Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

The birth of a newborn baby is as natural of a miracle that we can observe in our world. A newborn baby represents hope, potential, and a clean start. Hundreds of thousands of births occur every single day, and unfortunately many of them have complications that result in various difficulties for the newborn baby and its family.  One form of complication, Erb’s Palsy, occurs in infants who sustain nerve damage in their brachial plexus, a cluster of nerves that root in the shoulder, near the neck, and flow down into the arms. These nerves can be injured in various ways, such as during a difficult or abnormally stressful breach birth or when the baby is excessively large.

Sadly, one of the ways Erb’s Palsy can also happen is as a result of a doctor pulling on a baby too forcefully during a challenging birth. It most commonly manifests when a newborn’s head is twisted too sharply in one direction, tearing or cutting off circulation to the nerve cluster. The condition can cause long-lasting or permanent physical disabilities in the child, from temporarily being unable to move its arms or fingers to having full limb paralysis throughout its life.  Most cases of Erb’s Palsy, which happens in about one out of every thousand births, are minor cases where the child can heal over a short amount of time on its own, due to the rapid cell growth and development of newborn babies. Parents can work with doctors and physical therapists to help gradually progress the newborn into overcoming the condition and establishing a normal life.

However, in some cases, if a child who suffered damage to their brachial plexus doesn’t heal naturally within three to six months, the doctors may recommend performing surgery on the baby’s nerves. This is only usually used for young infants, since their bodies can more adequately recuperate nerve function. The child may have to endure a nerve graft, which involves taking nerves from elsewhere in the child’s body and replacing the damaged nerves. In more severe cases, they may need donor nerves.  Even if the surgery if successful, children who suffer from Erb’s Palsy may still experience weakness or loss of function in the affected arm. They will need to undergo months or many years of physical therapy if there is any hope for them to regain normal function. Some may even need to have surgeries later in life. Physically, children affected with Erb’s Palsy will have one arm that is noticeable smaller or shorter than the other. Continue reading

Traumatic birth injury  occurs when the mother suffers severe injuries during the birthing process. In a recent case involving an Alabama woman who sustained injuries during her 2012 labor and delivery, the jury awarded $16 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

Caroline Malatesta claims she was severely injured during the birth process due to medical negligence and reckless fraud. Instead of the “natural birth” process she wanted, Malatesta was forced to labor on her back and remained hooked to monitors the entire time. Instead of allowing her to walk around and labor on her hands and knees, the on-duty nurse pushed the baby’s head into Malatesta’s vagina until the doctor arrived. This use of force resulted in excruciating pain and the development of a condition called pudendal neuralgia that will likely plague Malatesta for the rest of her life.

“I’m Rarely Totally out of Pain”

“Pain is fatiguing because you spend so much of your energy fighting the pain,” said Malatesta. “I’m rarely totally out of pain. I try to take only the amount of medication that will make it bearable, because otherwise I’ll fall asleep. It’s a daily balance.” Since the 2012 injury, the previously active mother of four now spends much of her day resting or taking baths. Her sex life has also suffered, and the injury has made her unable to have more children. “I have to pick and choose and be very intentional about what I choose to spend my limited amount of energy on,” she remarked.

According to Malatesta’s doctor, her injuries are likely permanent. But she remains hopeful.

“I refuse to say never,” she said. “I’m holding out for a miracle.”

When to Sue for a Traumatic Birth Injury ?

Injuries occur during childbirth, even when no one is at fault. In order to justify bringing a legal claim against another party, as with any injury, the victim must be able to show negligence or reckless behavior on the part of the defendant. This can be an extremely complex process, and the help of a personal injury lawyer with experience in traumatic birth injury cases is crucial to the outcome of your case. You attorney will review medical records, conduct witness interviews, and interview hospital staff.

If it can be shown that the conduct of the medical staff did not meet the accepted standard of care, you likely have a personal injury case on your hands. The compensation for injuries will be directly related to the severity of your injuries. For example, in Ms. Malatesta’s case, the award was significant, but so are her injuries. She will likely require ongoing medical treatment and pain management, and her quality of life has been severely impacted. Continue reading

Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) is a condition that newborn babies experience after they have breathed (aspirated) meconium into their lungs during or shortly before birth.  Meconium is dark green, sterile fecal matter that is found in the intestine before birth, distinct from stool because it does not contain bacteria.  MAS is a leading cause of severe illness and death in newborns, affecting 5 percent to 10 percent of newborns.  It is especially common when the fetus is under stress, often during labor, and can be exacerbated when the infant is past its due date.  Typically, the meconium is not released in the womb, but intrauterine distress can motivate the fetus to expel the fecal matter under certain conditions present at birth, such as inadequate oxygen in the blood.  This same stress may also cause the fetus to forcefully gasp, thereby inhaling the recently expelled meconium.

