Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Looking At Causes of Medical Errors and How to Fix

Nashville, TN (PRWEB) December 11, 2008 — Administrators of healthcare agencies are no-doubt familiar with the Institute of Medicine's much publicized report, To Err Is Human; Building a Safer Health System, which found that preventable medical errors account for at least 44,000 and possibly as high as 98,000 deaths each year. Additionally, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) estimates that over 770,000 people are injured or die each year from medication errors, costing providers millions of dollars in unrecoverable expenses. Research also shows that "the majority of medical errors do not result from individual recklessness, but rather by faulty systems, manual archaic processes, and the lack of congruent or compatible information systems."

A free white paper, from eTransX, delves deeper into these issues and explains the practices, methodologies, and technologies required to effectively manage the four stages of an holistic approach to the management of the entire life cycle of healthcare data:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Massachusetts Supreme Court Says Doctor's Liability Goes Beyond Patient

From The Boston Globe today: "BOSTON — A doctor who failed to warn his patient about the potential side effects of medication can be held liable for the man's car crash that killed a 10-year-old boy, the state's highest court ruled Monday in the first such decision to make doctors responsible for harm to nonpatients." Read full article here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Romney Raises Malpractice Caps As Campaign Issue

Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has raised the issue of medical malpractice caps as part of his campaign... Link here for more from The Associated Press.

Pennsylvania Jury Awards $3 Million for Sinus Infection Misdiagnosis

In today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Jury awards $3 million in malpractice suit for sinuses treated with steroids, not antibiotic...The case involved a woman who visited her family doctor's office, reporting having headaches and nasal discharge — "symptoms consistent with a sinus infection," according to the report.
"But the physician's assistant who saw her failed to make that diagnosis or to prescribe antibiotics. Instead, according to [the patient's] attorney, his client received a prescription for steroids, was told to undergo additional testing and return in a week.

But just five days later, she developed stroke-like symptoms, including facial drooping and disorientation, said one of her attorneys, Stephen Del Sole."
See article online.

Massachusetts Jury Verdict - Medical Malpractice

The Lowell Sun reports on a case in Lowell Superior Court involving a woman who died 19 days after having surgery to remove ovarian cysts in a wrongful death lawsuit, calling it "one of the largest jury verdicts in the Merrimack Valley [Massachusetts]." A jury decided after 3 days of deliberations and an 11-day trial.

Attorney for the plaintiff Suzanne McDonough said that:

"the lawsuit, filed in 2002, arose from the June 6, 1999, death of .... the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, who went into Lowell General Hospital a few weeks earlier on May 13 to remove an ovarian cyst. But while in the hospital, Edwards developed pneumonia.

McDonough alleges that at trial, the attorneys representing the doctors argued that the ovarian problems were making the pneumonia worse, so surgery was necessary even though Edwards had not been a candidate for surgery five days earlier."

She further comments in the article: "The jury found that both doctors were negligent and their negligence caused Edwards' death." The jury awarded $2 million to the daughter of the deceased, and $500,000 to the estate. Boston attorney Andrew Meyer who also represented the family said, "This was a big verdict," and with interest, the verdict could rise to $4.1 million, he said."

See full account here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ruling on Med Mal Caps: Award Limits Unconstitutional

The Chicago Tribune today reports on the controversy over limits on medical malpractice awards in the article: Judge rejects medical suit caps, Cook County ruling calls award limits unconstitutional.
"Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen decided that caps on malpractice awards violated the Illinois Constitution's "separation of powers" clause, in effect ruling that the legislature can't interfere with the right of juries and judges to determine fair damages. Her ruling falls in line with a 1997 Illinois Supreme Court decision that overturned a 1995 law implementing caps on personal-injury cases."
This one's not over though, defense lawyers will appeal the decision, which sends it on to the state Supreme Court.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Medical Malpractice News Roundup

From the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, a summary of recent developments to medical malpractice law in three states. Briefly,
"Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Medical Society has asked state lawmakers to pass a bill sponsored by state Sen. Robert O'Leary (D) under which plaintiffs could not use statements of guilt or admissions of error by physicians as evidence in malpractice lawsuits, the Boston Globe reports. In addition to that bill, state Sen. Richard Moore (D) has introduced legislation that would create a "Health Apology Pilot Program"" with similar provisions. Go to article...

