Monday, July 7, 2014

There Is No Medical Malpractice in Wisconsin

A former top medical malpractice attorney from Milwaukee, is quoted saying that "There is no medical malpractice in Wisconsin," in a watch dog report in the Journal Sentinel: Medical malpractice lawsuits plummet in Wisconsin.

The report blames state med mal caps and a $1 billion malpractice insurance fund from discouraging claims even in the face of apparent wrongdoing. According the article:
"The number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Wisconsin fell to 140 last year, a drop of more than 50% since 1999, court records show. Malpractice lawyers blame the decline on state laws that they say are skewed in favor of doctors and hospitals; medical groups contend that malpractice suits have declined because health care professionals have gotten better at their jobs."
 Further...
"At the same time, a state-run malpractice insurance fund — created because of fears that medical malpractice insurance premiums would skyrocket without it — has grown to more than $1.15 billion, a total larger than all the money it has paid out during its entire 39-year history."
 Read more in this 2-part series.

Part 1: Medical malpractice meltdown | Medical lobby is a powerhouse in Wisconsin Capitol

Part 2: No malpractice lawyers will take case in death of Wisconsin baby | Malpractice insurance business is booming in Wisconsin and nation

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Connecticut Looks At Med Mal Review Law

The CT Mirror reported yesterday that attorneys are pushing for changes in that state's medical malpractice lawsuit procedures, specifically in how cases come to court.
"Since 2005, a patient wanting to claim damages from a doctor for alleged negligence must have his or her case reviewed by a similar health care provider, who will certify whether the claim has merit. If the patient can't get what's known as a good faith certificate, the courts will dismiss the case before it gets to trial."
 The report quotes the president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association Mike Walsh:
"The term 'similar health care provider' was interpreted in such a rigid fashion that unless you had a doctor who was totally identical in terms of certifications and expertise and all the rest as the defendant, the courts would essentially dismiss the case..."
Please read the article at: The CT Mirror.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Missouri: House Passes Bill To Reinstate Med Mal Damage Caps

As reported by St. Louis Public Radio, The Missouri House has passed Legislation to reinstate medical malpractice damage caps that was "tossed out last year by the Missouri Supreme Court." (The court found that the cap law violated a right to a jury trial.) You can link to the news item here on St. Louis Public Radio.

The Springfield News-Leader also carried this report, stating:
"The bill places a limit of $350,000 in awards for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, stemming from medical malpractice lawsuits. The cap was initially put into place in 2005 but was struck down last year by the Missouri Supreme Court as unconstitutional under the state’s constitution."
In a press release from Mellino Robenalt law firm, Attorney Tom Robenalt commented on the Missouri bill.
“It goes without saying that medical malpractice is a hot button for not just victims, but for lawmakers, the media and insurance companies. Everyone wants to do something about the costs of medical malpractice, but few seem to get the point that it’s the victim they need to focus on, not the bottom line financial concerns for the insurance companies.” 
For more on Robenalt's view, see: Does A High Standard of Proof Help or Hinder Victims?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Changes in State Medical Malpractice Laws

We want to hear about changes to laws governning medical malpractice in your state. Please send news articles, press releases and links to maryrkennedy -at- gmail.com. Or, add information directly through our commenting system.

Here's a recent round-up:

Oregon - Governor Kitzhaber will sign a bill passed by the House where, through the Oregon Patient Safety Commission, patients and providers can enter into mediation to resolve medical malpractice suits. According to a report in the Statesman Journal,
 "A provider can offer a settlement as part of the process. The discussions are confidential, and cannot be entered into evidence in most instances if there is a subsequent lawsuit.The deal was reached by the Oregon Medical Association and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association as a result of a work group convened by Kitzhaber, who’s a physician."
Arizona - The state's supreme court recently upheld a state law that requires med mal plaintiffs to have a medical witness testify who is in the same specialty area as the provider being sued. While the ruling will make filing a medical malpractice lawsuit more difficult, the court writes it is "not unconstitutional because the requirement doesn’t flatly prevent plaintiffs from having their day in court," according to a report in the Insurance Journal.

Florida - A bill currently before the Florida Legislature would make it more difficult for parties filing medical malpractice lawsuits by requiring "a higher burden of proof  to prevail in medical lawsuits and would block suits against hospitals for errors committed within their walls if they were committed by people who are not employees — such as most doctors," according to a news report in Health News Florida.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Medical Malpractice Payouts 2012 Data | Infographic

What do you think about this type of infographic? Is it a useful communications tool? Does it get across the point that is trying to be made? It is published by the Cunningham Group, and designed by SteamDriven. "Using data culled from multiple sources we compiled an over view of the payouts for medical malpractice awards based on 2011 and 2012 data." Could the publisher please provide the sources for the data?