Symptoms of meconium aspiration syndrome include: bluish skin color in the newborn; breathing issues; dark, greenish staining or streaking of the amniotic fluid or the obvious presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid; limpness in the newborn at birth.  There are several ways to diagnose MAS.  Before birth, MAS may cause a slow heart rate, which can be detected by a fetal monitor.  At birth, meconium can be found in the amniotic fluid.  The most accurate test for MAS is using a laryngoscope to look for meconium stains on the vocal cords of the infant.  Abnormal breathing sounds, specifically coarse and crackly breathing, can point to MAS.  MAS is also characterized by low blood acidity, decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide in the blood.  A chest X-ray may also be used to look for patchy or streaky areas in the lungs.

A newborn’s mouth should always be suctioned once the head is out, which can help prevent MAS.  However, once MAS is diagnosed, there are other treatments available.  Such treatments include, antibiotics for infection; breathing machine to keep the lungs inflated; using a warmer to keep the infant at a normal body temperature; and tapping the chest to loosen secretions.  Typically, the prognosis for infants who experience meconium aspiration syndrome is excellent.  MAS is usually quickly treated and there are no long-term side effects.  Some infants may experience breathing problems for two to four days, but these quickly subside.  Although rare, more severe cases may cause long-term respiratory or developmental problems.  In such severe cases, meconium aspiration syndrome can deprive the brain of oxygen, causing permanent brain damage.  This can lead to the development of cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, or mental retardation. Continue reading

Massachusetts’ Noble Hospital is facing lawsuits from 25 patients who claim that improper sanitization of medical equipment may have put them in harm’s way. The colonoscopy patients allege that they were potentially exposed to life-threatening viruses, including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, due to improperly disinfected endoscopes. Although the potential exposures occurred in 2012 and 2013, the patients weren’t informed until January of this year. Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.

293 Colonoscopy Patients May Have Been Exposed

Nearly 300 colonoscopy patients may have been exposed to the viruses. According to Baystate Health, 243 of the affected patients have been tested, and no evidence of colonoscopy-related infection has been found. At the time of the potential exposure, Noble was an independent hospital, but it has since been taken over by parent company Baystate Health.

Endoscope Lawsuits – The Noble Hospital case is not the first time that endoscopes have been linked to transmission of harmful germs, bacteria, and viruses. Olympus, the world’s largest endoscope manufacturer, is facing multiple lawsuits from patients who claim they became infected with an antibiotic-resistant ‘superbug’ called Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) after procedures using the company’s endoscope.  In January 2016, a report was released by the Senate Health Committee, announcing that Olympus knew about the risk of infection transmission but failed to warn physicians, consumers, or the FDA for three years. Shortly after, Olympus issued a recall to make design changes they claim will reduce the infection risk. These changes include improving the seal around the new channel to prevent patient tissues and fluids from getting inside the channel.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

CRE is a life-threatening bacteria that is resistant to most antibiotics, earning it the title of “superbug”. Superbugs are, by nature, extremely challenging – if not impossible – to treat. They may lead to other serious, or even fatal conditions such as brain damage and organ failure.  Patients using certain medical devices, including catheters and ventilators, have a higher risk of contracting superbugs such as CRE. MRSA and C-diff are two other types of superbugs. Approximately 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year.

According to the Massachusetts Public Health Department, the new endoscopes were being cleaned using outdated protocol. The newer endoscopes contain an additional channel that administers saline solution to the patient’s body. Unfortunately, this channel was not properly cleaned, resulting in the possible exposure. Continue reading

Adverse drug interactions account for approximately 700,000 emergency room visits and 100,000 hospitalizations annually. In fact, nearly 5% of hospitalized patients suffer from medication errors, putting them at the top of the list for inpatient errors. It is likely that outpatient medication errors are even higher. Contact a Boston Drug Injury Lawyer Today.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices keeps a list of medications with a high potential for error. These include drugs that have dangerous side-effects, as well as look-alike and sound-alike drugs that have similar names and /or appearances but entirely different properties. The biggest culprits, especially among geriatric patients, are antidiabetic agents (insulin), antiplatelet agents (aspirin), and a­­nticoagulants (warfarin). Combined, these drugs are responsible for nearly half of all medication error-related E.R. visits for Medicare patients.

