Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question: Can I wait a few months to pursue a personal injury claim?

 

Medical treatments involving stem cells have been hailed as holding the promise of a new generation of treatments for a variety of diseases, ailments and disorders. Now an American woman is learning that experimental stem cell treatments performed in Portugal eight years ago may have produced some unintended results.

Nose closeup Charlotte Mecklenburg Injury Lawyer North Carolina Medical Malpractice AttorneyThe woman was suffering from paralysis. Doctors had used a similar method on some 20 other paralysis patients; more than half reported recovery of movement or sensation. The American woman’s treatment did not involve the controversial method of transplanting of embryonic stem cells; instead, doctors removed tissue from her nose and implanted it in her spine. Doctors hoped the cells would turn into other cell types similar to cells near the site of the woman’s injury, acting as a kind of bodily “repair kit.”

Instead, after the stem-cell operation, the woman experienced increasing pain. In 2013—eight years after the stem cell operation—doctors discovered a three-centimeter-long growth made up mainly of nasal tissue on the woman’s back. Doctors also found small pieces of bone and nerve branches that had not connected to the woman’s spinal nerves.

Doctors said this circumstance occurred in less than one-percent of operations and that many patients receiving the treatment had seen a “remarkable recovery.”

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Attorney Matthew R. Arnold answering the question: “What exactly is a wrongful death claim?”

A distraught mother from North Carolina has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a security company after she claims they put her son in a cab and sent him home despite him already being dead. The horrible incident took place in November 2011 at the Cumberland County Hospital.

 

Cab Car Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Auto Accident AttorneyThe woman says that her son, A’Darrin Washington, had been going to the Cumberland County Hospital for 10 years for treatment of his recurrent pneumonia. Washington suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was used to dealing with a variety of health complications.

 

A week before the fatal cab ride, Washington checked himself into the hospital complaining of severe illness. Doctors initially misdiagnosed Washington as suffering from bacterial pneumonia. Days later, the doctors realized their mistake and began treating Washington for fungal pneumonia, finally giving him the proper medication. Then, only a few days later, the doctors decided he was better and ready to be discharged.

 

The lawsuit claims that Washington felt weak and was complaining of poor health prior to the discharge. Despite his asking to remain in the hospital, security officers working for AlliedBarton called a cab to take him home. Other hospital staff complained at the time that Washington was “uncooperative” and had refused to talk or to move. Evidently his lack of cooperation was due to the fact that he was, tragically, already dead.

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Attorney Matthew R. Arnold answering the question: “Do I have to sign a release allowing the insurance company to get my medical records?”

A recent Pennsylvania medical malpractice case involved a detour into the controversial subject of same-sex relationships and whether same-sex couples, who cannot legally marry in the state, have the right to make a claim for loss of consortium.

Male Female Symbols Charlotte North Carolina Personal Injury Workers' Compensation Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Attorney Lawyer.jpgA judge in Philadelphia this week decided to throw out the loss of consortium claim by the same-sex couple in a medical malpractice suit filed against Temple University Hospital. The order comes as many groups, including the ACLU, are actively pushing forward a variety of cases challenging existing rights for same-sex couples.

In the case, Tammy and Jesseca Wolf have argued that denying Tammy’s claim for loss of consortium based on her gender violates the Pennsylvania Constitution’s right to equal protection. Loss of consortium is a category of damages that is awarded for the loss of family or marital companionship caused by another person’s wrongful or negligent acts. Generally, in North Carolina and other states that allow such claims, this loss can only be brought forward by married couples.

The case began with Jesseca Wolf claimed that doctors at Temple University Hospital left a metal object in her foot following a recent surgery. Temple took issue with the med mal suit, especially with the loss of consortium claim by Tammy. Temple filed a motion saying that state law should not recognize consortium claims for injuries that happen prior to marriage. The logic goes that because Pennsylvania law does not recognize same-sex marriage, then the loss of consortium claim must be dismissed.

