Articles Posted in Medical Error

burkedbglobe-212x300A big Boston hospital has offered 13 million and one ways to try to make good with a former orthopedic surgeon who assailed the respected institution and colleagues for performing simultaneous operations in which doctors went from suite to suite, working for hours on multiple patients at once.

Massachusetts General Hospital insisted this practice was safe. Dr. Dennis Burke, a hip and knee specialist whose patients have included former Secretary of State John Kerry, disagreed. He told his bosses at the Harvard-affiliated hospital that simultaneous procedures put patients at risk, and, at minimum, they should be told that the surgeons they flocked to for surgery on them might pop in and out of their procedures.

Burke infuriated his bosses by taking his criticisms outside the hospital, including to investigative reporters for the Boston Globe. The newspaper dug into hospital surgeries, particularly in orthopedic cases where operations lasted for hours.

brca-cancer-risk-261x300Many more women would benefit if their doctors took time to put them through a relatively easy screening using readily available questionnaires to determine if they might need further specialist assessment and a medical test for a genetic mutation linked to breast and other forms of cancer.

Women, however, should not routinely be subjected to the assessment, counseling, and testing for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation, the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended, based on its blue-chip review of medical evidence. The task force gave the broad, routine approach its D grade, as in it should not be done.

The panel gave the careful and appropriate BRCA screenings its “B” grade, meaning they have moderate to significant benefits. The screening by primary care doctors is best suited for women with “a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer or who have an ancestry associated with breast cancer susceptibility 1 and 2 (BRCA1/2) gene mutations.”

beaumonthospital-300x115When doctors become medical outliers, shouldn’t hospitals, colleagues, insurers, and the rest of us ask how and why an individual practitioner diverges so much from the way others provide care?

Olga Khazan details for the Atlantic magazine the disturbing charges involving Yasser Awaad, a pediatric neurologist at a hospital in Dearborn, Mich. As she describes him, for a decade he racked up hundreds of cases in which he is accused by patients of “intentionally misreading their EEGs and misdiagnosing them with epilepsy in childhood, all to increase his pay.” Khazan says his case “shines a light on the grim world of health-care fraud—specifically, the growing number of doctors who are accused of performing unnecessary procedures, sometimes for their own personal gain.”

In the malpractice cases that are unfolding against him, Awaad’s pay has become a central issue, with evidence showing his hospital contract rewarded him for boosting the number of screenings he ordered and diagnoses he made. Jurors have been told that Awaad, whose salary increased from 1997 to 2007 from $185,000 annually to $300,000, “turned that EEG machine into an ATM.” He earned bonuses exceeding $200,000, if he hit billing targets.

nprsuicide-300x224The nation’s rising suicide crisis torments seniors, too, with just under one out of five such deaths in 2017 occurring with individuals 65 and older. Men 65-plus, experts say, face the highest suicide risk, while seniors 85 and older, men and women, rank No. 2 in groups most likely to die by taking their own lives.

As the nation grays — 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65, in a trend that will persist until 2029 — the already high concern about suicide, especially among seniors, is rising,  National Public Radio reported.

NPR, noting that suicide already is the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans, said that experts see loneliness, bereavement, grief, and depression as key factors in cases in which older individuals kill themselves. They find themselves isolated, overwhelmed, and with unending sadness when spouses and friends die. Their children, grandchildren, and other family members often live far away. They also struggle with their lives due to age’s increasing debilitation. As NPR reported:

feresstayskal-150x150Although members of Congress have fled the nation’s capital for their annual August recess, there’s guarded optimism that lawmakers may be open to reversing a seven-decades-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars active duty military personnel from their constitutional right to pursue  in the civil justice system claims that they have suffered harms while seeking medical services.

Advocates of this change saw cause for optimism that President Trump met briefly in July in North Carolina and encouraged Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal, a terminally ill Green Beret who has become the focus of efforts to fixing the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), Bloomberg news service reported. Jackie Speier, a California Democratic congresswoman, introduced a bill named after Stayskal and that would allow troops to file medical malpractice suits in federal court, because, as Bloomberg said:

“Stayskal went to Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg in 2017 after feeling suffocated and coughing up blood, but the hospital misdiagnosed him with pneumonia during two visits, according to his congressional testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. By the time he saw a civilian doctor six months later, the lung tumor causing the problems had doubled in size. The tumor had showed up in X-rays done before he went to dive training, but nobody told Stayskal or diagnosed him.”

surgicaltools-300x200
Would a major league baseball team start a pitcher who played only once in the season for the deciding game of the World Series? Would passengers want to be aboard a jet whose pilot flew just once a year? Would any high-end sports car owner let a mechanic under the vehicle’s hood if she fixed that model one time every 365 days?

If rigorous tasks benefit from regular, quality practice — and they do — then why do hospitals allow low-volume surgeons to undertake procedures they rarely perform? That’s a tough question posed by new research from the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization seeking to improve the quality and safety of American health care.

Leapfrog, working with medical experts, identified eight high-risk surgeries and sought to estimate from rigorous published research the correlation between how often surgeons perform these and their procedures optimal outcomes.

doctired-300x169Will the medical educators finally get that it makes no sense to force residents to toil like field animals? Yet another study, this latest from Harvard experts, finds that keeping residency training hours at more humane levels does not significantly affect quality of patient care, including inpatient mortality.

Let’s be clear: The grueling preparation for MDs is only relatively better than before, capping their training time to 80 hours a week.

Medical educators, hospitals, and doctors themselves have criticized that limit since it was imposed after long study and much argument in the profession by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the group that accredits MD training programs.

jessicaknoll-150x150elliekrieger-150x150Moderation matters in all things, though its proponents often seem to get shoved aside by more extreme views. Now there is welcome new push-back against wellness hype by those who instead want science- and evidence-based approaches to health and nutrition to prevail.

In separate and unrelated expressions of their points of view, novelist Jessica Knoll (in a New York Times Op-Ed) and dietitian and nutritionist Ellie Krieger (in a Washington Post column) both take after the way that a certain chic crowd tries to get Americans — women especially — to adopt what they say is wrong thinking about food and eating.

Krieger (shown, above left) calls it cringe-worthy that individuals focusing on diet and nutrition reflexively now apply loaded, moralistic terms to food like good, bad, dirty, and unclean. She describes the problem she and others in the field have with this:

jackie-150x150ginsburg-150x150clarence-150x150The U.S. Supreme Court has left it up to Congress to decide if service members may pursue in the civil justice system claims that they have suffered harms while seeking medical services, a fundamental civil right now denied to military personnel.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who rarely agree on much — both wanted but were unsuccessful in getting their high court colleagues to revisit an inequitable, 69-year-old  Supreme Court ruling involving the Federal Tort Claims Act. That act governs who can bring a claim for negligence at a military or other government health care facility.

Active duty military personnel cannot bring a medical negligence claim for care at a military facility. This is called the “Feres doctrine,” after the Supreme Court decisionFeres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950). Under the Feres doctrine, members of the United States armed forces are barred from making a claim against the United States for personal injury or death arising “incident to service.” Military medical treatment received by a service member, while on active duty, has been held by the courts to be “incident to service,” and, thus not actionable, even if that treatment was for a purely elective procedure, and even if the procedure was performed negligently.

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