"Pennsylvania: The amount of claims paid by the state Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error, or MCARE, fund will decrease for a fourth consecutive year to $191 million, about a 50% decrease from 2003, Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said last week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports." Go to article...

"Washington state: A state malpractice law enacted last year prevents public disclosure of reports of medical errors by individual hospitals, according to a legal opinion sent last week by the state Office of the Attorney General to the state Department of Health, the Seattle Times reports." Go to article...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Emotional Costs of Medical Errors - Patient, Family, Physician

An editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine examines the issue of medical errors, in "Guilty, Afraid, and Alone — Struggling with Medical Error," in its October 25, 2007 edition. Tom Delbanco, MD and Sigall K. Bell, MD, ask "How can we characterize and address the human dimensions of medical error so that patients, families, and clinicians may reach some degree of closure and move toward forgiveness?"
"In interviews that our group conducted for a documentary film, patients and families that had been affected by medical error illuminated a number of themes. Three of these themes have been all but absent from the literature. First, though it is well recognized that clinicians feel guilty after medical mistakes, family members often have similar or even stronger feelings of guilt. Second, patients and their families may fear further harm, including retribution from health care workers, if they express their feelings or even ask about mistakes they perceive. And third, clinicians may turn away from patients who have been harmed, isolating them just when they are most in need."
Link to the entire article at NEJM: Guilty, Afraid, and Alone — Struggling with Medical Error

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pennsylvania: Is Medical Malpractice Crisis Over?

The jury is still out on this one, but Philadelphia's Bulletin just published an article titled, Critics Dispute Rendell's Assertion Malpractice Crisis?Has Come To End.

A few facts:
"Mr. Rendell, a Democrat who has vocally opposed Republican-led efforts to cap damage awards and lawyers' contingency fees in medical liability cases told reporters and health care experts at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia that a number of policy changes made since 2002 have contributed to a decline in medical malpractice litigation in the state.
Such lawsuits contribute to the cost of business for physicians who pay hefty premiums for medical malpractice insurance. Doctors in Pennsylvania must have at least $1 million in malpractice coverage."
Read entire article here.

The Houston Chronicle has article on the same topic and provides some dollar amounts.
Gov: Pa. Medical Malpractice Costs Drop

Maine Jury Awards $8 Million Malpractice Award

The Boston Globe reports on October 25, 2007:

AUBURN, Maine — A jury Thursday awarded nearly $8 million to a brain-damaged 5-year-old boy and his mother in their medical malpractice lawsuit against a Lewiston hospital and one of its midwives. It is believed to be the largest malpractice award ever handed down in Androscoggin County Superior Court. Read full article here...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Massachusetts Jury Awards $26.5M Med Mal C-section delay

The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reports on October 12, 2007 that a Suffolk jury issues largest med-mal verdict of the year.
"In what appears to be the largest reported medical malpractice jury verdict of 2007, the jury found two doctors liable for the child’s condition, but a nurse defendant was found not negligent."
See also: Boston Herald's Doctors must pay $26.5M in baby malpractice case.

The largest medical malpractice verdict in Massachusetts remains a 2005 case also involving a baby's brain damage after a traumatic delivery — $40 million.

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Hampshire's Malpractice Screening Law and How it Works

This Boston Globe article looks at New Hampshire's medical malpractice screening panels and how they work.
"Medical malpractice screening panels were developed in the 1970s in response to complaints that claims were driving up insurance rates, forcing some doctors to give up their practices. Supporters hoped the panels would help contain costs by screening out weak cases and resolving the rest as early and inexpensively as possible.

New Hampshire set up screening panels in 2005 based on a 1987 Maine law."

Related links provided by the article include:

American Medical Association article

Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion

2005 NH law

Another view on the same story offered by Maine's Portland Herald: N.H. law backfires, slows malpractice suits. The law, based on one in Maine aimed at lowering malpractice rates, is having growing pains, supporters say. Break: Social Security Disability Claims Lawyer

Kaiser's Medical Malpractice Resources

Medical Malpractice Law in the United States is a Kaiser Family Foundation report that provides an overview of the issues surrounding medical malpractice law, including the legal changes that states have made over the past 30 years in response to periodic concerns about rising medical malpractice costs; some newer proposals for changing medical malpractice law; and trend data for malpractice claims. While this report is from 2005, it provides excellent background info.