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Everyone’s heard of confidentiality agreements; those documents you sign agreeing not to disclose certain important bits of information. What people may not realize is just how often such confidentiality agreements are employed in North Carolina to keep critical information regarding medical malpractice or dangerous devices or drugs from going public.

Personal Injury Lawyers Attorneys and Law Firms in Charlotte Mecklenburg County NC N.C. North Carolina.jpgThe agreements, which help ensure that settlement stay secret, often only work to the benefit of the doctor, hospital or manufacturer responsible for causing devastating harm. The victim of the negligence receives next to no benefit from such agreements. Even more disturbing is how they can be used to shield the public from important information about dangerous practices or products.

A recent case involving a North Carolina mother who’s young son died due to negligence among the hospital staff where he was taken after falling ill highlights just how rarely such cases make news. The woman was told to sign a confidentiality agreement to receive her settlement and that the whole case would go away if she did. She refused, saying she wanted the public to know about the medical safety issues that led to her son’s death.

The mother’s decision to speak out and not sign the confidentiality agreement is very rare. The majority of such lawsuits in North Carolina end with the victim signing an agreement promising not to reveal important information in exchange for a set amount of money.

The danger of this approach is that, for example, in the case of a defective product, if all those injured sign a confidentiality agreement and the company is able to settle the cases quietly, then the public will never be made aware of the problems associated with the dangerous product, depriving other potential future victims of the chance to safeguard their families.

A real world example of this is the case of the faulty Firestone tires. Years before the nationwide recall was announced, the company began settling cases involving the failing tires on Ford SUVs and made sure each plaintiff signed confidentiality agreements. These dangers were thus not revealed until much later, something that experts say led to 270 additional deaths.

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Charlotte North Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawyers and Attorneys.jpgThe tragic case of one North Carolina family was recently deliberated before the U.S. Supreme Court in an important test of how states will handle medical malpractice cases for Medicaid beneficiaries. The case involves a couple, Sandra and William Armstrong, and their 12-year-old daughter who was left blind, deaf, mute and immobile after a botched delivery by, what the parents said, was a negligent doctor. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer:

The case is known as Delia v. E.M.A. and asks the justices on the High Court to decide how much of $2.8 million medical malpractice settlement the Armstrongs are allowed to keep and how much the states, like North Carolina, can be reimbursed for Medicaid expenses.

The young girl, Emily, was born in 2000 in Hickory, NC. The doctor in charge, Dr. James Barnes, Jr., delivered her by cesarean section which did not go well. The girl suffered serious injuries and was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result. The parents sued the doctor, the hospital and others. The lawsuit revealed that the doctor had a history of drug abuse and prescription fraud and had voluntarily surrendered his medical license for a period.

The State of North Carolina said that they spent nearly $2 million caring for Emily through the use of the state’s Medicaid funds. After a verdict in 2006 awarded the family $2.8 million, the state tried to get a large chunk of the money. Currently, state officials have a lien for $933,333.33, or exactly one-third of the total award. They say that state law is clear that the government should be reimbursed from Medicaid beneficiaries who ultimately receive money from medical malpractice lawsuits.

The family is challenging the lien based on a federal law which prohibits state governments from placing liens on Medicaid patients’ property. They argue that the medical malpractice payout is property and thus immune. The state claims that the federal law only applies to the portion of the award for pain and suffering. The problem is that in this case the award was never itemized.

The worry of state officials is that if the Armstrongs prevail, future patients will just make sure that the entire settlement amount is categorized as for pain and suffering to avoid having to give the state any portion of the award.

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Wrongful Death Lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina, NC.jpgOn the most recent episode of the Emmy award-winning drama Homeland, the Vice President of the United States was assassinated by a group of terrorists that hacked into the pacemaker controlling the beat of his heart. The terrorists were able to get their hands on the device’s serial number and then remotely take control of the device, causing it to malfunction and lead to a fatal heart attack.