Nearly one-third of American adults are on five or more medications, and that figure is likely to keep growing. The good news is, about half of all medication errors are preventable. Through a process called medication reconciliation, adverse drug events can be dramatically reduced by ensuring that new prescriptions don’t have negative interactions with medications you’re already taking. Even over-the-counter medications can result in dangerous drug interactions. For example, if you are prescribed a drug with high levels of acetaminophen (Tylenol), and you are simultaneously taking over-the-counter acetaminophen for a headache, you may unknowingly exceed the safe dosage. In this case, overdosing could result in liver damage. Some adverse events, such as liver damage from an overdose of acetaminophen, may gradually worsen over time. Other types of medication errors can result in emergency health complications, and even death.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?

Proper medication reconciliation involves having a thorough conversation with your physician about the medications you are currently taking (over-the-counter, prescription, and vitamins). To significantly reduce your risk of medication errors, go to all medical appointments prepared with the questions below.

  • What is the drug for?
  • How long should I remain on the drug?
  • Should I avoid any food, drinks, or other medications while on this drug?
  • Does the drug have any side-effects?
  • What is the best method of storing the drug? Does it require refrigeration?
  • What should I do in the event of an actual overdose?
  • Will the drug interact with other medications I’m on?

Continue reading

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are usually the first responders at the scene of an urgent medical crisis. As such, their role is crucial to the patient’s outcome. EMTs are trained to handle acute health crises and serious injuries while en route to the hospital in an ambulance. Their goal is to keep the patient stable until they arrive at the hospital for more sophisticated treatment, including emergency surgery. Without EMTs, many patients would never make it to the hospital in time. Their life-saving role is responsible for saving people every day. But what if they make a mistake that causes injury to the patient? What if their mistakes result in the patient’s death? What if they refuse to treat the patient at all? Contact a Boston Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today.

If you believe that an EMT’s negligence resulted in serious injuries or death, you may want to file an EMT malpractice lawsuit. As with all medical malpractice cases, you must first establish that a breach of duty of care existed. Duty of care in malpractice cases refers to the standard of care that the medical professional is held to. Did he or she provide the same quality of care that an EMT with similar skills and knowledge would have provided under the same, or similar, circumstances? If the answer is no, the EMT may be liable for a breach of duty of care.

Examples of Breaching the Duty of Care

  • Failing to respond to a 911 call
  • Not arriving fast enough, or not getting the patient to the hospital in a timely manner
  • Not having the appropriate equipment, treatments, or medications in the ambulance
  • Improper insertion of a breathing tube
  • Giving hospital staff inaccurate information about the patient

Gross negligence is a more serious claim. Gross negligence occurs when the EMT’s actions are excessively negligent. For example, if the EMT refuses to perform CPR on an unconscious patient, this may be considered gross negligence. However, if the EMT performs CPR but is unsuccessful at saving the patient, this would not be considered gross negligence.

What if My Ambulance is Involved in an Accident?

If an ambulance is involved in a collision while a patient is inside, the patient is entitled to file a claim. You may be able to recover damages if you were injured as a result of the accident. Whether compensation comes from the ambulance company or the driver of another vehicle depends on who was at fault in the accident. Continue reading

Warming blankets used on patients during certain knee and hip surgeries have been linked to serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. The 3M Bair Hugger warming system helps to regulate a patient’s body temperature while under anesthesia. Unfortunately, many patients have developed deep joint infections after using these warming systems. As a result, some patients have required additional surgeries, including removal of hip and knee replacements, and others have become permanently disabled. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Since its approval by the FDA in 1998, the forced air warming blanket manufactured by Arizant Healthcare, Inc., has been used during millions of knee and hip replacements. Vents allow heated air to circulate around the patient, including in the area beneath the operating table. This warmed air helps to reduce bleeding from incisions and may result in faster recovery periods. However, recent findings show that the warming system may also spread bacteria, leading to infections and other serious complications.

Warm Air May Transfer Germs and Bacteria to Surgical Incisions

The Bone & Joint Journal conducted a study of the warming blanket system in 2013. Their research revealed that the blanket could recirculate contaminants it comes in contact with, including MRSA and sepsis. Germs and non-sterile air under the operating table can be transferred to the sterile surgical site through convection currents created by the warmed air. In August 2013, an article was published in Anesthesia & Analgesia warning patients about the risks associated with the 3M Bair Hugger system and other similar warming blankets. When bacteria and germs are blown into surgical incisions, the risk of infection increases substantially. Possible complications associated with this risk include:

  • Additional surgeries
  • Removal of hip or knee devices
  • Amputation of affected limb(s)
  • Death

Many of the lawsuits against 3M and its manufacturer Arizant Healthcare, Inc. allege that the device was not adequately tested prior to its release. Follow-up testing may have also been insufficient. Even the device’s inventor, Dr. Scott Augustine, has expressed his concerns about the device’s safety.  Had proper testing been conducted, multiple patients may have been spared unnecessary pain, additional surgeries, and debilitating injuries. One patient in particular required five additional surgeries following the initial surgical procedure using a warming blanket.

