheimer’s. It is alleged that she abused her husband’s actual real medical licensing to order patient tests. Additionally, she would attempt to persuade patients against medications (which she couldn’t prescribe anyway) and getting second opinions from actual licensed doctors.

While most people think of medical malpractice claims only in terms of the clear errors, like amputating the wrong leg, or dropping a junior mint into someone’s body during surgery, it is generally much more nuanced. When a doctor fails to make an appropriate diagnosis, prescribes the wrong medication, or fails to communicate important information, malpractice claims may be possible in these situations as well.

Many people are shocked to learn that doctors and hospitals frequently fail to disclose important information to patients, sometimes intentionally. Sometimes the failure to disclose info relates to mistakes a doctor or hospital made, sometimes it’s about test results, and sometimes doctors are just trying to prevent needless worrying. However, if a patient is harmed or injured as a result of a doctor or hospital’s failure to communicate medical information, such as test results, then they may be liable for malpractice.

Medical malpractice claims tend to be complex legal claims that not only require an attorney have specialized legal knowledge, but which will also likely require the assistance of qualified medical experts. Generally, medical malpractice claim is a type of negligence claim where a plaintiff claims that they suffered an injury as a result of a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional or facility, falling below the usual standard of care for medical treatment.

However, since the medical industry covers a wide range of treatments, facilities, doctors, and patients, there are several types of medical malpractice claims and lawsuits. Additionally, because medical malpractice is governed by state law, laws regarding suing doctors and hospitals will vary from state to state. Below are four of the most frequently brought type of medical malpractice lawsuits and claims against hospitals and doctors.

A former Team USA doctors for the Olympic gymnastics team, along with the USA Gymnastics organization, and Michigan State University, are currently facing a civil lawsuit as a result of decades of alleged sexual abuse by the one doctor against minor athletes. Nearly 20 former and current athletes have alleged that Dr. Lawrence Nassar sexually abused them while he was conducting medical examinations on them.

The allegations stem back to the 1990s, and include claims that the doctor would grope and molest athletes during medical examinations, and would even digitally penetrate them as part of bogus procedures. In addition to the civil lawsuit, Nassar is facing federal criminal charges for possession of child pornography. The child pornography charges allege that Nassar possessed child pornography from 2003 to 2016. If convicted on those charges alone, Nassar could be facing anywhere from 5 to 40 years in prison.

A transgender New Jersey man has filed a sex and gender discrimination lawsuit against St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center after it refused to perform his hysterectomy because it is a Catholic hospital. Jionni Conforti alleges that a hospital nurse originally scheduled the surgery, but was overturned by the hospital's director of mission services, Father Martin Rooney.

Conforti's lawsuit is the latest flashpoint in the battle between equal rights for transgender people and medical practitioners who claim they are unable to perform certain procedures based on religious doctrine.

The controversy over the Bair Hugger surgical warming blankets has escalated beyond expectations. When the federal court initially accepted the case as a multi-district litigation case, there were just over a dozen cases. Now, just one year later, there are nearly 900 cases claiming the Bair Hugger caused surgical site infections. Currently, the parties and the court are working on figuring out which cases will be tried as representative (Bellweather) cases.

Basically, the way the device works has been called into question, despite it being widely accepted throughout the medical industry. The surgical warming blanket system works by essentially forcing warm air into sterile disposable blankets that are placed on a patient's body.

The lawsuits claim that the part of the device that forces the air into the blankets can be easily contaminated, because it sits on the floor, thereby increasing the risk of infection by circulating contamination from the floor into the warming blankets that rest directly on a patient's skin.

We go to the emergency room because we need immediate, competent medical attention. Sadly, not all emergency room staff perform to that standard. Understaffed, mismanaged, or mistake-prone emergency rooms can cause more harm than good, and, like all doctors and medical professionals, they can be liable for medical malpractice.

How do you know if you have a case? Here's a look:

The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Nevada is facing a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of former patients that claim the hospital “dumped” them. Rawson-Neal is no stranger to these allegations and has faced lawsuits in the past over the practice. Additionally, it is estimated that Rawson-Neal has dumped nearly 1,500 patients by providing them one-way bus tickets to cities all across the country.

For those that don’t know, when a hospital involuntarily discharges a patient rather than continuing to provide the needed treatment or a referral and transportation to a more suitable facility, this is called dumping.

Frequently, the practice is done in such a way that puts the patients at high risk of harm, and even death. There are countless documented incidents where hospitals discharge patients by sending them to other cities on busses, or simply dropping them off in another county on the side of the road. It is rather common that when a patient is dumped, they will end up homeless and in need of much more care than they would normally have required.