The plot twist was surprising and left many wondering whether it could ever happen in real life. Shockingly this was not just a Hollywood fabrication but is actually possible due to the serious vulnerabilities of electronic medical implants.

Though such connected medical implants are life saving additions to many people’s lives, there are real risks associated with them. While everyone knows about the dangers that hackers can cause online, almost no one understands the threats that exist when computers are placed inside people.

Though implanted medical devices have been in existence for many years, only in the past decade have they begun to incorporate components that allow for virtual access. This system can be used by doctors to gather important information but comes with very little in the way of security. Lack of battery power means that elaborate security measures are not possible and doing a full “update” requires surgery, not just a click of a button.

Thankfully there have not yet been any reports of death caused by someone hacking into a medical device. However, test hacks have been done and have shown that it is certainly possible. The equipment needed to hack such devices used to cost tens of thousands of dollars; last year one researcher hacked into his insulin pump using materials that cost less than $20. Another security expert demonstrated how with the push of a button he could run a program on his laptop that made any insulin pumps within 300 feet dump their entire contents into a patient’s bloodstream.

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Injury Lawyers in Charlotte, NC.jpgIn a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Dr. Sanjay Gupta explored the relationship between the increase in treatments and tests ordered by many doctors and the possibly corresponding rise in the number of medical errors made by doctors. These medical mistakes, many of which can be life threatening to patients, might be able to be avoided if doctors simply stopped ordering unnecessary medical treatments.

Medical errors, often caused by doctor or hospital negligence, are a serious concern all across the country. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that approximately 98,000 people died each year as a result of medical errors. Gupta discussed figures that are more recent and says that he believes about 200,000 people die each year because of medical mistakes. Gupta says that if those figures are accurate, it makes medical mistakes one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Gupta points out the fact that as the number of treatments and tests performed increase, the likelihood of physician errors also rises. He says that many people would be surprised to know that doctors routinely request tests or treatments that they know are unnecessary. According to one recent survey of orthopedic surgeons, of all the tests they order to be performed on their patients, 24% are not “medically necessary.” Gupta says that the danger of such overuse of things like CT and MRI scans can lead to false positives and unnecessary operations. Along with these unnecessary procedures comes the risk of complications, including infection and bleeding.

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Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Charlotte, NC.jpgWho doesn’t love a new gadget? Whether it’s the latest iPhone or a new videogame console, we all love our technology. Sometimes, though, this rush can be to our determent. A good example of the danger of rushing involves the da Vinci Surgical Robot.

According to the manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical, the device makes a surgeon’s job much easier, allowing smaller incisions and increased recovery time. The manufacturer says the da Vinci Robot can be used to treat obesity, endometriosis, throat cancer, prostate removal, kidney cancer, coronary artery disease, and gallbladder removal. The robot has four arms: three for surgical instruments and a fourth with an attached camera. It claims to give doctors an increased range of motion and to provide a less invasive way of achieving many traditional surgeries. Sounds wonderful. Sadly, as is often the case, there’s more to the story.

While the benefits touted by the manufacturer may be true to an extent, there have also been reports of serious injuries related to the use of the robot. Part of the problem appears to be a rush to train surgeons who are being put in control of the powerful machines before they are ready. Patients who have been injured by the robots have begun filing lawsuits and recently requested that a panel of federal district court judges consolidate the litigation before a single federal court.

A few years ago the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the Robot that mentioned previously little known problems associated with the device. The article recounted how one patient was so badly injured by the da Vinci that she required four additional surgeries to repair the damage caused from the machine. In other cases, two patients suffered severely lacerated bladders.

Plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against the manufacturer claim that complications from the procedures include tears and burns to the uterus, intestines, and blood vessels, as well as vaginal cuff dehiscence – a separation of the vaginal incision, after which abdominal or pelvic contents leak out through the opening. A 2009 study noted that vaginal cuff dehiscence with small bowel evisceration after hysterectomy may occur more frequently with the advent of similar robotic laparoscopic hysterectomies.

