Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Although Good Samaritans deserve a great holiday cheer for their part in paying for some of it, medical debt persists as a giant shame of the American health care system. Doctors, hospitals, insurers, Big Pharma, and other providers and suppliers need to step up to shrink the financial burdens of medical care that crush far too patients and their loved ones.

Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon, two retired friends in Ithaca, N.Y., raised $12,500 that they donated to a charitable group. It buys bundled, past-due medical bills and forgives them to help those in need. That became a powerful gift, as RIP Medical Debt leveraged it, buying for a penny on the dollar or so, a portfolio of obligations exceeding $1.5 million.

cjrbriefingbook-300x188Facts matter, and, when amassed in a smart way, they can paint a powerful and accurate picture of reality, as is made clear with findings presented in the annual “Briefing Book” on medical malpractice from the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School.

As the Kentucky Supreme Court recently affirmed when it slapped down an attempt in the Bluegrass state to “reform” medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and insurers too readily embrace and spread counter-factual notions about patients who seek in the civil justice system remedies for harms they have suffered while seeking medical services.

It’s our fundamental, guaranteed right to pursue such claims, the justices affirmed — and the CJ&D experts have put together research to show that medical malpractice cases don’t happen often but are valuable in protecting the quality and safety of all patients’ care.

allchildrens-300x220When big hospitals aim to get even more giant, they do so at risk of the quality of care they offer to their patients — and they can do much damage to their brand and hard-to-repair reputations. That may be a reality that elite Johns Hopkins may be discovering.

The Tampa Bay Times deserves credit for its detailed take-down of the “internationally renowned,” Baltimore-based medical institution for the deaths and harms suffered by child heart patients at All Children’s hospital in Florida. Johns Hopkins took it over, and, according to the newspaper, within a half dozen years made a debacle of its well-regarded pediatric heart surgery program, which worsened until youngsters were dying at a “stunning rate.”

As the newspaper reported, based on a year’s investigation of the All Children’s program:

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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb

If the federal Food and Drug Administration expected any public goodwill for putting forward long-term proposals to change a fundamental way that medical devices win agency clearance, forget about it.

Instead, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and lawmakers should be reeling still from a salvo of news organization investigations into unacceptable ways that patients in this country and around the planet suffer pain, injury, and other harms from products that go in or on the body. Under industry pressure and spurred by pro-business lawmakers, the FDA, the investigations show, has exercised a weak, poor, and unacceptable oversight of medical devices, including:

HCGopen19-300x200Political partisans are whipping ahead with their Grinch-like views about public support of any kind for health care for less affluent Americans — and now the nation’s children are bearing the brunt of mean-spirited policies.

Georgetown University reported that for the first time in almost a decade, the number of children lacking health coverage increased, with roughly a quarter of a million more youngsters uninsured this year versus last.

Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, which has issued authoritative data on kids’ and health insurance, told NPR the increase of uninsured children is unacceptable, adding, “The nation is going backwards on insuring kids and it is likely to get worse.”

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NY Atty Gen Barbara Underwood

Profit-hungry hospitals have dived to some real lows in billing and mistreating patients. Seven New York facilities have gotten slapped down by the state attorney general for breaking the law by charging more than 200 women anywhere from $46 to $2,892 for collecting evidence that the patients may have been raped.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, whose office conducted a year-long investigation of the abuses of state laws aimed at protecting victims of sexual violence, said in a statement, quoted by the New York Times: “Survivors of sexual assault have already gone through unfathomable trauma. To then subject them to illegal bills and collection calls is unconscionable.”

Hospitals keep getting bigger, but how about better for their patients, too? The data suggest that the prices they charge are rising in part due to industry consolidation, but consumers also need to be extra skeptical of national, direct-to-patient appeals about the advantages of various institutions.

Credit is due to the New York Times for scrutinzing the frenzy of hospital mergers and consolidations that now exert huge sway over patients’ choices, care, and costs:

deskstanding-231x300Holiday gift-giving can be expensive, so the health-conscious may wish to exercise skepticism about some potential purchases with dubious or unexpected consequence.

If you’re considering forking over more than a few dollars, think twice about:

  • So-called “tall” or “standing” desks. They were supposed to be a response to growing research about workers’ heightened health risks from sitting all day long. But studies show that standing while working with a computer isn’t as beneficial as some advocates may have claimed. That’s because it isn’t exercise or movement — which was supposed to the point of promoting healthier workplace practices, such as getting up from the desk and walking around every few minutes rather than becoming sedentary on the job. Studies, in fact, show that workers who must stand all day suffer health harms, like varicose veins and more. Some employees with posture issues may benefit some from standing and not scrunching themselves up while sitting at a desk. For most of the rest of us, it does matter to get up, exercise, and move. A fancy desk isn’t necessary for that, right?

agingtire-300x89With the nation’s road toll rising in already alarming fashion, Uncle Sam may need to step up information campaigns and even reconsider regulation of a greater than believed vehicle risk: aged and decaying tires.

FairWarning, an independent investigative news site, and road safety advocates deserve credit for dogging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about its tire-related crash data. That information, which plays a key role for policy- and law-makers in determining road safety measures nationwide, quietly got updated by federal bureaucrats. Their posted numbers suddenly indicated for 2015 that fatal tire-related crashes more than trebled from a standing figure of 200 to 719 such deaths, FairWarning and others found.

To be fair, perhaps the agency was taking to heart criticism from Randy and Alice Whitefield, statistical consultants for a company called Quality Control Systems, whose study of NHTSA data suggested flaws. These included bureaucrats’ decision to determine their figures, based on a small, selective database on road accidents, rather than using larger, more comprehensive, and equally available crash information.

turkey-248x300As we all race to groaning tables for one of the traditional and happier holidays of the year, here’s hoping the turkeys stay brown, tasty, and on the table. Sadly, food poisoning is a real issue, and not just for worry-warts.

Cooks preparing this major feast may want to keep watch on growing reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about salmonella outbreaks tied to turkey.

As the Washington Post reported:

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