Symptoms of Complications from Warming Blanket

If you develop any of the following symptoms after a surgical procedure using a warming blanket system, contact your physician immediately:

  • Excessive pain
  • Redness around surgical incision
  • Warmth around incision
  • Drainage from incision
  • Joint swelling
  • Fever

Any of the above symptoms may indicate a serious complication. Although surgeries typically come with minor pain and discomfort, pain that feels excessively intense should be reported to your health care provider without delay. An untreated infection can lead to additional surgeries, amputation, and can even be fatal. Continue reading

In Massachusetts, patients are prohibited from recording their surgeries without the consent of all parties being recorded. However, in light of recent incidents, more and more patients are requesting permission to video or audio record their surgeries. Earlier this year, a patient in Virginia was awarded $500,000 in a medical malpractice lawsuit after his secretly recorded surgery revealed offensive comments made by doctors while he was under sedation. The patient had set his cellphone to “record” and slipped it into his pants pocket prior to an outpatient colonoscopy. Contact a Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today.

Uptick in Patient Requests to Video or Audio Record Hospital Visits

Advocates for patient recordings say that the transparency of a recording holds physicians accountable, and may even present an opportunity for all medical personnel to learn from their mistakes. However, many hospitals and physicians aren’t so sure. They have voiced serious concerns over privacy, and have questioned how such a policy would impact the doctor-patient relationship. According to Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, there has been an increase in patient requests to record their hospital visits. In addition to recording surgeries, patients also want to record physician instructions and film physical therapy sessions in order to replicate the exercises at home. Although there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the recording of medical procedures, several Boston area hospitals say they allow patients to record visits as long as consent of medical staff is obtained beforehand.

In Wisconsin, a state representative has recently introduced a bill that would require all hospitals to give patients the option of recording medical visits, procedures, and surgeries. In recent years, similar bills have been introduced in both Mississippi and Massachusetts, but they have yet to create any changes in policy. According to Betty Daniels, an Indiana local chapter director for the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association, the organization is working to get a similar bill introduced in Indiana.

In a recent interview with the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Dr. Dennis Dimitri, he voiced concerns that recording surgeries would introduce an element of “distrust” and would effectively “anticipate wrongdoing.” He also said that recording surgeries, “may cause people to be much more guarded about what they say”. Additional concerns include the spread of medical videos on social media, the videographer getting in the way of the surgery, physicians being so guarded about what they say that they neglect to mention important details during surgery, and the exposure of hospitals to more medical malpractice lawsuits. Continue reading

Communication appears to be key in preventing medical malpractice lawsuits. It’s uncertain whether this is because communication helps prevent medical errors, or because it fosters better doctor-patient relationships. Either way, the statistics are hard to ignore.

 

A Florida study showed that only six percent of obstetricians accounted for over 70 percent of medical malpractice suits during a five year period. Many of these doctors had been sued multiple times. A separate study looked at malpractice lawsuits filed by mothers following their newborns’ injuries or death. The vast majority claimed their doctors would not talk openly with them, tried to mislead them, or hadn’t warned them about neurodevelopmental problems. Continue reading

Every expectant parent hopes for a healthy baby. The vast majority of obstetricians, midwives, and other labor and delivery personnel utilize safe methods and are skilled and knowledgeable in their practice. However, there are exceptions. Unfortunately, birth injuries as a result of excessively strenuous labor, improper or forceful delivery methods, and physician negligence occur every day. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) more than two million significant birth injuries are reported every year in the United States alone. The increase in “planned births” through Cesarean sections and labor induction methods is often blamed for difficult deliveries and related birth injuries. Below is a list of the most commonly reported birth injuries.

Brachial plexus injuries (BPI): There is a bundle of nerves that begins at the upper spine and extends through the neck, shoulder, arm, and into the hand. When these nerves are damaged during the birth process the result can be mild and temporary to severe and permanent disability. Neuropraxia, the mildest form of BPI, involves the stretching of the nerve. Neuroma, on the other hand, is a serious injury in which the nerve is torn and fails to heal properly. The most severe BPI injury, avulsion, occurs when the nerve roots are torn from the spine causing complete and permanent paralysis.

Bone fractures: Broken or fractured bones are often the result of a difficult or complicated delivery. If a medical professional uses too much force while delivering a baby, breaks can occur. The most commonly fractured bone is the clavicle (collar bone). These injuries are usually temporary and can heal on their own or by immobilizing the area.

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