To access Kaiser Daily Reports on medical malpractice related issues, bookmark: Medical Malpractice Spotlight for headlines such as:

  • • State Watch - Maryland Insurance Administration, Medical Malpractice Insurer Dispute Dividend
  • • Republican Presidential Candidate McCain Announces Health Care Proposal That Focuses on Cost Containment
  • • Presidential Candidate McCain To Propose Health Care System Overhaul Offering Insurance Tax Incentives; Focusing on Prevention, Quality of Care
  • • State Watch - Doctors Relocating to Texas After Implementation of Medical Malpractice Caps
  • • Presidential Candidate Edwards Discusses Proposals To Address Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, Provide Universal Health Coverage
  • Thursday, October 4, 2007

    $16 Million Jury Award for Heart Attack Death Among Largest Medical Malpractice Verdicts in Connecticut

    October 3, 2007 issue of Newsday reports: "BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - A Superior Court jury has awarded more than $16 million to the family of a man who died of a heart attack more than a decade ago, an attorney said."

    Defendants, the Stamford Medical Group, were accused of "failing to diagnose and treat his cardiac disease." The award is believed to be one of the largest wrongful death verdicts in state history. Read entire article here.

    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    Medical Malpractice Claims Paid by State

    The Kaiser Foundation maintains a web site,, where it lists medical malpractice claims paid, by state for 2007. The data is presented for easy comparison, and can be sorted by state, or by number of claims paid, or number of paid claims per 1,000 active, non-federal physicians. The data is updated for 2007 as of June 30, 2007.

    Link to the site at

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Upcoming Trial to Test Illinois Medical Malpractice Caps

    A St. Louis Post-Dispatch article nicely summarizes some of the effects attributed to medical malpractice reform in Illinois over the past two years, and whether caps on damages will stand in upcoming trial.

    The article (At 2-year anniversary, Illinois' malpractice law nears first court challenge) states, "Later this month, the law will be tested before a Cook County judge. The question before the court will be whether caps on the damages for pain and suffering in a malpractice lawsuit are constitutional."

    All eyes will be on Chicago lawyer, Jeffrey Goldberg, who will challenge the caps "on behalf of an infant who was born with severe brain damage. Goldberg alleges a botched delivery and argues the caps simply don't allow a jury to award enough money." Read full story...

    Here is a link where you can listen to an NPR segment on the case and related tort reform in Illinois (from February).

    Monday, September 3, 2007

    $70.8 Million Med-Mal Verdict Stands in NJ

    Pellicer v. St. Barnabas Hospital, A-1472-05: A New Jersey state appeals court has refused to disturb a $70.8 million medical malpractice award to the family of a brain-damaged infant, ruling it was not excessive in light of the injuries.

    According to this report by Michael Booth or the New Jersey Law Journal,

    "The court had refused to permit the New Jersey Hospital Association to join the case as amicus. The association had sought to argue that the $50 million pain-and-suffering component would set a dangerous benchmark and threaten hospitals' finances. ...Instead, the three-judge panel chose to confine its analysis to the facts at hand, finding that courts should not interfere with a jury award unless it was shocking."
    Read more here...

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word... But the Easiest Way To Avoid Malpractice Suit

    This has been written about before, but here is the latest article on the trend of doctors admitting medical errors as the best medicine to prevent likelihood of malpractice claims in the Chicago Tribune...

    "...the culture of secrecy in medicine is beginning to change, as leading patient safety organizations call for fuller disclosure of medical errors and some trend-setting hospitals decide an "honesty is best" policy will improve care..."

    Read the rest here.

    Thursday, August 9, 2007

    Medical Malpractice News Roundup

    Medical malpractice news round-up elsewhere in the nation:

    In Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports Malpractice work shrinks after law tightens standards.
    Since the 2003 law added requirements that made medical malpractice cases harder and more expensive to prove and less lucrative if won, the numbers of such suits filed in Harris County courts has been cut in half.

    Insurance premiums for doctors and hospitals have dropped 21.3 percent statewide, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, and a flood of physicians into the state has created a licensing backlog.

