University To Pay $15 Million To Brain-Injured Girl


Posted on 14th July 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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In one of he largest medical malpractice settlements in the state’s history, the University of Washington (UW) will pay $15 million to the family of a girl who suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) after using a nasal decongestant recommended by the school’s physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, according to the University Herald.

It’s unclear if a judge ordered the award or if it was a settlement, since the $15 million is described both ways in the story. At one point the story said that a  judge in King County Superior Court had ordered the award in the case involving MacKenzie Bryant. Her family filed suit against the hospital and UW.

In another section of the story, the money was described as a settlement.

MacKenzie got a cold, and had blocked nasal passages about four years ago. Dr. Cory Noel, a university cardiology fellow, suggested she take Afrin, despite the fact that the child’s cardiologist, Dr. Yuk Law, had warned that she shouldn’t take the decongestant because of her heart condition, the University Herald reported.

MacKenzie had previously had a  heart transplant.

Law was correct in his warning. MacKenzie had a cardiac arrest not long after her mother gave her the Afrin. As a result of the cardiac arrest, the girl’s brain was deprived of oxygen and she suffered TBI. Now she must have round-the-clock nursing care. She can’t talk, has to get nourishment through a stomach tube, and can’t move.

According to the University Herald, UW apologized for the girl’s brain injury but defended its doctor.

“We believe that the use of Afrin, a commonly used over-the-counter cold remedy, did not lead to MacKenzie’s [cardiac arrest]: However, the judge on this case ruled in favor of the plaintiff and her family,” the university said in a statement.




St. Louis Neurosurgeon Sued 50 Times For Malpractice


Posted on 11th May 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Is Dr. Faisal Albanna a negligent neurosurgeon, or a target for medical malpractice lawsuits, because of the high-risk operations he performed?

That’s the question that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took on in its profile of Albanna, an Iranian-born doctor who has been named as a defendant in roughly 50 lawsuits since 1987, including four wrongful death cases.

Right now Albanna, 60, says he is “disabled” and has stopped practicing medicine, the newspaper said. Earlier this year he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

In the article, Albanna is credited with being a multimillion-dollar rainmaker for several St. Louis hospitals, in part by taking on difficult brain surgeries that other physicians wouldn’t touch.

The brain surgeon made news in 1998 when he saved a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy who was in a coma after being shot in the forehead with a shotgun, the Post-Dispatch reported. Albanna carefully removed metal fragments from the deputy’s brain and repaired a “leak” in it caused by the metal.

The Post-Dispatch credited Albanna with an apt quote, saying the surgeon once compared fixing a brain aneurysm to “defusing a mine.”

But attorneys who have represented clients in medical malpractice cases against Albanna have a different story, the newspaper reported. They alleged that after surgery by Albanna their clients sustained nerve damage and had chronic pain. In one instance, Albanna performed surgery on a patient who needed a shunt, a tube, removed from his brain that was causing trouble.

That patient died just one day after Albanna did the surgery on him. Several neurosurgeons had refused to perform that surgery on the patient, claiming it was too risky. And a half dozen doctors, according to the Post-Dispatch, signed affidavits alleging that Albanna’s conduct “fell below the standard of care.”

Over the years in Missouri, the state medical board reprimanded Albanna a number of times for his unprofessional conduct. He was placed on probation in not only Missouri but Illinois and Pennsylvania. Yet hospitals continued to renew Albanna’s privileges, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Albanna’s defenders claim that as a surgeon in a high-risk specialty, cases that other doctors refused to take, it makes sense that he has been sued so many times.

But I have to agree with question posed by one attorney quoted in the story: “Why do hospitals let a guy like this on staff?” Indeed.




Medical Malpractice Charged Over Brain-Damaged Teen


Posted on 4th May 2013 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A family has filed a medical malpractice suit after their teenaged daughter sustained traumatic brain injury after going to a hospital for a routine procedure, according to WABC-TV in New York.

