Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Raw_cane_sugar_lightWe’ve seen this playbook before, and it’s never pretty how wealthy industries can distort scientific research and harm the public health for decades. Think tobacco and cancer, oil and climate change, football and brain injury. Now: sugar.

Big Sugar secretly paid influential experts, steered and reviewed their inquiry, and, as a result, American health policy at a critical point in the 1960s–and since–has emphasized the role of fats and downplayed sugar’s harms in the rising incidence of heart disease, researchers have found.

This influence-peddling involved then-prominent (now dead) Harvard nutrition experts and the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The prevailing ethics then differed. Authors were not required by medical journals to disclose conflicts of interest, as they are supposed to now.

ICUThe spots in hospitals where patients in the direst shape receive specialized treatment are themselves in need of urgent care, experts say, explaining that antiquated intensive care units (ICUs)

contribute to needless harm. But how exactly to yank them and the therapies they provide into the 21st century?

Usha Lee McFarling, a Pulitzer Prize winner, examines ICU reforms for the online health news site Stat, finding that these crucial and “heroic” hospital facilities fundamentally have changed little in a half century, although they now are jammed with new technology and devices. They serve almost 6 million Americans in grave condition, but in them, she says, “studies show serious and sometimes fatal medical errors are routine. And a recent review published in the journal Critical Care found no major advances in ICU care since the field’s inception in the 1960s.”

More than a quarter million Americans die from it each year, more than succumb to heart attacks. U.S. hospitals spend an estimated $55 million a day battling it. Most Americans know next to nothing about it, and all too many medical caregivers fail to recognize its fast-moving symptoms that can lead to death. Leaders at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have grown so wary of its health and economic toll that they have declared a medical emergency over this disease. Its name is sepsis.

What is Sepsis- - sepsis_infographic_final.pdf 2016-08-26 12-23-33It’s an all too common affliction in which the body responds in overpowering fashion to an infection. The CDC says sepsis can “lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It is difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. Patients who develop sepsis have an increased risk of complications and death and face higher healthcare costs and longer treatment.”

Ron Schwarz, 79, says he has hardly been able to eat since being admitted to the hospital. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Ron Schwarz, 79, says he has hardly been able to eat since being admitted to the hospital. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Although America grows grayer by the day, the care that elderly patients get at all too many hospitals after they’re admitted leaves them worse off when they are discharged, the Kaiser Health News service finds in a devastating report.

Kudos to writer Anna Gorman who puts together published studies and tough reporting to detail that, “About one-third of patients over 70 years old and more than half of patients over 85 leave the hospital more disabled than when they arrived. As a result, many seniors are unable to care for themselves after discharge and need assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing or even walking.”

110922_ralph_nader_ap_605Americans have been brainwashed into disbelieving a fundamental truth about their legal system: Lawsuits actually are good for the country. They aren’t as costly nor as numerous as conventional wisdom holds. And they play a crucial role in keeping in check the greed and harm that business interests otherwise might inflict with impunity.

Says who? These are some of the trenchant views newly outlined in a recent magazine cover story by Ralph Nader, one of the nation’s preeminent consumer advocates. It’s true that some partisans sneer at him these days, faulting his attacks on big money politics and blaming his quixotic third-party candidacy for the razor-thin loss by Al Gore 16 years ago.

But lest history forget, Nader’s crusading, particularly with auto safety, has resulted in sweeping reforms that have saved tens of thousands of lives; he has saved American consumers countless sums with his battles against rip-offs by banks, insurers, and other big businesses.

bmi2Medical errors claim the lives of roughly 685 Americans per day─ more people than die of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s. That estimate comes from a team of researchers led by a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins. It means  medical errors rank as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind only heart disease and cancer.

In a new study published in the British Medical Journal, they define medical error broadly as:

[A]n unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.  Patient harm from medical error can occur at the individual or system level. …We focus on preventable lethal events to highlight the scale of potential for improvement. The role of error can be complex. While many errors are non-consequential, an error can end the life of someone with a long life expectancy or accelerate an imminent death.

CR-TOC-Cover-05-2016California leads the nation in its number of practicing physicians─and some of those doctors are so awful they’re dangerous, Consumer Reports has found in its deep dive into state licensing boards and MD discipline. The magazine, in a cover story headlined “What you don’t know about your doctor could hurt you,” compiles some ghastly illustrations of bad doctors, including:

  • A pediatrician with a fetish who fondled the feet of patients’ moms during exams;
  • An ob-gyn who surgically removed the wrong ovary from a patient;

For-profit clinics that market to patients with eating disorders or alcohol or drug abuse problems have grown in popularity in recent years. They can be pricey, but their operators insist the residential facilities offer expertise, attentive, needed, and specialized care that hospitals and medical centers cannot. But as the centers have proliferated, health care experts are expressing growing concern about their costs, safety, effectiveness, and marketing.

And now local prosecutors have stepped in, asserting in what may be a landmark case, that a California addiction treatment center is guilty of a patient’s negligent homicide.

The case in Riverside County involves an ailing 53-year-old, longtime smoker and alcohol abuser who sought detox care at one of the 1,500 addiction treatment centers just in the Golden State.

michlawblogA Michigan lawyer may write about the untruthful testimony of an “expert” medical witness because his online blog post and his comments are protected speech under the First Amendment, officials from the Michigan Bar have decided. That’s good news for the lawyer, who had his law license challenged by the witness─a psychiatrist who also happens to be a member of Michigan’s lawyer licensing board. She had demanded that either his post about her or his license be pulled. Now neither will happen.

The case still leaves a lingering odor around that board, the doctor who served as a so-called Independent Medical Examiner (IME), and the process in which she sought sanctions against a legal professional, instead of receiving public condemnation when she got caught, on videotape, fabricating statements about a severely injured plaintiff.

Hired guns

After four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, and then internships and residencies for several years after, doctors should be a well-informed lot, right? But they can get themselves into some downright dumb stuff. This includes their wrong thinking about the prevalence of medical malpractice litigation, and their head-scratching revisiting of a less stressful way to train tomorrow’s practitioners.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, new research has found that a relatively few number of physicians account for almost a third of medical malpractice claims paid. The researchers, examining more than 66,000 malpractice claims paid against 54,000 MDs nationwide between 2005 and 2014, said that just 6 percent of doctors had paid claims in the decade. Just 1 percent of physicians paid nearly a third of all claims. The researchers focused on paid claims as a marker of substandard care.

The MDs who had to pay out generally were older, internists, OB-gyns, general practitioners, or family medicine practitioners. As one news report on the study noted: “Each time a doctor got sued, the likelihood that he or she would be sued again went up.” Neurosurgeons, orthopedists, general surgeons, plastic surgeons and OB/GYNs were roughly twice as likely to have repeat settlements, as compared with internists, even after the researchers controlled for the inherent risk of practices like surgery, another news report on the study said.

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