A malpractice case has been settled after defendant pediatricians, nurses, and hospital charged with the care of an eighteen month old child failed to take necessary action to address the child's rapidly deteriorating condition.
What many people may not realize about the medical field is that the days of extremely long shifts are basically over. When we say "extremely long," we're talking about 36-hour shifts. These used to be very common, and most medical professionals expected these shifts, and had to prepare for them by resting up prior to -- or even resting during -- the shift.
These extreme conditions have given way to shifts that usually end after 14 hours. That's still a long day, but it's much more manageable. And as a potential patient, you're probably happy to hear this. After all, shorter shifts would seem to imply that medical professionals are better rested, more alert and, thus, more able to perform their job.
As many New Jersey residents are aware, two months ago comedic legend and celebrity personality Joan Rivers passed away after undergoing a fairly routine surgery. In the weeks that followed Rivers' death, there were questions about how the procedure was performed, and there were some not-so-subtle hints that River's daughter Melissa was considering filing a lawsuit against the clinic and doctors responsible for her mother's care.
Now that potential lawsuit, which is believed to be en route in the next month, has some more firepower. A federal inquiry into Rivers' death has found that the clinic and the doctors handling Rivers' surgery made numerous errors relating to safety protocols and Rivers' care.
A few weeks ago, we wrote a blog post about a specific proposition in the state of California which would have forced doctors to have intoxication screenings, while also increasing the amount of money that a person could obtain through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Though it doesn't have anything to do with New Jersey law, the proposal -- called Proposition 46 -- was an important litmus test for the medical field to see if such radical (but necessary) changes had support.
Well, election day has come and gone. And the voters in California have made their voice heard: they voted Prop 46 down, eliminating the chance, at least in the immediate future, to increase medical malpractice payouts and hold their medical professionals to task for any alcohol or substance abuse they may be guilty of.
One of the arguments that is made against medical malpractice lawsuits -- and it is a similar argument that is made to explain why costs relating to medical care are so high -- is that doctors and medical institutions have to order "defensive" tests and medical procedures to protect themselves from liability.
In other words, they have no choice but to double- and triple-check things and to hold patients in the hospital for longer to make sure they didn't make a mistake in treating the patient. That way, the patient has little-to-no legal recourse against the doctor or medical institution when their care is complete. This argument gets trotted around like it is fact -- and thankfully, there is new evidence that contradicts this line of thinking.
Imagine that after a visit to the doctor's office you are given a prescription by your doctor to deal with a relatively minor -- but still serious -- medical issue. With the right medicine, the proper dosage and your persistence in taking the medicine at the right time, your condition should significantly improve, or be cured all together, in a short time. So you go to the pharmacy to get your prescription and then in the next week, you stay on top of your medication schedule.
After seven days though, you don't feel any better. In fact, the medication doesn't make you feel well at all. So you go back to your doctor and show him or her your medication bottle. Your doctor looks horrified. "It's the wrong medication" your doctor informs you, as your head slumps into your hands.
While the following story doesn't have anything to do with New Jersey law, it does bring up two important factors in medical malpractice and medical safety that could be applicable anywhere. So forgive the geographical irrelevance in this story, and instead focus on these two elements: intoxicated doctors and medical malpractice lawsuit caps.
The state of California has a motion on the docket this November that would add new rules that would require doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol testing. Another rule would significantly elevate the cap on medical malpractice payouts, pushing it from $250,000 to more than four times that amount ($1.1 million).
The question posed in the title of this blog post may seem like a simple one: a patient went in for medical care, a doctor made a mistake and, as a result, the patient suffered more harm and incurred more medical bills. Simple, right? This would obviously seem like an incident where medical malpractice occurred.
Though that certainly sounds like a case of medical malpractice -- and it certainly could be proven so -- this area of law isn't as straightforward as you may think. There are numerous ways to prove that a doctor or institution owes a patient after medical malpractice occurred, but establishing that proof is a bit more complex than it may initially seem. So how do you prove that a patient did indeed suffer from medical malpractice?
When you go to the doctor's office or the hospital, you expect everything to be in near-perfect shape. There should be clean surfaces and fresh sheets on the bed. The utensils that medical professionals use should be sanitized and good to go before any procedures. The medical record system should be up to date and fully functional. These are just a few of the basic things that should be happening at every hospital across the country, let alone just in New Jersey.
However, this sadly doesn't always happen. Every once and awhile, you'll read a seemingly-unreal story about a patient who suffered a terrible medical setback due to unclean bed sheets or his or her hospital bed; or utensils that weren't sanitized, thus spreading a disease or infection on to a what would have been a healthy patient; or medical records systems crashing or not being properly updated by medical personnel.
It may seem impossible or like it is something out of a bad movie, but unfortunately surgical errors that involve a medical tool, device or object being left in the patient happen far too often. These events, which are called "retained surgical items," can cause a patient to suffer tremendous pain and suffering, and the harm caused by a retained surgical item could be permanent.
Obviously, retained surgical items also require more surgery and medical care, which prolongs the patient's recovery and deals them extra medical bills that they shouldn't have to deal with. In the absolute worst case scenarios, a retained surgical item can cause fatal complications. These surgical errors are very serious despite their ridiculous nature, and the people (or their family members) who deal with this medical malpractice deserve justice.