Following a disturbing discovery, Salem Hospital notified approximately 450 patients of potential exposure to hepatitis and HIV. According to a spokesperson for the hospital, the potentially life-altering error was due to a lapse in the administration of intravenous medication during endoscopy procedures.
The magnitude of this oversight, which went on for a full two years before being addressed, raises serious concerns about patient safety and standard of care. As affected individuals deal with the uncertainty of their health, legal guidance and advocacy are critical in determining the role and scope of medical negligence.
Although the current situation at Salem Hospital is particularly unsettling, medical errors are unfortunately quite common. According to a study by Johns Hopkins, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 250,000 deaths per year attributed to medical errors.
In Massachusetts, medical malpractice is a serious concern, with instances of misdiagnosis, surgical errors, and medication mistakes contributing significantly to patient harm. And medical malpractice claim payments in Massachusetts are higher than most states. In 2018, the average malpractice claim payment in the state was the sixth highest nationwide.
Legal Guidance and Medical Malpractice Concerns
Michael Walsh, a trial attorney for Altman Nussbaum Shunnarah, expressed shock at the extent of the lapse in the standard of care at Salem Hospital, stating, “It’s very surprising to see this scope of falling below what would be considered the standard of care.”
Walsh advised the hundreds of patients who received notifications to undergo testing promptly, while also emphasizing the importance of understanding the consent process when seeking testing at the hospital. He cautioned against signing any documents that absolve the hospital or institution of liability in the event of infection resulting from these practices.
Beyond the immediate health concerns, instances of medical malpractice often lead to significant emotional and financial burdens for affected individuals and their families. In the United States, the cost of medical errors is substantial, with estimates suggesting that the annual cost of these errors exceeds $17 billion. Seeking legal counsel is essential to understanding the rights and options available to patients impacted by medical negligence.
Hospital Communication and Potential Risks
The hospital acknowledged that patients may have been potentially exposed to Hepatitis B and C as well as HIV, but did not provide details about how this exposure occurred. Upon identifying the issue, Salem Hospital called upon state public health officials and asserted that “the infection risk to patients from this event is extremely small.”
While the hospital may claim that the infection risk is small, the impact of potential exposure to hepatitis and HIV is devastating for affected individuals. The emotional and psychological toll of undergoing testing and living with the uncertainty of potential infection is significant. According to a report by the National Institutes of Health, the psychological effects of potential exposure to infectious diseases can lead to anxiety, stress, and long-term mental health challenges for individuals involved.
Risks of Exposure to HIV and Hepatitis
Contracting and living with HIV and Hepatitis can have significant implications for individuals and their families. Furthermore, individuals living with HIV or Hepatitis often face social stigma and discrimination, which can have a significant impact on their mental and emotional well-being.
HIV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles or syringes, and from mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding. It can also be transmitted through exposure to blood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and around 14% of them are unaware of their infection.
While there is no cure for HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can effectively control the virus, allowing individuals with HIV to live long and healthy lives. Early detection and treatment are critical in managing the progression of the disease.
Hepatitis can be caused by different viruses, including hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Each type is transmitted differently, with hepatitis B and C commonly spread through exposure to infected blood or bodily fluids.
Viral hepatitis is a major public health concern globally. In the United States, an estimated 2.4 million people are living with hepatitis C.
Chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to serious health complications, including liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Timely diagnosis and appropriate medical care are essential in managing and treating these conditions.
Potential Damages for Patients Affected by Medical Malpractice
Patients impacted by the situation at Salem Hospital may be entitled to compensation under Massachusetts law. These potential damages aim to address the physical, emotional, and financial toll that medical negligence inflicts on individuals and their families. In Massachusetts, the following types of damages are common in cases of medical malpractice:
• Medical Expenses — Patients who have suffered harm due to medical malpractice may be eligible to receive compensation for past and future medical expenses resulting from the negligent actions of healthcare providers.
• Lost Income and Earning Capacity — Individuals impacted by medical negligence may be entitled to seek compensation for lost wages and diminished earning capacity if the malpractice has caused them to miss work or has impaired their ability to engage in gainful employment.
• Pain and Suffering — Massachusetts law allows for the recovery of damages for physical pain and emotional suffering resulting from medical malpractice. These non-economic damages aim to address the profound impact that malpractice can have on an individual’s quality of life, encompassing physical discomfort, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
Contact Altman & Altman Today
If you or a loved one has been impacted by medical malpractice at Salem Hospital, it is in your best interest to seek immediate legal counsel. At Altman Nussbaum Shunnarah, our legal team has extensive experience with medical malpractice cases and an impressive track record of obtaining compensation in a timely manner. We will ensure that you fully understand your rights and options and are committed to getting you the appropriate care and compensation during this challenging time. Contact Altman & Altman today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.