Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

An apparent lack of communication between health care providers proved nearly fatal for a Maine man, to whom a jury recently awarded $1.785 million in a medical malpractice claim.doctor7

The patient, 71, and his wife, 63, from Millinocket, alleged harm to his health could have been prevented had health care workers acted according to professional industry standards – which is the proof burden required in these cases. The couple sought between $3 million and $3.7 million in damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress and permanent damage to patient’s heart resulting from a months-long delay in treatment in 2010 for a strep infection. In the eight months between when the patient was first seen and when he had to undergo emergency open heart surgery, the infection caused severe damage to the valves in his heart.

The civil trial was heard in the Penobscot Judicial Center before a Superior Court justice.  Continue reading

In medical malpractice litigation, Maine is one of 30 states to enact a so called “I’m Sorry” law, also sometimes referred to as an “apology statute.” Essentially, our Bangor medical malpractice attorneys know these laws serve to shield health care providers who extend expressions of sympathy following an adverse patient outcome. The laws indicate those statements can’t be used later against the doctor or hospital as proof of an admission of liability. hidingface

However, as the recent case of Strout v. Cent. Me. Med. Ctr. shows, the law does not offer absolute protection with regard to these admissions. This is an important point to underscore because medical providers will often attempt to reach out to patients or surviving family in the wake of a poor medical outcome in an effort to minimize the damage, and perhaps deter the patient from filing a lawsuit. It’s important for individuals to save this correspondence, as it could later be useful for the case.

In Strout, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was tasked with determining whether the trial court erred in allowing portions of a letter from the medical center’s president to the patient into evidence weighed by the jury.

When it comes to filing a successful claim of medical malpractice injury in Bangor, when and how you file is just as important as the substance of your lawsuit.
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That’s the lesson that can be derived from Frame v. Millinocket Regional Hospital, reviewed recently by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The petitioner appealed a judgment entered by the lower-level superior court to dismiss her unsworn notice of claim to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, pursuant to the Main Health Security Act, as a properly-sworn claim was not filed within the statute of limitations.

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At the age of 22, a semi-professional baseball player was told if he wanted to live to see 30, he would need to have a pacemaker installed.
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Such major heart surgery, as such a young age, startled the young player, who had initially sought treatment after a brief fainting spell. But he trusted the doctor.

The surgery ended his baseball career, but he considered a fair trade for having his life.

Only, as both he and our Maine medical malpractice lawyers now know, it wasn’t necessary at all. Soon after he had the surgery, local news outlets began reporting on the fact that the cardiologist he had trusted was being investigated by state health officials for performing unnecessary surgeries.

The former ball player sought numerous subsequent medical opinions. All now say blood pressure medication was in order – but not a pacemaker.

That surgeon is now in prison, following a federal criminal conviction for unnecessary Medicare billings for dozens of heart surgeries that it turns out weren’t necessary.

Sadly, this kind of occurrence is not rare. USA Today recently reviewed years’ worth of government records and medical databases and found tens of thousands of instances in which patients received unnecessary surgeries.

Such procedures are more than a nuisance. They put patients at risk of very real, long-term harm. No surgical procedure is without the risk of complications, and sometimes, those risks might even include death.

Further bolstering this claim is a recent scientific review of every issue of The New England Journal of Medicine from 2001 through 2010. Researchers discovered 363 studies that examined some type of clinical practice. Of those, 146 involved a drug or procedure that was found to be no better – or sometimes even worse – than one that had previously been used.

More than 40 percent of these established practices were found to be ineffective or even harmful. The effect of 22 percent was undetermined.

Those practices found to be among the most harmful:

  • Hormone therapy in post-menopausal women;
  • High-dose chemotherapy treatments;
  • Stem-cell transplants;
  • Expensive and complex treatments for breast cancer;
  • Glucose-lowering measures for Type 2 diabetes patients in intensive care.

USA Today reports that somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of all surgical procedures may be unnecessary. In the last eight years, some 1,000 physicians have paid on medical malpractice claims that specifically related to allegations of inappropriate or unnecessary medical procedures. Roughly 50 percent of those cases involved a serious or permanent injury or death. A fair portion involved multiple plaintiffs.

Those cases are only the ones that landed in court. They represent just a small portion of the total number of unnecessary procedures conducted.

Unfortunately, there is no federal or state agency that keeps track of unnecessary procedures, and many doctors never face consequences. This is despite the complications, which can include:

  • Infection;
  • Chronic pain;
  • Permanent disability;
  • Death.

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Every year, taxpayers in this country spend an estimated $20 billion through the health care system for those who need to receive life-saving kidney dialysis, costing nearly $80,000 per patient. arteriology.jpg

But even so, our Bangor medical malpractice attorneys understand that mortality rates involving U. . dialysis patients are among the highest in the industrialized world, according to a lengthy investigation by news source ProPublica.

The research suggests that, all other things equal, if America’s dialysis system was as efficient as those of Japan, France or Italy, thousands of fewer dialysis patients would die every year. Although some 400,000 sufferers of kidney disease or failure would not be able to survive without the procedure, ProPublica’s investigation suggests that too often, we’re seeing cases of deaths that simply should not happen.

In the course of reviewing thousands of inspections reports and interviewing over 100 patients, doctors, researchers, advocates, industry experts and legislators, ProPublic came to the conclusion that all across the country, patients “commonly” were given their dialysis treatments in places that were unsanitary. What’s worse, providers are apparently prone to lapses in care, and there is a lack of regulation to ensure facilities abide by certain quality standards.

The number of kidney patients is reportedly growing by 3 percent each year with the aging of baby boomers – a risk group that now accounts for two-thirds of hepatitis C patients, which is a known heightened risk for renal disease. We are also seeing younger and younger patients who receive this treatment.

In one recent case, out of Arizona, a 39-year-old husband and new father of a 2-month-old daughter died after receiving his third dialysis treatment. According to the investigation, a technician panicked after a tube loosened, spraying blood everywhere, and she inadvertently reconnected the tube – incorrectly. He was thus infused with contaminated blood. He died about a week later, after developing a staph infection that rapidly progressed to his heart and then his brain.

While cases like this may not be an every-day occurrence, the fact is, dialysis treatments are often done with little medical supervision on-site. Most of the process is handled by technicians, who are required only a high school diploma, a company training course and passage of a test to become certified.

This is not necessarily the case at every facility, but it is common enough to be a serious concern. ProPublica reviewed inspection reports revealing dried blood on the floors, walls and folds of patients’ chairs. Some facilities were overrun with pests. One in North Carolina was investigated after a patient, complaining of the ants, was handed a can of pest spray by a staffer.

Even more troubling, many of those clinics were cited for failures to limit exposure to infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, staph and hepatitis. In New York, one center was shuttered after cross-contamination problems resulted in three patients becoming newly infected with hepatitis C in the course of half a year. In numerous cases, patients had to be hospitalized and sometimes died due to hemorrhages when the needles or tubes become undone or technicians aren’t meticulously following safety guidelines.

ProPublica, in an effort to create a more open system for patients, created a searchable dialysis database to give patients and family members an opportunity to research dialysis facilities in their area.

In Bangor, there are four dialysis centers listed, and half of those had higher than the national average in terms of mortality, or deaths per 100 patients between 2007 and 2010. The national average is 20 percent. The statewide average for Maine is 22 percent. The Bangor dialysis facilities were given mortality rates ranging between 16 percent to 29 percent.

Infection rates for septicemia for those four facilities ranged from 8 to 12 percent. Collectively, those four Bangor facilities had been cited for eight standard deficiencies during the last inspection.

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