One interesting data point: 6 states account for 51.4% of all payouts: New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, and California. But aren't those also the most populous states?
Please comment on how this data compares to what you've seen elsewhere. Link to larger version.

Medical Malpractice Payouts 2012

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Select Tort Reform Summary State by State Since 1986

An article published on Need to Know on PBS on changes to the medical malpractice system, included a table that summarized selected tort reforms enacted since 1986 and which states have enacted them. The reforms that it included are:
  • Modify Joint-and-Several Liability
  • Modify the Collateral-Source Rule
  • Limit Noneconomic Damages
  • Limit Punitive Damages
Click here to read the article and view the table: Prescriptive policies for medical malpractice.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Massachusetts Medical Mistakes: Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word

The Boston Globe Magazine yesterday ran an article that follows up on our previous post on the attempt in Massachusetts to control costs with its medical mistake DA&O law (disclosure, apology and offer). The article by Dr. Darshak Sanghavi is headlined, Why is it so hard for doctors to apologize? Fixing a system built on blame and revenge will require bold ways of analyzing mistakes and a radical embrace of openness. 

Sanghavi wrote:
"Last August, Massachusetts enacted reforms that usually make doctors’ apologies inadmissible in court, require claimants to file “letters of intent” before suing, and impose a six-month waiting period to allow doctors and patients to work out the matter. The law might pave the way for earlier, more amicable settlements.

But the bitter fact is that there is no appetite in the medical community to come clean preemptively about every medical error. The list of them is just too long. No major reforms, including those just passed here, are truly proactive, since they all still require patients or families to call a lawyer before anything happens."
 See previous post: Massachusetts Passes Health Care Cost Control Bill.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Massachusetts Passes Health Care Cost Control Bill

A newly enacted law in Massachusetts will adopt the "disclosure, apology and offer (DA&O)" approach to help resolve malpractice cases. The Healthcare Cost Control Bill recently passed by the Massachusetts legislature and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on August 6 contains specific language that facilitates a DA&O approach to medical malpractice claims.

Under the DA&O model healthcare professionals and institutions and their insurers:
  • Disclose to patients and families when unanticipated adverse outcomes occur
  • Investigate and interpret what happened
  • Establish systems to improve patient safety and prevent the recurrence of such incidents
  • Apologize, where appropriate, 
  • Offer fair financial compensation without the patient  having to resort to legal action.
Changes include provisions for a six-month, pre-litigation resolution period that affords the time to go through a DA&O process with sharing of all pertinent medical records by the patient, full disclosure by providers, and for statements of apology by providers to be inadmissible in court.

Under the DA&O model, healthcare professionals and institutions and their insurers disclose to patients and families when unanticipated adverse outcomes occur; investigate and explain what happened; establish systems to improve patient safety and prevent the recurrence of such incidents; and, where appropriate, apologize and offer fair financial compensation without the patient having to resort to legal action. Patients will always have the right to consult an attorney to advise them of their rights and to evaluate the fairness of any offer or to bring legal action if they so choose.

Friday, April 27, 2012

New Hampshire Considers Early Offer Settlement Bill

Former NH Superior Court and Supreme Court judge Chuck Douglas has weighed in on the controversial SB 406 a bill to provide "early offer" settlements as a way to expedite medical malpractice settlements. According to Douglas in an opinion piece in SeacoastOnline.com, the legislation,
"runs counter to the way we value life in this state. Under the proposal, a hospital or other provider can kill a patient and the compensation is only $117,500.... Furthermore, the bill is premised on the fact that elderly folks on Social Security who have no earned income, or stay-at-home moms who have no income, are not worth paying for pain and suffering. The bill covers payments only for lost wages. If you have no lost wages, your loss of enjoyment of life is worth zero."
Douglas further writes...
"The bill was drafted by a Virginia professor and has a payout formula like workers' compensation schedules. An example of what would probably be considered a low-end payment under the formula for a "permanent injury involving minor harm" ($29,750) is an article that appeared in the Union Leader on March 30 describing how a nurse cut off a child's finger after the 8-month-old arrived at a hospital with a chest infection. They could not reattach the tiny finger that the nurse mistakenly cut off. That permanent life-long mutilation would only be worth $29,750 according to SB 406 — less than $500 per year over the life (expectancy) of the child. That does not begin to compensate the child, in my opinion."
You can read his full opinion here: Hard to make choices blindfolded.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mass. Hospitals Look To Promote Culture of Openess and Apologies Regarding Medical Errors

