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Ann Arbor Medical Malpractice Law Blog

A doctor's duty of care in a medical malpractice suit

Victims of doctor error or surgical error often hear rebuttals like "doctors are only human," that "everyone makes mistakes," and similar attempts to shift the blame onto the victims themselves. To some extent, of course, these statements are true. No one expects a doctor, nurse, surgeon or other provider to be a superhuman, flawless and immune to error.

There are, however, certain legal standards that govern the relationship between a physician and a patient. These have to do with what's known as the "duty of care" owed to a patient. Let's take a closer look at what this means, in order to provide our Ann Arbor readers with some general information (not intended as specific legal advice) on this important subject for anyone pursuing a medical malpractice claim.

Heart failure symptoms, awareness for Ann Arbor residents

We hope that our last post here on our Ann Arbor medical malpractice law blog got our readers thinking about how they might handle a situation in which they suspect that a physician has failed to diagnose a heart condition. In that story, a patient died during gallbladder surgery because of his providers' failure to diagnose heart failure. Let's look at some of the signs that should ordinarily serve as red flags to doctors that a patient may be suffering heart failure, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

First, however, a definition. "Heart failure" is not the same thing as cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating. When we talk about heart failure, we're describing a heart that is unable to pump all the blood the body requires. It could be because either the heart can't pump strongly enough, or perhaps it can't fill up with enough blood -- or, in some cases, both may occur at once.

Failure to diagnose heart condition leads to patient's death

Heart problems are among the more serious health issues that Ann Arbor residents may face in their lifetimes. Because of the serious risks posed by heart conditions, physicians are trained to recognize signs in their patients that could be indicators of a heart attack or similar emergency related to the heart. When they fail to diagnose such a condition, they may be held liable in court for damages resulting from their negligence.

One such case is making its way through the court system in the southern part of the country. The patient, a man in his mid-fifties, had complained for days of muscle pain, stomach aches and cramps. While he was known to have Hepatitis C and a history of hypertension, his symptoms were initially treated as flu.

How can one recognize nursing home neglect or abuse? (Part 2)

Our last entry here on our Ann Arbor medical malpractice law blog started looking at some of the different forms of elder abuse that can occur in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Let's continue this week with some warning signs for which Ann Arbor residents should be on the lookout if they suspect nursing home neglect or abuse may be taking place.

On the one hand, signs of physical harm may be obvious. Bruises, burns and abrasions should always be questioned, but there are other physical signs as well. These include bedsores, lack of hygiene and unexplained weight loss. Any of these indicators might be red flags of neglect or abuse. In particular, unexplained marks around private areas could be a sign that sexual assault has occurred.

How can one recognize nursing home neglect or abuse? (Part 1)

When we talk about problems in society that are constantly evolving and growing in scope, sometimes the words we use to describe them become inadequate or even confusing. Here on our Ann Arbor medical malpractice law blog, we've been discussing nursing home neglect for the past few weeks, but let's take a step back and make sure that we're being clear for our readers asking: just what constitutes nursing home neglect or abuse?

Of course, in regard to some acts, there is no question. Physical abuse includes striking or pushing a nursing home resident, although it can also include using physical or chemical means to restrain a person depending on the circumstances. Sexual assault is also a clear violation. But emotional abuse -- humiliating or threatening an elder, inflicting mental anguish whether verbally or nonverbally -- also commonly falls within the realm of nursing home abuse.

A hard look at nursing home realities in Michigan

It's hard to read stories, like our last Ann Arbor medical malpractice law blog entry, about elderly nursing home residents falling prey to neglect and abuse. These senior citizens are uniquely vulnerable; they are often physically weak, perhaps in failing health and may suffer from cognitive difficulties as well. Yet it's important for our readers to be informed about the issue, in part because it's frighteningly common here in Michigan.

The number of Michiganders living in traditional nursing homes today is over 45,000. Of those, a study recently found that over 20 percent -- one out of every five residents -- suffers from nursing home neglect. And in just the last three years, Michigan facilities have been cited at nearly double the national average rate for serious violations involving harm or jeopardizing residents' safety.

Nursing home patient killed in altercation with staff member

While many of us here in Ann Arbor wish we could drop everything to take care of our aging parents and elder relatives when they need it, reality rarely works out that way. Today we need to enlist nursing homes to provide care and support. This makes cases of nursing home neglect and abuse all the more troubling.

A recent case from the East Coast got so far out of hand that a patient in his late seventies was killed by an aide at the facility. Reportedly, the patient wanted to get out of bed, and the aide objected. The aide, a woman in her early forties, eventually became physical with the elderly man.

Michigan surgeon surrenders license due to medical malpractice

It's reasonable, or so most Ann Arbor residents might think, to expect that a surgeon preparing to operate on a patient will have the appropriate licensure to do so. Perhaps even more so, patients undergoing surgery anticipate that the procedure will be performed correctly, or at least that any mistakes would be acknowledged and appropriately addressed. A recently revealed series of medical malpractice episodes right here in Michigan, however, threatens this confidence and leaves many wondering: what about the victims?

The surgeon in question has been practicing in our state since 2011. One particular patient went to him for surgery on his spine two years ago. After the surgery, the patient complained of tingling and even a "blood-boiling" sensation in his legs, for which he was prescribed ongoing painkillers. Eventually the patient went to another physician who discovered that the surgery had never even been performed.

Holding negligent physicians accountable for failure to diagnose

Last week's post here on our Ann Arbor medical malpractice law blog about a case of failure to diagnose cancer may have spurred some questions among our readers. After all, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose can be a challenging claim for victims to prove. As painful as their losses often are -- perhaps even fatal -- it's naturally more difficult to prove such claims that it often is in, say, a case of a botched surgery or a medication error.

Fortunately, legal professionals with experience in this field can advise victims and their families on their rights in this situation and what to expect should they proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit. They will speak with you, for example, about how a reasonably prudent physician might have diagnosed symptoms similar to yours. They'll look at what warning signs were present and discuss the likelihood that the provider was negligent in failing to recognize them in time (or at all).

Victim losing speech due to doctor's failure to diagnose cancer

There is a tragic fact underlying many misdiagnosis cases here in Ann Arbor and across the United States. That is that some victims do not live long enough to hold a negligent physician accountable for failing to live up to the standards of the profession. However, a victim in one recent case is working with her legal counsel to try to tell her side of the story while she still can.

The case comes from the southern part of the country. The victim is a woman who is in the late stages of throat cancer; the disease has affected her speech and is expected to deprive her of that ability altogether. She is preparing to sue her doctor for his failure to diagnose cancer in her case.

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