    But some lawyers, injured folks and political activists are still alarmed.

    "When you take accountability out of the system, what you do is encourage unqualified doctors to come to a place where they can practice without worry," Houston medical malpractice lawyer Jim Perdue Jr. said.

    State records show, for example, that a doctor who lost her license in Virginia and New Mexico was granted a restricted license in Texas.

    In Chicago, this week, via the Chicago Daily Herald, "One of the longest-running medical malpractice cases in Kane County came to an end when a jury took less than three hours to reject negligence claims." The lawsuit, filed in early 1997, was tried before a Judge for nearly two weeks and involved a 65-year-old woman who died while in the hospital for a bout with diarrhea, anemia and dehydration. Break: Social security disability claims...

    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    Football Coach's Malpractice Trial Decided in Favor of Doctors

    As stated in the previous post, medical malpractice lawsuits are often difficult for plaintiffs to win. Such was the outcome of the medical malpractice lawsuit filed by Charlie Weis, former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots and current head football coach at Notre Dame.

    In the Boston Globe article, Jurors reject malpractice claim by football coach, the writer reports, that according to a 2005 study, the "Harvard School of Public Health found that fewer than 1 in 15 of the more than 750,000 patients who suffer injuries in hospitals each year ever file lawsuits, and only about a quarter of patients who sue ever receive money."

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, Juries Favor Doctors Research Shows

    Contrary to popular belief, at least in medical communities, that juries in medical malpractice cases tend to side with plaintiffs, research shows that jurors actually tend to believe doctors more than they do plaintiffs, says a law professor who examined numerous data on medical malpractice litigation. The study, by Philip Peters, Jr., shows that most malpractice suits end in defense verdicts, and that the cases that go to trial tend to be the weakest ones, since those with strong evidence usually settle before trial. For more information, read the full article on

    See more studies on medical malpractice from

    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    Medical Malpractice News Round-up

    Medical malpractice news round-up elsewhere in the nation:

    In California, a jury awards $11 million to a 45-year-old man who suffered a stroke because doctors failed to treat an infection that spread to his brain...

    Two years after a high-profile battle over medical malpractice costs in Illinois, state lawmakers again are debating the complex and issue of medical lawsuit reform...

    In Nashville, TN, a proposal to limit medical malpractice lawsuits advanced Tuesday out of the House subcommittee where it faced its biggest challenge for passage. ...

    In Pennsylvania, 0pponents of efforts to limit pain-and-suffering awards in medical malpractice lawsuits said Wednesday the study refutes claims that insurance costs have had an impact on doctor supply...

    Friday, July 6, 2007

    Largest Settlements in 2007 So Far in Massachusetts

    Perennial powerhouse Lubin & Meyer under the leadership of Boston medical malpractice attorney Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. is setting the pace in 2007 for the top settlements in medical malpractice claims. So far, the Boston firm settled 3 of the 5 largest settlements in Massachusetts so far this year as reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The settlement amounts and injuries claimed are: $5 million, $4.9 million and $3 million all for cases involving brain damage, two at birth. For more information on the specific cases, click on: Top Settlements of 2007.

    Sunday, July 1, 2007

    Medical Malpractice Law Blog

    Just setting up this blog for posting news and information on medical malpractice in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Check back here for updates on cases, settlements, verdicts and other news of note. Once underway, we will have regular posts. In the meantime...

    Looking for a medical malpractice lawyer in NH? MA? RI? Click through below:
    Medical Malpractice Lawyer NH
    Medical Malpractice Lawyer MA
    Medical Malpractice Lawyer RI
    Malpractice Lawyer Boston

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Jury Awards $30M in Med-Mal Suit, but High-Low Hides Outcome

    From, June 13, 2006

    "A Philadelphia jury has awarded $30 million — the largest verdict seen in the 1st Judicial District in years — to the family of a 5-year-old South Jersey boy whose severe cognitive and developmental deficiencies were alleged to have resulted from the misadministration of a blood-clot-busting medication."

    "... the actual disposition amount in Keenan v. CHOP is officially under wraps, as the parties reached a confidential high-low agreement shortly after the jury began its five-day-long deliberations." Read in-depth article here.