Almost 50,000 A Year Are Killed By Infections They Pick Up While Hospitalized


Posted on 26th February 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Perhaps hospitals should post signs warning patients that they’re at risk of dying – from ailments they pick up while they’re being treated at those health-care facilities. Or so a new study says.

About 48,000 patients a year die from ailments – from pneumonia to blood poisoning – that they contract while hospitalized, according to a study by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy at Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank.

The cases of patients getting an illness while hospitalized lead to 2.3 million extra patient days in hospitals, costing $8.1 billion in 2006, the study found.

Sepsis, a blood infection, killed 20 percent of the patients who got it after surgery, according to the study. Patients who contracted sepsis after surgery stayed hospitalized on average 10 days more, costing $32,900 per patient.

As one doctor lamented, a basically healthy person can come to a hospital for routine surgery, but then develop sepsis because of sloppy infection control and die.

Pneumonia was another deadly disease contracted by hospital patients. Those who got pneumonia had to stay an extra two weeks at the hospital, for an additional cost of $46,400. Over 11 percent of those who contracted pneumonia died, the study found.

Simple measures such as better hygiene, like mere handwashing, and screening patients as they check in can help decrease the number ailments that patients get while hospitalized. But enforcing those actions is difficult.

Clinical Trial To Study Stem Cells’ Impact on Cerebral Palsy


Posted on 17th February 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Can stem cells help damaged brain cells recover? That’s the question that researchers will address in a new clinical trial.

The Medical College of Georgia is looking to find out if stem cells from umbilical cords can help kids with cerebral palsy, according to UPI.

A lack of oxygen to the brain, as well as brain damage, cause cerebral palsy.

The college is touting its study as the first such trial to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The research will involve 40 children, 2 to 12. Their parents have core blood stored at the Core Blood Registry in Tucson, Ariz.

There have been studies on animals that indicate that stem cells did help damaged brain cells recover and even replace dead brains cells.

Stem cells, found in umbilical cord blood, change into different kinds of cells around the body.

It remains to be seen if they will provide a real aid to those with cerebral palsy. For more on cerebral palsy go to

California Woman Gets $12 Million Malpractice Award After Sustaining Brain Damage From Gunshot Wound


Posted on 16th February 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Our reality sometimes runs squarely into irreconcilable medical facts. Our reality is that patients get lousy service in Emergency Rooms. Sometimes there is no margin for error. This story is one of those cases. One simply cannot wait your turn when you have an intracranial pressure event going on inside the brain. Any hospital that does not find a way to prioritize head injury in the Emergency Room deserves to pay the consequences.

A Southern California woman, now in vegetative state after being waiting hours in a hospital emergency room to have an air-rifle bullet removed from her brain, has been awarded $12 million by a jury, according to The Washington Post.

The verdict in Pomona Superior Court was against Greater El Monte Community Hospital, which was found to be negligent in its treatment of Jessica Ramirez, 22. The malpractice suit was filed on behalf of Ramirez by her mother, Ofelia Reynaga.

While at a family member’s house, Ramirez was shot in the head with an air gun in September 2007. She walked into the emergency room of the greater El Monte hospital, but was left waiting for five hours.

Finally, she was taken by helicopter to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, Calif., and underwent surgery.

But the pressure and bleeding that Ramirez sustained in the shooting caused permanent damage to her brain. She is now minimally conscious and has to have round-the-clock care.

The suit had named the hospital’s parent, AHMC Healthcare. The hospital plans to appeal the verdict.

“Despite the verdict, we strongly believe the evidence presented in this case shows that our emergency room staff provided compassionate, timely and clinically appropriate care to a patient who had suffered a catastrophic head injury,” Greater El Monte Community Hospital said in a statement.

The hospital’s insurance company had rejected a settlement that was much less than the jury verdict, according to The Post.

Minnesota Sees Record $23.2 Million Malpractice Award In Botched Birth Case


Posted on 12th February 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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In what appears to be a record verdict in Minnesota for a medical malpractice case, a jury has awarded $23.2 million to a family whose baby suffered numerous complications during her birth, resulting in brain damage and cerebral palsy.

The verdict came Tuesday in the case stemming from the June 6, 2007 birth of Kylie Rodgers, daughter of Elise Rodgers and Matthew Larson, at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, Minn.

During her delivery Kylie didn’t get enough oxygen, and as a result she now has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, neurological problems and seizures. For more on cerebral palsy, click here.

The doctor who delivered the baby, Dr. Gabrielle Olson, had been dropped as a defendant in the case. She was with Affiliated Community Medical Centers (ACMC), and was considered to be acting as an agent of the medical center.

The jury in Kandiyohi Count District Court found that ACMC was 80 percent negligent in the case, and that Rice Memorial was 20 percent negligent.

The malpractice award broke down to $1.7 million for Kylie’s past medical care; $10 million for future care and emotional distress; and $1.5 million for loss of earning capacity.

The ACMC and hospital may appeal the verdict.

The Minnesota Hospital Association said this was the highest award in its memory, with the largest one it was familiar with coming in at $11 million.

Woman’s Family Sues When She Sustains Brain Injury And Dies After Having Teeth Pulled


Posted on 11th February 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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One of the greatest challenges in a career representing injured people is that it is almost always those with the greatest vulnerabilities, that have the worst results. This story about a woman who had a routine dental procedure which left her with a brain injury, which ultimately killed her, is a perfect example. Clearly this woman’s cerebral palsy made her more vulnerable to something bad happening. The medical and dental professionals involved in this case will likely argue that it was her cerebral palsy which was the problem. But for her cerebral palsy, she wouldn’t have needed the procedure at all. No defense lawyer should ever be allowed to persuade that a vulnerable person is less entitled to justice.