A coalition of seven Massachusetts hospitals are undertaking an intiative to transform a culture of "secrecy and denial" regarding medical errors according to a report in The Boston Globe. The hospitals in the coalition include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, and Massachusetts General Hospital. As outlined in the Globe article:
"The plan calls on doctors and nurses to fully disclose mistakes to patients and apologize. Three large insurers and a medical group have donated about $1 million to underwrite the initial work at the seven test hospitals, and the coalition hopes to implement the improvements statewide over the next several years."
Under the plan, patients who accept a financial settlement forfeit their right to sue. To read the full Boston Globe article, Mass. hospitals promise openness, apologies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wrongful Birth Medical Malpractice Award is $2.9 Million in Oregon

Usually when reporting medical malpractice verdicts and settlements it is the phrase 'wrongful death' that comes up, not 'wrongful birth'. But a rare 'wrongful birth' trial reached a conclusion for the parents of child who was born with Downs Syndrome claiming doctors for medical negligence in pre-natal care, in the amount of $2.9 million for the lifetime care of the child. See article on OregonLive.com.

This of course stirs debate with anti-abortion forces. The Daily Beast details the conflict rising over The Legal Claims of Wrongful Birth vs. the Right to Lie Over Abortion...
When anti-abortion activists defend mandatory ultrasound rules, they often speak about a pregnant woman’s right to know. “Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell when he signed such a rule into law last week.

In some states, though, anti-abortion activists are pushing legislation to protect doctors who don’t give women all available information about their pregnancies. Arizona and Kansas are considering bills that would ban lawsuits in cases where doctors fail to warn their patients about birth defects.
Read more on The Daily Beast.

 

Monday, March 19, 2012

State Lawmakers Blast House GOP's Medical Malpractice Reform Plan

In today's The Hill's Healthwatch the article — State lawmakers blast House GOP's medical malpractice reform bill - mentions a letter from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), expressing strong, bipartisan opposition to attaching federal medical malpractice legislation to the Medicare accountability bill as a "State's rights issue."
"Medical malpractice, product liability and other areas of tort reform are areas of law that are regulated by the states," says the letter from the NCLS. "Since the country's inception, states have addressed the myriad of substantive and regulatory issues regarding licensure, insurance, court procedures, victim compensation, civil liability, medical records and related matters."
Read more on thehill.com.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sanjay Gupta Writes Novel on Inside World of Medicial Errors

Every time surgeons operate, they're betting their skills are better than the brain tumor, the faulty heart valve, the fractured femur. Sometimes, they're wrong. At Chelsea General, surgeons answer for bad outcomes at the Morbidity and Mortality conference, known as M & M. This extraordinary peek behind the curtain into what is considered the most secretive meeting in all of medicine is the back drop for the entire book.

Monday Mornings: A Novel, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, follows the lives of five surgeons at Chelsea General as they push the limits of their abilities and confront their personal and professional failings, often in front of their peers at M & M. It is on Monday mornings that reflection and introspection occurs, usually in private. It is Monday Mornings that provides a unique look at the real method in which surgeons learn — through their mistakes. It is Monday Mornings when, if you're lucky, you have a chance at redemption.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Patient Safety: How To Reduce Your Chance of a Medical Error

Here’s what Consumer Reports and Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, say patients can do to keep themselves safe when they go to a hospital.
  • Do your homework. Go to the Web sites Hospital Compare and the Joint Commission and look up hospitals in your Zip code. Based on that information, ask your doctor which ones they trust.
  • Ask a malpractice lawyer which hospitals are safe.
  • Find out if the procedure you’re having is one that both your physician and the hospital do often. “You don’t want a doctor or hospital that dabbles in your procedure,” Pronovost says.
  • Ask if the physician and hospital use a checklist.
  • When you go to the hospital, have a list of all your medications and medical problems and give it to the doctors and nurses caring for you.
  • Ask if physicians and nurses have washed their hands before they touch you. You may feel uncomfortable asking this, but it’s for your own safety.
  • If you have an invasive device in your body, such as a catheter, either you or a family member or a friend should ask every day if you need to have it in your body and when it can be taken out.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you to be your advocate, ask questions, and record the answers.
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Pennsylvania, $23 Million Jury Award for Woman Who Lost Both Legs Due to Infection

