Saturday, December 27, 2003

One Victim's view of Malpractice caps

Mindy Snyder was a young registered nurse who went to a hospital ER complaining of a headache. Her doctor, who had been practicing for 3 months gave her an overdose of 60 mg of morphine by direct injection and left her unattended. She fell into a coma for almost a month. The result was severe brain damage. She was transferred to a rehab hospital, where she spent the next six months. She was rendered an incomplete quadriplegic. Mindy's screams were so horrible that nursing staff had to receive stress counseling. The hospital then created a second phony set of altered records to cover up their medical malpractice.
Mindy's economic damages were a staggering $8 million. Close to half a million dollars represented money she already owed her doctors since their negligence. Roughly $6 million was required to pay doctors to keep Mindy alive in the future - this $ would all go to doctor's, not one cent to her - for future surgeries, therapies, medications, wheelchairs, hospital beds, adaptive housing, psychological counseling, etc. These figures were not disputed. Not one cent would pay her for the total loss of quality of life and her unthinkable pain and torment.
Is there a damage cap proponent who would look her in the eyes and tell her that $250,000 was adequate compensation for the total destruction to her life caused by bad medicine?
For more medical malpractice victim's stories read here.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Medical Errors

A recent survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, found:
That 35% of doctors in the survey said that either they or members of their families had experienced medical errors in the course of being treated, and most said the errors had "serious health consequences," such as death, long-term disability or severe pain.
Three in ten doctors had seen an error that caused serious harm to patients outside their families in the past year.

Malpractice incidents high compared to the number of lawsuits filed

It was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, July 1991, that only one person in 65 injured by a doctor's negligence ever files suit. -- New England Journal of Medicine July 1991.
Researchers analyzed 30,121 hospital records of patients discharged from 51 New York State Hospitals in 1984. Of that sample, an estimated 27,177 cases involved some type of medical negligence, including 6,895 deaths and 877 instances of permanent disability of more than 50 percent.
About 16 times as many patients suffered an injury from negligence as received compensation from the tort liability system. Of these accidental medical injuries, 70 percent were preventable.
If included in the National Vital Statistics Report, deaths by medical errors would have been listed as the No. 5 leading cause of death in the U.S. Texas Medical Error statistics.

South Carolina hides Bad Dr's payments - Shroud of silence puts consumers at risk

Dec. 26, 2003
Secrecy is a fact of life when it comes to medical errors. Few involved want to publicize the mistakes.
"A doctor is typically taking care of 1,000 or 1,500 patients," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group.
Those patients should know if their doctor is making mistakes, Wolfe said. If not, those patients are at risk.

A South Carolina medical malpractice investigation found that:
• Doctors and hospitals make secret deals in S.C. courts to keep cases and the amount doctors pay to victims quiet.
• Hospitals don't always tell patients or their families when a harmful or fatal error has happened. Coroners also are not always told.
• Instead of studying medical mistakes to learn how to prevent them, the S.C. medical profession chooses to keep errors quiet, fearing lawsuits.
• While a federal database keeps track of doctors whose insurance pays claims to victims of medical errors, it keeps the doctors' names secret from the public.

Hospital errors- are often hidden from public view:
When medical errors happen, hospitals don't always admit them, critics say.
For example, when John Theodore, the older brother of former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, died in 1999 at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital, hospital officials told the family Theodore died of "complications," said Andrew Theodore, a nephew and family spokesman.
When the family heard rumors that negligence played a role in John Theodore's death, they sought a meeting with hospital officials, Andrew Theodore said
Andrew Theodore's version of the meeting is this: that only under questioning did hospital officials acknowledge that hospital workers had allowed John Theodore - who had breathing problems - to be without an oxygen monitor during an MRI procedure.
"I said, 'Had the monitor been there, you would have known he was dying and been able to save him?' They said, 'Yes,'‘" Andrew Theodore said.
The family has sued the hospital, alleging negligence on numerous fronts.

