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Chicago Medical Malpractice Law Blog

What is the value of a human life?

small-plane.JPG"The fire ignited when the small airplane smashed into a parking lot and empty building in central Anchorage on a failed takeoff. Passersby ran to pull four burning people from the Cessna Skywagon. But when they tried to rescue 4-year-old Miles Cavner, the airplane cabin was engulfed in fire. As Stacie Cavner screamed that her son was burning, police officer Will Cameron spotted Miles on the cabin floor. Fire was scorching the boy's body -- and keeping Cameron from saving him."

This description was pulled from a USA Today article on how fires following survivable small plane crashes lead to over six hundred deaths a year. The article was part of a bigger series the newspaper did on the dangerous design of small planes. Now, my law firm doesn't handle plane crashes but the article points to an important truth that applies to all areas where safety is a major concern: money, not safety, is all that matters to corporations and insurance companies. 

3 Common Causes of Birth Injuries

maternity-ward.JPGIf a baby is injured before, during or immediate following birth, parents can be devastated to learn that serious or permanent damage has been done. Parents-to-be may go from dreaming about all the possibilities for their child to confronting the reality of all the limitations and challenges that now lay ahead.

Considering the physical, financial and emotional toll this can all take on parents and their baby, many people in this situation choose to take legal action against the parties responsible for a birth injury. Understanding common causes of birth injuries that can lead to a legal claim can help parents and caregivers as they plan for an uncertain future:

How do you know if a Surgical Error is Medical Malpractice?

scalpel.JPGEvery patient in the hospital should know that there is at least some risk associated with any medical procedure. There is really no guarantee that an operation or course of treatment will be completely safe or effective. However, people should be able to have reasonable expectations that medical staff will do whatever they can to keep a patient safe and minimize the risks of any procedure.

Unfortunately, mistakes are made far too often in hospitals across the country. Last year, Scientific American reported that studies have estimated that as many as 440,000 people are killed each year as a result of medical mistakes made in U.S. hospitals. This is about one-sixth of all fatalities in the country and makes medical error fatalities the third leading cause of death.

The Value of Transparency

Chest-X-RayWhy does transparency matter? We are a society that makes purchasing data based on research and comparison. We want to read others' reviews of services and service providers before we buy. We are genuinely curious about how well they performed the service. We think it is valuable to know how well their customer service was performed. If they claim high quality standards, then we believe that they should meet them. We think it is important to know if the price advertised is the price you pay. Transparency in health care is one of those buzzwords that is thrown about when the Health Care industry is concerned about their image to the public. However two incidents this month leave us questioning how committed they are to the idea of transparency.

Earlier this month, due to public outcry, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) committed to making it's data on hospital mistakes data publicly available after removing public access to it last month (a change they denied they were going to make back in 2013). What is concerning is that not only did they remove access, but they didn't announce it. Before the data was removed the public could compare the quality of care at thousands of hospitals by seeing the number of hospital-acquired conditions that occurred at them. Hospital mistakes like infection rates and foreign objects left inside patients after surgery were among the list of things the public could compare. 

Hospitals must keep patients safe by avoiding negligent practices

hospita-negligence.JPGWhen people go to the hospital in Chicago, they are often cared for by a number of doctors and nurses. If something bad happens and a mistake is made, it can be easy to assume that the liability begins and ends with those directly providing care. 

However, in some instances, there can be a case made for unsafe conditions at a higher level. This often results in claims asserting hospital negligence, which could be beneficial for patients. Because a hospital has far more financial resources at its disposal than an individual, the chances of recovering full damages in the event that a claim is successful could be much better. But establishing hospital negligence can be complicated, so it may be helpful to learn more about this area of medical malpractice.

Could "black box" technology reduce surgical errors and improve patient safety?

Surgical errors could be reduced by using data from er recordingsAfter a tragic plane or automobile crash, we often read that investigators will know more about the incident after they check the "black box." These devices record data that proves to be crucial in determining what went wrong and under what conditions the accident occurred. The information gathered from the black box can be crucial to collecting objective and clear information.

A similar system is being tested in a Canadian hospital to record data during surgical procedures. Upon completion of an operation, doctors can look back at their work and identify any areas where mistakes may have been made. The black box system consisting of three cameras and three microphones was recently installed in one hospital as part of a pilot period. During the period it determined that doctors have been making errors during two specific steps during laparoscopic weight-loss surgeries (Lap-Band). 

How error-prone terms can lead to medication errors

IMG_4537.JPGMedication errors account for a good percentage of medical malpractice cases and the fact of the matter is that they are far too common. Whether a doctor fails to identify potentially harmful drug interactions or a patient is given the wrong drug or dosage, mistakes do happen and people can suffer enormously as a result. Sadly, some of these mistakes are made simply because of someone misinterpreting or misreading medical information.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMB) has an extensive list of the most error-prone abbreviations, dose designations and symbols that contribute to medication errors. Those that appear on the list are no longer supposed to be used in the field of medicine, but knowing what some of them are might be a good indicator of just how easily and often these mistakes are made.

Could improved publicly reported information improve medical care?

mdratings.JPGWhenever a person has to go to the doctor, it is likely that he or she has several questions to ask. What's wrong? How can I improve my health? What medications do I need, and are there side effects? How will those affect my family?

But before they even get to the doctor, there are several other questions that go unanswered until it is too late. The process of even finding a doctor is an incredibly important decision, but it is one that many people make without having all the pertinent information. The lack of publicly-available information regarding the patient health at a facility and accurate doctor ratings are proving to be serious issues that could be putting patients in jeopardy of receiving substandard care.

9 Tips to Help Your Doctor Make the right Diagnosis (Infographic)

9_tips_to_help_doctors_get_the_right_diagnosis.pngWhen you don't feel well there is nothing you want more than to just feel better. You don't have time to be sick and you want to know what is wrong right now.  Getting to the bottom of what ails you though isn't always that easy. Especially if you have those "flu-like" symptoms that are relatively common.

Symptoms that are vague and common could lead to a misdiagnosis. Fortuntately the symptoms that you are experiencing aren't the only thing that a doctor uses to make your diagnosis. There is so much more information that can help them. Like what medications you might be taking and your personal medical history. Being prepared for a doctor's appointment can reduce your chances of being subject to a misdiagnosis error. To help out we've made an infographic with 9 tips you can use as you prepare for your next visit to the docotor's office.

"What Else Could It Be?" - The Importance of Differential Diagnosis

IMG_4392.JPG"What else could it be?" These are five powerful words that you should be ready to ask your doctor during a visit. If you are like most people you probably aren't looking forward to a visit to see the doctor. As a patient you don't have the luxury of always knowing exactly why you are seeing a doctor. All you know is that you have a handful of symptoms which are currently adding up to a decrease in your quality of life. Unfortunately your doctor doesn't know why you are seeing him either.  He must play the role of detective and use all the clues he can find to discover what is ailing you. So here you are in the exam room as your doctor asks you a bunch of questions and examines you to validate your symptoms and discover any others that might present themselves. During this examination it is your doctor's job to piece together the information gathered and come up with a diagnosis. This is done through a process called Differential Diagnosis. 

Your doctor's process should be similar to the Sherlock Holmes adage "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Using clues provided by your descriptions of the symptoms, data from any medical tests you have had, and his medical knowledge your doctor makes a list of all the possibilities. Then using the same information used to make the list he dismisses the items by ruling out those that don't fit the clues, until he is left with one diagnosis that fits all of the data.

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