The lawsuit alleges that Raina Ferraro, now 19, suffered brain damage and is now blind and almost deaf after being treated at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Raina went to the hospital in January to get a stomach ailment she had checked out, WABC said. Physicians did an endoscopy, putting a camera down her throat, to try to see what was wrong. But during the procedure Raina’s blood pressure and heart rate suddenly dropped, and her brain was deprived of oxygen, according to the suit.

The medical malpractice lawsuit charges that because doctors didn’t act quickly, Raina became brain-damaged and will need millions of dollars of special care for the rest of her life, WABC reported.

Phelps Memorial Hospital declined to comment.

Widow Gets $6 Million For Husband’s Deadly Fall At A Rehab Facility


Posted on 26th November 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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The widow of a man who died after falling out of a wheelchair and hitting his head at a New Jersey rehabilitation facility was awarded $6 millon by a jury last Friday, according to the Times of Trenton.

The panel in Mercer County, N.J., rendered the verdict on behalf of Elizabeth Shufflebotham, the wife of deceased George Shufflebotham, 62, of Lambertville, N.J., against the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center. The retired accountant-turned-real estate agent was rendered brain-dead following his fall there on Oct. 12, 2003.

Shufflebotham suffered a stroke at his home on Oct. 7, 2003, and was sent to the St. Lawrence facility for therapy on his left side. A few days later, Oct. 12, he fell out of his wheelchair and bumped his head. But the rehab facility did not make him undergo a CT scan, it instead just sent him back to bed, according to the Times.

But just hours later, a nurse noticed that Shufflebotham’s pupils were slowly reacting to light, which is an indicator of brain hemorrhaging. But the rehab facility still didn’t take him to the hospital.

It was only the next day, after Shufflebotham was vomiting and in a sweat, that St. Lawrence finally rushed him to the hospital. He was basically brain-dead at that point, and was put on life support. Then his brain totally stopped functioning and his family took him off life support. ‘

The lawsuit against St. Lawrence charged the facility with negligence, arguing that Shufflebotham could have been saved if a CT had been conducted right after his fall.  


What We Missed Out On In The Missing Brain Case In New York City


Posted on 18th October 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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About two weeks ago I wrote about a horrendous case in New York City, where the local coroner had taken the brain of a 17-year-old youth killed in a car accident, Jesse Shipley, without notifying or getting permission from his family. In a horrifying twist of fate two months later, kids from the youth’s school went on a field trip to the morgue and saw the dead boy’s brain there, sitting in a jar with his name on it.

The case made the front page of the Big Apple’s two tabloids, the New York Post and Daily News. In reflecting on the matter, it really entailed several tragedies: The family’s pain over the discovery of Jesse’s vital organ, which they hand’r  even known was missing; the horror of the school mates that saw it; and the fact that there was no autopsy done on that brain.

After Jesse was killed in a car accident on Jan. 9, 2005, and his family agreed to an autopsy of the body the next day. The youth’s remains were picked up and a funeral was held three days later. What the Shipley family didn’t know was that Jesse’s brain was not with his body. 

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office had kept Jesse’s brain to do tests on it, and that those tests were done a day or so after the field trip. Jesse’s family got a temporary restraining order to stop any additional tests on his brain, which was returned to them. 

It’s unclear what kind of tests the ME’s office did in fact do on the youth’s brain, or whether the coroner can keep those results, as his office is now being sued by Shipley’s family. The Shipley family filed a claim against New York City and the medical examiner’s office in March 2006, asking for damages for the improper handling of their son’s remains. 

I’ve been a vocal advocate of the need to have autopsie done more often on brains so that we learn more about the less traumative types of head injury, namely mild traumatic brain injury. 

With no sure-fire tests in existance now to detect the more subtle kinds of brain injury, we need all the clinical research done that we can. And the best research is examining an actual brain. Having an accurate gauge on brain injury is particularly important in terms of the future treatment of the thousands of U.S. troops who have suffered concussions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   

 We could have had that research opportunity with young Jesse’s brain, if the New York coroner hadn’t violated the rules by spiriting away the brain of a family’s loved one without its permission.