Headlines out of Allentown, PA's The Morning Call, indicate a medical malpratice lawsuit by a woman who lost both legs due to infection while under care the care of a home care nurse, has been awarded $23 million by a jury. According to the report:
"The medical malpractice verdict, among the highest ever in the county, came after attorneys [the plantiff] argued that her home-care nurse failed to report a bacteria-infected catheter, leading to an infection that nearly killed her in 2008."
To read the article, go to:  Jury awards Lehighton woman $23 million

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lubin & Meyer: Boston Jury Verdict Is $11.48 Million with Interest

Breaking news via Law Links Health Links: Lubin & Meyer announced on its Twitter page tonight that they had won a jury verdict in a case involving the death of an 8-day old baby. After much searching and hand-ringing we found the first report providing more details on the case in the Boston Globe. According to a report in the White Coats Blog, the award was $7 million — $3.5 million for each parent and $50,000 for the newborn's pain and suffering. The $11.48 million is the total with interest. Again, according to the Globe report, the jury found a physician and nurse practitioner negligent in care. They baby developed notnecrotizing enterocolitis. Attorneys for the plaintiff were William J. Thompson and Elizabeth Cranford.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Common, Payments Are Not

Kaiser Health News reports on the findings of a study published this month by the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that "only one in five malpractice lawsuits results in a payout. The authors conclude that the truth behind these numbers is complicated."

The study is Malpractice Risk According to Physician Specialty, Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., Seth Seabury, Ph.D., Darius Lakdawalla, Ph.D., and Amitabh Chandra, Ph.D. N Engl J Med 2011; 365:629-636

A related Associated Press article on the study in the Philadelphia Inquirer carries these interesting statistics from the study...
  • "Only 1 in 5 malpractice claims against doctors leads to a settlement or other payout"
  • "Each year about 1 in 14 doctors is the target of a claim"
  • "most physicians and virtually every surgeon will face at least one [malpractice claim] in their career"
The chart below summarizes lawsuits and payouts by specialty as found in the study.

To read the full study and methodology, including more charts like the one above, click on: Malpractice Risk According to Physician Specialty to go to www.nejm.org.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Jersey: Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict in Orange County

According to a report in the Times-Herald Record, an Orange County, New Jersey jury has reached a verdict in the case of a critical-care physician and nurse at Bon Secours Community Hospital accused of a medical error causing a woman to suffer a brain injury and became severely disabled. The jury's damage award includes $19.5 million for future medical and rehabilitation services for the patient and $5 million for her husband. Read the full news item here. (Note, the newspaper lists the verdict at $34 million, while the amounts published do not match the amount claimed in the headline. The difference may be interest on the verdict, however, no other information was attainable at the time of this post.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

McDonald Hopkins Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Illinois Law

CHICAGO, IL — Hospital-based pathology groups and physicians in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate, on constitutional grounds, Illinois legislation designed to shift the burden of absorbing certain patient-related costs from insurers to practitioners of only a few specifically-enumerated medical specialties. The Statute is Illinois Public Act 96-1523, and you can read the full alert here: Hospital-based physicians seek to invalidate law

Friday, July 8, 2011

Outpatient Electronic Prescribing Systems Don’t Cut Out Common Mistakes

Outpatient electronic prescribing systems don’t cut out the common mistakes made in manual systems, suggests research published online in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

And not all systems are the same: some perform worse than others, the study shows.

The rapid adoption of electronic prescribing systems has in part been fuelled by the belief that they would reduce the sorts of errors commonly made in manual prescribing systems, the authors say.
The authors base their findings on an analysis of just under 4,000 computer generated prescriptions received by a commercial pharmacy chain in three different US states over a period of four weeks in 2008.

They looked at the number of mistakes made and their potential to cause harm, as well as the frequency of particular mistakes and whether these were associated with one type of system.
Of the 3,850 prescriptions assessed, more than one in 10 (452; just under 12%) contained a total of 466 errors.

Of these, a third (163; 35%) were deemed to be potentially harmful.

Mistakes were classified as: “significant,” but posing little serious threat to life, such as rash, headache, or diarrhoea; serious but not life threatening, such as low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), reduced heart rate (bradycardia), and fainting (syncope); and life threatening if not treated, such as heart attack and respiratory failure.

Among the 163 potentially harmful errors, over half (58%) were significant and the remainder (42%) were serious. None was life threatening. To read the full press release, see: E-Prescriptions.