Hospitals don't always tell coroners when they've had a possible accidental death. Under S.C. law, coroners can investigate unexplained deaths of healthy people.
Last May, for example, Lexington Medical Center didn't notify Lexington County Coroner Harry Harman that healthy 20-year-old Daniel Enter had died unexpectedly after a minor operation.
Enter's family is suing Lexington Medical, alleging he died because of a broken oxygen machine and hospital negligence.

State Medical boards contribute to the problem of "bad doctors" by lax enforcement and secret (and light) admonitions against offending doctors. For example the S.C. BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS last year took action in 52 cases, seven involving allegations of negligence. In four cases, the board shielded the names of doctors it acted against.
One doctor whose name was withheld was cited for contributing to the death of a patient. He was given a private reprimand and fined $1,000.
The unidentified doctor had "performed surgery that was not medically necessary, which led to patient's eventual demise," the board said.

Untill the names of bad doctors is made public and secrecy of settlements ends, the public will continue to be victimized by bad doctors. Until then it will be up to each patient to research and investigate your doctor

3 Doctors with different views on Medical Malpractice

Francis J. Collini, a plastic surgeon from Pennsylvania asks the question "Who is to blame for the medical malpractice crisis in Pennsylvania?" Some of his answers are predictable:
"Is it the attorneys? Yes, in part"...
"Are insurance companies to blame? Yes, they play a part as well."
Now this one might be funny if the results of malpractice weren't frequently deadly -
"Are patients to blame? Patients, too, are partly responsible."
But here's the real kicker:
"Are the doctors to blame?" Yes he says - but not the doctors who commit the malpractice - rather real cause of the malpractice crisis are those lying doctors who agree to testify against other doctors!!!! I wonder if Collinni's a little jaded after being sued for malpractice. He rants that his "case would never have gone forward had it not been for the board certified plastic surgeon who agreed to testify against me for money. He was paid handsomely for his testimony. He distorted the medical facts of the case to create a story filled with mischaracterizations and half-truths..." I wonder if he hired his own expert?

Maybe this doctor should talk with Dr. George Ciechanowski, who until recently was president of the medical staff at Christ Hospital, and who says members of the medical groups conspired to have him voted out as staff president. Ciechanowski filed a civil suit against the state and county medical societies, alleging that he was blacklisted for his views opposing caps on medical malpractice suits.
Yesterday, representatives of the New Jersey division of the Polish American Congress reiterated their support for Ciechanowski and called on the Christ Hospital medical staff to have the pulmonologist reinstated. He had one more year to serve in that position.
"Dr. Ciechanowski is a real patriot in this travesty. The act of vengeance perpetrated upon (him) was a case of professional malpractice in itself," said Dorothy Souchuk, vice president of the congress, who urged Jersey City's Polish community to rally behind Ciechanowski.

Dr. John Faulkner of North Carolina was not marching with the doctors to call for a cap on medical malpractice lawsuits. He opposes caps on medical malpractice. His wife Joan was badly burned last June when a cauterizing tool ignited oxygen that was being pumped into her nose during a routine procedure in an operating room.
Her top lip was melted off; her face, neck and chest suffered second- and third-degree burns that will require numerous reconstructive surgeries. After a three-week hospitalization, she was released to begin a new life coping with constant pain, numbed by powerful medications that sap energy and drive. She once tended to the children with delight and precision, but she now cedes all but a few tasks to her husband.
Because Joan Faulkner, 44, stayed at home, she is not eligible for economic damages calculated on lost earnings. And under the bill supported by the state's doctors, the value of her pain and suffering would be $250,000 or less.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Medical Malpractice Caps Fail to Prevent Premium Increases

