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Ann Arbor Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Noneconomic damages caps in medical malpractice cases

In medical malpractice cases, noneconomic damages are an important but controversial issue. Such damages encompass losses that cannot be directly monetized, such as loss of a limb, trauma, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship. In tort reform, noneconomic damages are often capped so that juries don’t give excessive awards. A recent medical malpractice case out of Wisconsin highlights how jury awards can exceed the cap.

The case involves a 53-year-old married wife and mother who had her limbs amputated after contracting a Strep A infection which went unnoticed and resulted in septic shock. In total, the woman and her husband were awarded a total of $25.3 million; $15 million of the award was for pain and suffering while $1.5 million was for the husband’s loss of companionship.

Failure to diagnose diabetes can lead to heart attack

As consumers of medical services, we expect that our doctors have the education, training and experience necessary to property diagnose, treat and monitor our illnesses, diseases and other conditions. When a doctor fails to catch a serious diagnosis, the consequences can be serious, doing significant harm to the patient.

One example is the failure to diagnose diabetes, which can lead to heart attack if left untreated. According to new research, 10 percent of those who suffer heart attacks have undiagnosed diabetes. That number was reached by examining health records at 24 hospitals nationwide.  

Hospitals try staffing pharmacists to prevent medication errors

Medication errors, like all medical errors, can occur in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons. One particular area of health care where they are likely to occur, though, is in the emergency room. Because of the fast pace of emergency room facilities, the chances of medication errors occurring is greater than in other medical settings. Doctors may not always put the time in to determine what drug interactions may occur, or may write down the incorrect prescription by mistake, among other things.

Because of this, some hospitals across the country are taking steps to reign in the problem. Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, for instance has hired a number of emergency pharmacists to be on call to review prescriptions prior to their being filled and administered. This review process is particularly important for the hospital, since medication errors are more likely to occur with children. 

Over one-third of Michigan hospitals given "A" safety rating

The Leapfrog Group, an organization dedicated to health care safety, recently released safety ratings for hospitals nationwide. The survey, which gives hospitals a rating from A to F, found that 35 percent of the hospitals in Michigan—28 out of a total of 80—were given A ratings, Nationwide, nearly one-third of hospitals showed an improvement of at least 10 percent in their performance since 2012.

Back to Michigan—no hospitals in the state received an F score, but experts point out that hospitals must always be on the lookout to improve their efforts with respect to medical errors. This is especially the case when one considers that over 400,000 patients die nationwide per year as a result of medical errors. 

Unnecessary C-sections carry extra risks

According to a recent report by Consumer Reports, cesarean section deliveries are too common in many hospitals across the country. This has caused concern among patient advocates, who say that doctors may be performing more C-sections not out of necessity, but because of other factors.

C-sections, of course, carry risks that normal, vaginal deliveries do not, including increased risk of infection, increased bleeding, blood clotting and unexpected anesthesia reactions. Birth injuries are another concern in surgical deliveries, with laceration and damage to organs sometimes occurring. Generally, these risks are worth taking when the risks of a normal delivery are high enough. When the mother is healthy and low risk, though, a C-section may not only be unnecessary, but more dangerous.

Nursing home neglect case a stark reminder of resident vulnerability

When many people think about living a nursing home as an elderly person, there is a fear associated with this possibility. In nursing home living, residents generally do not enjoy the autonomy and privacy they had as younger adults. In addition, there is a vulnerability to caregivers that can be concerning to some, particularly given the stories of nursing home abuse and neglect we hear about from time to time in the news.

One such story comes from out of state, in Buffalo, New York, where a total of 17 nurses and nursing assistants have recently been charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes connected to the neglect of a deceased nursing home resident. Though the resident’s death was not due to any neglect on the part of nursing home staff, but to a neurological disease, authorities there accuse hospital staff of regularly failing to carry out their duties with respect to the resident, despite the fact that staff documentation shows those duties were met.

Jury favors couple in malpractice suit against radiology clinic

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a Grand Rapids couple against Kent Radiology and one of its former radiologists has reportedly ended in a jury award of $1.25 million. The award is in compensation for the death of the couple’s baby girl back in 2009 when she was only three days old.

The cause of death was officially determined to be inconclusive, but the couple alleged that death was due to an improperly placed feeding tube which led to fluid buildup around the infant’s heart, and ultimately cardiac arrest. According to the couple’s complaint, the radiologist on staff at Kent failed to notice the improper catheter placement, which constituted negligence. 

2013 medical malpractice payouts state-by-state

A recent article written by Michael Krauss, Professor of Law and George Mason University, listed a number of observations stemming from an annual compilation of medical malpractice payouts from 2013. According to the list, total medical malpractice payouts in Michigan for 2013 amounted to $7.45 per capita.

That number does not include all medical malpractice payouts, because it excludes those which involved no written request. Still, the numbers are fairly accurate. Krauss points out that that most medical malpractice payouts come through a settlement rather than at the end of litigation. This may come as a surprise to many people, but it is true. 

When your doctor's apology doesn't cut it

Many of us have personally experienced, or know somebody who has experienced, medical error by a health care provider. Not every case of medical error results in medical malpractice litigation, of course, but many people who are harmed by a provider at least consider the possibility.

One of the measures that hospitals and providers have taken to reduce the occurrence of medical malpractice litigation over medical errors is to implement disclosure and apology programs. These programs involve policies which encourage doctors to communicate mistakes to patients and offer apologies and compensation where necessary. These programs are coming to be seen as a helpful preventative measure with respect to malpractice litigation. 

Waking up in a body bag: a morbid result of malpractice?

An out-of-state medical story has attracted attention in Michigan, as well as in other countries. Some might call what happened to an elderly man a miracle; others might call it unacceptable; others might simply call it terrifying.

Last week, a 78-year-old woke up in a place where no one wants to be. Not only was he in a funeral home, but he was in a body bag because the coroner had classified him as dead. Clearly, the elderly man was not dead. Now the public is looking for clarification regarding how something so horrific could happen.

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