Articles Posted in Medical Error

convictedtennnurse-150x150While nurses deserve patients’ gratitude and the highest praise for the valiant care they have provided during the coronavirus pandemic, a Nashville case has raised tough questions as to whether and when professional caregivers’ medical errors ought to be criminalized.

Prosecutors decided that some mistakes rise to the criminal level, after considering the evidence against RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse involved in a 2017 fatal drug error.

Vaught, who already has been stripped of her nursing license, has been convicted, NPR reported, of “gross neglect of an impaired adult and negligent homicide after a three-day trial … She faces three to six years in prison for neglect and one to two years for negligent homicide as a defendant with no prior convictions, according to sentencing guidelines provided by the Nashville district attorney’s office. Vaught is scheduled to be sentenced May 13, and her sentences are likely to run concurrently, said the district attorney’s spokesperson, Steve Hayslip.”

ecrilogo-300x112The coronavirus pandemic and the wrenching demand this public health nightmare has put on the U.S. health care system and its people have become such a worry that staffing shortages and workers’ mental health have become top safety concerns in 2022.

That is the evidence-based view of ECRI, aka the nonprofit, independent Emergency Care Research Institute. It has provided rigorous research to the public and parties in health care to better safeguard patients and their medical care for more than a half century.

The organization issues a Top 10 annual list of patient safety concerns, which is “typically dominated by clinical issues caused by device malfunctions or medical errors,” ECRI reported. But the group is raising different alarms this year about “crises that have simmered, but [that] Covid-19 exponentially worsened.”

medicalrecords-150x150Patients, for their own protection, long have needed to secure copies of their medical records and correct inaccuracies they find  — a safeguard that has grown even more vital as research builds about unacceptable biases that doctors and others may show in their recorded observations about those in their care.

In two separate, published dives into tens of thousands of medical records, researchers found that black patients were 2½ times more likely than their white counterparts to be labeled with at least one negative description, and African-Americans with diabetes were more likely than whites to be labeled with medically disapproving terms including nonadherence, noncompliance, failed or failure, refuses or refused, and, even combative or argumentative, the New York Times reported.

Dr. Dean Schillinger, who directs the Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and who was not involved in the studies, told the newspaper this of the disconcerting descriptions found in patient records:

weedn-150x150It’s a grim issue that too many of us would want to ignore in the best of times. But the coronavirus pandemic and its collateral harms have pushed beyond their  limits the medical experts who study death, locally and nationally.

In Maryland, the chief medical examiner has resigned, and a deputy has been designated as the interim head of one of the nation’s busiest morgues, the Washington Post reported. Victor Weedn (shown right), who had served as the operation’s head since 2019, stepped down as the facility has gotten stuck in such snafus that it has more than 200 bodies awaiting autopsy, “the biggest backlog the office has seen.” The nightmarish mess matters, the Washington Post reported:

 “The logjam has left families distraught as they experience extended delays in funerals. It has also created problems with some [criminal] prosecutions, with holdups in courts obtaining autopsy reports and getting stand-in medical examiners for murder trials. In the past couple of months, the caseload in Maryland has increased by nearly 400%. There were 50 bodies awaiting autopsies in late December. The number swelled to 240 last week. Weedn recently estimated that the office would have a backlog of 300 this month. He and other medical examiners across the country have blamed backlogs on a combination of staffing shortages and rising deaths because of violence, Covid-19, and drug overdoses.”

instruments-300x166While the coronavirus pandemic has forced patients, doctors, and hospitals to curtail crucial tests, procedures and treatments in worrisome fashion, a trend with one kind of medical practice apparently continues apace: The so-called “Zoom boom” in plastic and cosmetic surgeries is still going strong.

Patients, though, soon will get a tough reality TV warning about the damages that can occur in the costly pursuit of beauty.

For the many who have struggled with illness, as well as professional, personal, and economic hardship during the pandemic, it may be distressing to be reminded of the upswing in elective procedures, ostensibly to improve the aesthetics of patients’ faces and other body parts. But the Los Angeles Times interviewed Drs. Jason Litner and Peyman Solieman to learn why they say their Beverly Hills surgical practices with cosmetic procedures have been busier than ever — or as much as the pandemic allows, as Litner reported:

cnncovidicu-300x242When hospitals too often fail to disclose and to adequately deal with their problems, patients and their loved ones suffer. That’s what happened during the coronavirus pandemic, when individuals admitted for other reasons were infected in hospitals and died of Covid-19 at alarming rates.

The federal government, separately, also is stepping up its efforts to get hospitals to comply with U.S. regulations to foster greater transparency in institutions’ pricing of medical goods and services.

The independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News (KHN) service, to its credit, has dug into publicly available data to show how Covid-19 became the latest problem pathogen spread in hospitals — part of the menace long known as HAIs or hospital acquired infections.

drkhan-150x150Doctors must step up and better police their own ranks, taking a helpful warning from medical malpractice lawsuits in dealing with problem practitioners or systemic wrongs.

That’s the wise view of Dr. Shah-Naz H. Khan, a neurosurgeon and a clinical assistant Professor of Surgery at Michigan State University (shown, right).

Her trenchant commentary — published on KevinMD, which describes itself asthe web’s leading platform where physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, medical students, and patients share their insight and tell their stories” — is salient as medicine confronts a startling number of doctors, who, frankly, have run amok in putting forth health falsehoods in the midst of the deadliest public health emergency in more than a century.

Patients, politicians, and regulators may find it tough to believe, so they need sharp periodic reminders: While there are many terrific, dedicated doctors working today, there also are some truly terrible ones. And dealing with the harms of medical malpractice by the incompetent and abusive can require courage and vigilance.

  • Perhaps a new, streamed Hollywood serial — starring the likes of Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, AnnaSophia Robb, and Joshua Jackson — can underscore for the public how grisly the results can be until a rare criminal prosecution derails the likes of Christopher Duntsch, a Dallas surgeon so grim he is nicknamed “Dr. Death?”

colorectalcancerhotspotmap-300x230While technological advances may help provide crucial warnings to young men, especially those who are black, about their heightened risk of early-onset colorectal cancer, the rise of other high-tech diagnostic aids may only worsen built-in, harmful racial biases in an array of medical practices.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, to their credit, have sought the assistance of health providers across the country to inventory and assess increasingly common medical software and the algorithms on which they rely to ensure whiz-bang decision-making tools don’t discriminate against patients of color.

The early results are distressing, showing how well-intentioned experts inject prejudices into programs that can lead to racially unfair choices about patient care. Ziad Obermeyer, an emergency medicine physician and co-author of the Chicago research, told Stat, the science and medical news site, this about algorithms used in many diagnostic tools:

surgerylown-300x196When it comes to hospitals performing low-value tests or procedures and putting older patients at increased risk, Dixie may have little to whistle about.

The Lown Institute, a respected and nonpartisan think tank that says it “believes a radically better American health system is possible,” has published a new hospital index that puts dozens of southern institutions in a dubious light.

That’s because institute researchers scrutinized federal Medicare records on more than 1.3 million fee-for-services provided to older patents at more than 3,300 hospitals nationwide. They reported in findings published in an online part of the Journal of the American Medical Association that “hospitals in the South, for-profit hospitals, and nonteaching hospitals were associated with the highest rates of overuse” of health care services.

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