According to Weiss Ratings Study, Physicians in States with Caps Suffer 48% Increase in Median Annual Premiums Even While Insurers Enjoy Slowdown in Payouts .
In reviewing the impact that tort reform has had on both medical malpractice (med mal) premiums paid by doctors in three high-risk specialties and insurers’ claim payout levels between 1991 and 2002, Weiss noted the following trends:
Physicians continued to suffer a rapid increase in med mal premiums despite caps
Meanwhile, the insurers enjoyed slowed increases in claims payout levels
Other Factors Contributing to the Med Mal Crisis:
The medical inflation rate:Medical costs have risen 75% since 1991
The need to shore up reserves for policies in force: Med mal insurers have been consistently under-reserving since 1997
A decline in investment income: Investment income declined by 23 percent in 2001.
Financial safety
Supply and demand for coverage: The number of med mal carriers has dropped in the past 5 years
Click here to see the full report on caps.

Another 120 people died needlessly today

The message delivered by speakers at the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' recent "Decisions That Count" three-day conference on health care quality and patient safety in Chicago attended by physicians, nurses, attorneys and health care managers was that "The American media is failing us with health care," said Princeton University Professor of Political Economy Uwe E. Reinhardt, PhD. Dr. Reinhardt wondered what the public would do if news anchors mentioned in every broadcast that "another 120 people died needlessly" that day because of medical errors or some other quality failure.
National Quality Forum CEO Ken Kizer, MD, said it's time to recognize that "health care is a team sport" and noted that 80% of hands-on patient care in hospitals is delivered by someone other than a physician. He said simple things can be done to improve quality such as serving more nourishing food, requiring caregivers to get flu vaccinations and making sure hospital staff wash their hands between patients. George J. Annis, who chairs Boston University's Dept. of Health Law, cited efforts to get doctors to wash their hands as an example of how low the quality bar has been set.

NY failure to monitor bad dr's results in 18 deaths per day!

"Each and every day, 18 New Yorkers die in the hospital due to negligent medical care," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. The groups called for a more open process in doctor discipline cases.
"Even when it comes to very basic information, we can't get it out of the Health Department," Horner said.
NYPIRG, the Center for Medical Consumers and the StateWide Senior Action Council released a report on New York Malpractice Monday based on Health Department statistics that stated among other things that enforcement was going down allowing more sanctioned doctors to continue practicing. In 1996, 62 percent of physicians cited lost their licenses for more than one month; by 2002 that was down to 44 percent.

Cancer doctors ripping off sick patients

Oncologists, unlike other doctors, often buy prescription drugs at discounted prices and sell them directly to patients at a significant profit rather than sending them to a pharmacy. Some say that these sales are unethical, arguing that profit-motive could effect what course of treatment a patient receives. They are in effect profiteering from the very sickness they are hired to treat.

Connecticut Doctors push "false crisis"

Reacting to information about an October 28 "Firestorm" memo circulated within the Connecticut Legislature, CPR (Connecticut Patients' Rights Group) Executive Director and spokesperson Jean Rexford issued the following statement:
"We have learned that Connecticut Mutual Insurance Company authored an October 28, 2003 memo that generated a firestorm of concern among Connecticut legislators responsible for addressing the current medical malpractice insurance rate increase situation. The Medical society continues to grasp at any tactic possible to advance their agenda of a $250,000.00 cap on noneconomic malpractice damages within the legislature. Finding insufficient support among legislators, it resorts to misinformation and subterfuge.
There is no "crisis" in Connecticut, other than the egregiously high premiums being charged to doctors by insurers to compensate for losses on investments in a temporarily soft stock market. The US General Accounting Office investigated five so-called "crisis" states and found no "crisis." Ralph Nader just concluded a Connecticut study in September and found no "crisis." In October the Washington Monthly echoed many other organizations and publications when it reported that the 1970s California cap touted by caps advocates resulted in companies raising premiums 300 percent and more. Not until strict insurance reform was enacted was the rate of increase slowed.
Why are the doctors siding with the very insurance companies who are gouging them in so vehemently demanding caps on damages? Because they both want the same thing -- reduced liability for wrongdoing. The "CRISIS" campaign in Connecticut did not originate in Connecticut. It is a national fear campaign originating out of the motivations of insurance companies and other interests. This campaign seeks to make people afraid enough to give up their rights to take doctors who injure them to court.