The survivors of a Bronx woman who suffered brain damage, and ultimately died, after having her teeth extracted have filed a wrongful death suit in the case, according to United Press International.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of Felita Dowdy, 33, against dentist Dr. Bruce Lish and St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan. The case is in the Bronx Supreme Court.

Dowdy had cerebral palsy, and her teeth had rotted. She went to St. Luke’s last July 21 to have her teeth pulled.

But shortly after the extraction, the suit claims, Dowdy went into respiratory arrest and sustained brain damage as a result. She died Oct. 14. The lawsuit also alleges that the pain killers fentanyl contributed to Dowdy’s demise.

According to the story, St. Luke’s offered condolences to the Dowdy family but declined further comment. Lish’s father, dentist Dr. Jerome Lish, in the article said that his son has many disabled patients and wasn’t responsible for Dowdy’s death.

Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Malpractice-Damage Caps


Posted on 5th February 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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In a controversial ruling that could have national ramifications, the Illinois Supreme Court Thursday overturned the state’s cap on damages for pain and suffering for medical malpractice, deeming the limit unconstitutional.

In the decision, which critics said will lead to higher damage awards, the high court voted 4-to-2 to throw out the limits on “non-economic” damages that can be recovered in malpractice suits. The Illinois cap had put a $500,000 maximum on damages that could be collected from physicians and $1 million from hospitals.

In its ruling, the court said that the 2005 law violated the Illinois constitution regarding separation of powers. The Court ruled that this law gave the lawmakers control of decisions that should be in the hands of judges and juries.

This marks the third time that the Illinois Supreme Court has overturned malpractice-award caps that lawmakers had enacted in the state.,0,348689.story

The test case that prompted the ruling is that of Abigaile Lebron, now 4, who sustained severe brain damage when she was born through a Caesarian section procedure in 2005. Her family sued a doctor and Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., for medical negligence, charges that the physician and hospital deny.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the girl suffered from “cerebral palsy and other impairments.”
The young girl, Abigaile, is now wheelchair-bound.

In Thursday’s ruling, Illinois Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald wrote in the majority opinion that the court was not swayed by the fact that many states have imposed malpractice-award caps.

“That ‘everybody is doing it’ is hardly a litmus test for the constitutionality of the statute,” Fitzgerald wrote.,0,4062339.story

But in a dissent, Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote, “We have no business telling the General Assembly that it has exceeded its constitutional power if we must ignore the constitutional constraints on our own authority to do so.”

The Illinois high court’s decision drew fire from a variety of sources. The American Medical Association (AMA) immediately criticized the ruling.

“Today’s court decision threatens to undo all that Illinois patients and physicians have gained under the cap, including greater access to health care, lower medical liability rates and increased competition among medical liability insurers,” AMA President Dr. James Rohack said in a statement.

The New York Times noted that the Illinois decision “held a particular sting” for the AMA, since it is headquartered in Chicago.

And The Chicago Tribune blasted the ruling in an editorial, warning, “This is a disastrous decision…Watch out for what happens now.”,0,5948924.story

“Malpractice costs were skyrocketing in Illinois because insurers were afraid to do business here,” The Tribune editorial said. “They were afraid of runaway jury verdicts…Malpractice premiums in Illinois were particularly egregious for doctors in riskier specialties such as obstetrics and neurosurgery. As a result, doctors were leaving, particularly doctors in rural areas. They couldn’t afford to practice in their communities. That made it more difficult for patients to find the care they needed. The 2005 law eased the crisis. Malpractice premiums declined. The exodus of doctors stopped.”

But opponents of malpractice-award caps, which are being considered by lawmakers in Washington, were jubilant.

The American Association for Justice, once called the Association of Trial Lawyers for America, said the Illinois ruling showed “why federal efforts to put arbitrary limits on the amount injured patients receive won’t pass muster or fix America’s broken health system,” The Times reported.

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association also lauded the ruling.

“The Illinois Supreme Court has decided that the health-care crisis can not be solved by further hurting the patients who are victims of medical errors,” the lawyers’ group said in a statement.

The Illinois ruling could reverberate to the Capitol, where Republican lawmakers have called for federal caps on malpractice awards. The health-care reform House bill that Congress Democrats passed last year, and the Senate health-care bill, do not mandate any big change to malpractice rules, according to The Times.

Almost 30 states have set caps that put a maximum on non-economic damages, namely damages for pain and suffering, Reuters reported.
Those caps range from $250,000 to $700,000, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The AMA said that in 16 states courts have upheld the caps. In 11 states the limits have been thrown out.

Generally, these Caps have done little to lower rates. But whether rates are lowered or not is not the central issue. The issue is whether doctors should be given a free pass on killing and maiming those that suffer because of their mistakes. Despite the constant right wing hysteria over med mal awards, the reality is that only the most egregious conduct by doctors results in a lawsuit, and about 85-90% of even those lawsuits, result in verdicts for the doctors. A doctor has to do something truly outrageous to wind up losing a medical malpractice case.

What is violative of equal protection about a malpractice cap, is that it punishes those most severely hurt by the worst conduct of doctors. If a doctor say cuts off the wrong toe, the compensation cap of $250,000 might be adequate. But if the doctor’s wrongful conduct results in loss of the normal use of a brain, then $250,000 is not justice. Yet a cap imposes the worst injustice on those who have the worst harm. That is unfair and unjust.