The robot itself does not appear to be to blame; it’s actually the doctors and their lack of training that’s the problem. Intuitive Surgical only offers two days of free training for two surgeons at each purchasing hospital. Any more training and the hospitals have to go out of pocket to pay. Such a short time does not come close to meeting the training needed to properly operate such a complicated device. The Reviews in Urology journal said that a surgeon should perform up to 200 cases to be proficient with robotic surgery, far more than can be done in a only two days of training.

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Water in Hands.jpgWhether it’s from your mom or a message on a poster in your employer’s restroom, you hear it all the time: Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Use soap and hot water. And make sure you wash your hands long enough to kill the germs lurking on them.

You might think that doctors of all people would know the rules of hand washing, right? Wrong, at least according to a recent study discussed in Time Magazine. The report indicates that an alarming number of medical students may not know everything there is to know about hand washing despite engaging in the practice of medicine and regularly assisting in operating on patients.

Researchers at a German med school surveyed 85 medical students who were about to enter clinical training – the stage where they first begin to interact with actual patients. The med students were given seven scenarios, five of which required hand washing: before contact with patients, before preparing IV fluids, after removing gloves, after contacting patients’ beds and after contact with vomit (the other two scenarios did not require hand-washing).

Unfortunately, the doctors didn’t do so well on the test. Only 1 in 5 students correctly identified what to do in all seven situations. Just 1 in 3 got all five hand-washing scenarios correct. Most students knew that they were supposed to wash their hands before contacting a patient, after touching their bed and after contacting vomit, but 15% to 20% could not correctly identify the other two hand-washing situations.

What does this mean for you? Improper hand washing by physicians is a leading cause of spreading germs and contagious diseases from one patient to another in North Carolina. This is because much of a doctor’s job involves direct physical contact with patients. Thus, doctors who conduct surgery on someone with one disease and then don’t properly wash their hands, could easily spread germs and cause infection once their hands come into contact with new patients.

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needle.pngWFMY News reports that a Greensboro woman has been charged with performing medical procedures without a proper medical license. Police say that Lauretta Cheek became the subject of an investigation when one of her “patients” filed a complaint against her. The “patient” claimed that a friend took her to see Cheek so that she could receive enhancement injections in her buttocks. After the procedure, she began to have severe complications and visited the emergency room in Charlotte, North Carolina on two separate occasions.

The patient filed a complaint with the health department and that is when the police launched their investigation into Cheek’s practices. The patient told investigators that she found out about Cheek’s cheap butt injections through the grapevine at her job as an exotic dancer. Apparently these enhancements were important for her career, but not important enough that she would go through the proper procedures to procure them. Police say that the procedure took place inside a hotel room and cost the patient a total of $500.00.

Cheek faces criminal penalties for her actions. She has been charged with a misdemeanor count of Practicing Medicine without a license. This, however, is not Cheek’s first rodeo. Back in 2008, she was charged with one count of Practicing Medicine without a license and one count of Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud/Forgery. At the time of the new misdemeanor charge filed against her, she was still on probation for the 2008 charges. It is likely that these new charges amount to a violation of her probation, so it possible that Cheek may be serving out the remainder of her sentence inside a cell.

In addition to these criminal charges, Cheek faces potential civil liability from this patient and any other person who received her injections and suffered injury. However, there’s a problem. North Carolina is one of the few states that follow the doctrine of pure contributory negligence. Pure contributory negligence prevents the plaintiff from recovering from the defendant in a negligence action if the plaintiff is even 1% at fault for his or her injuries.

North Carolina is also unique in that its contributory negligence law is statutory. Thus, the patient is going to have a difficult time establishing that she was not negligent in attempting to receive a bargain butt injection in the back room of a cheap hotel. It is likely that a jury would find that she was equally at fault for her injuries. Further, given North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence position, even if the jury found that her failure to exercise reasonable care for her own safety amounted to only 1% fault, she would still be barred from recovery.

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