Malpractice Caps hurt children and elderly

Children and the elderly do not have economic damages, things like lost wages or lost wage-earning capacity. Ten-month-old children, and 80-year-old nursing home residents do not work. If a child or nursing home resident dies as a result of medical negligence, the only measure of damages available to them are non-economic damages, things like pain and suffering and mental anguish. Texas has enacted a new law that caps non-economic damages which will significantly prejudice the ability of children and the elderly to receive fair compensation for their injuries and/or wrongful deaths.
The new law, effective Sept. 1, caps non-economic damages at $750,000.

New Study disputes "Lawsuit Explosion"

In 1962, the study of Federal Trials says, 11.5 percent of all civil cases in federal court went to trial. By last year, that number had dropped to 1.8 percent. And even though there are five times as many lawsuits today, the raw number of civil trials has dropped, too. They peaked in 1985 at 12,529. Last year, 4,569 civil cases were tried in federal court.
"What's documented here," William G. Young, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Boston, said in a telephone interview, "is nothing less than the passing of the common law adversarial system that is uniquely American."
The Federal Trial Court study, based on data compiled by the federal court system, was prepared by Marc Galanter, who teaches law at the University of Wisconsin and the London School of Economics, for the American Bar Association.
"This is a cultural shift of enormous significance," said Arthur Miller, a law professor at Harvard.

Business Week disputes Malpractice "Plague"

Do caps on awards really keep doctors' insurance premiums down? Both sides in the debate--doctors and insurers fighting for caps, and trial lawyers and patients fighting against them--are waging a war-by-anecdote. But clear away the dubious studies, the exaggerated line charts, the hysterical press releases, and look at the numbers, and the statistical case for caps is flimsy. Here a Business Week article exposes the following myths as untrue:
MYTH 1: Premiums have risen more slowly in states with caps on pain-and-suffering awards.
MYTH 2: Runaway jury awards are forcing insurers to raise rates.
MYTH 3: The number of mega-awards is growing.
MYTH 4: Courts are clogged with an exploding number of claims.
Their conclusion? "On this and many other key points, proponents of caps simply aren't coming up with the facts to make their case. Instead, they're relying on scare stories--always a bad starting point for making serious policy decisions."

Corporate Accountability

Beginning with the collapse of the infamous energy giant Enron in December 2001, a wave of corporate fraud upended the U.S. Economy and the public's faith in the financial markets. But the seeds of this disaster were sown long before corporations like WorldCom, Adelphia, Xerox and others "re-stated" earnings. The corporate crisis in America is built on a quarter-century old push by the nation's largest businesses to deregulate everything. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has published a new book showing how the Republican anti-regulation movement has resulted in a failure to prosecute corporate crime or generally hold corporations accountable to basic ethical standards and the rule of law.
Welcome to the Medical Malpractice Blog site, where you will find links, articles, resources and statistics about medical malpractice in the United States - and an occasional jab at the right wing feuled anti-consumer movement which seeks to limit citizen/victims acces to the civil justice system. A Tort Reform movement by insurance companies, big business and the AMA are threatening the erosion of fundamental civil rights and liberties such as the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial for malpractice victims as well as proposing caps or limits on how much innocent victims can recover against bad doctors who are not sanctionned. Right wing proponents want to flood the courts with big business suits yet want restrictions on the right of an injured individual. No caps have been propsed on the salaries of the excutives running large health care organizations and insurance companies however. It has truly become a political item where camps have drawn lines between republican and democrat, liberal and conservative. My apology to those looking for a balanced presentation of the issues; there has been such a proliferation of and distortion of anti-consumer materials fed to the press and media by insurance interests and the medical lobby that the time is now to set the record straight with some cold hard facts...and actual case stories, which no cap proponent wants to talk about.