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New York City Medical Malpractice Law Blog

What is the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur?

Patients who are treated in New York hospitals may wonder about how to approach possible medical malpractice situations, especially in cases involving difficulty in establishing wrongdoing on the part of a medical professional or health care provider. Proving wrongdoing can be challenging in some cases because of the medical issues involved. Medical reports are typically created by the very individuals who might be sued in a medical malpractice case. The details recorded may leave room for doubt about whether malpractice has occurred as a report protects a potentially guilty individual. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur may be appropriate if clear proof of medical malpractice is not available.

The Latin phrase means that a situation speaks for itself. When provider or hospital negligence cannot be clearly proven, this doctrine may be helpful for demonstrating that a condition or injury would not have otherwise occurred. Although the cause of a medical injury may not be clear, the involvement of a medical professional in one's treatment might reasonably be connected to the condition.

Recent declines in hospital errors

New York residents may benefit from learning more about statistics related to fatal medical errors. Researchers have found that when physicians adhered to a standardized checklist and improved communications, the number of hospital errors declined by 25 percent. Since 2010, the number of hospital acquired conditions has been 1.3 million less than the previous annual average. The declines in the number of avoidable hospital-acquired conditions was led by fewer bed sores, pressure ulcers and adverse drug events.

A federal review released on Dec. 2 reported a 17 percent decline from 2010 to 2013 in preventable errors, including bed sores, drug mistakes and infections. According to the reports, less than 50,000 patients were killed, resulting in a $12 billion savings in health care costs. The report identifies some potential contributing factors, but the direct causes of the recent decline remain largely unknown. Some of the incentives provided by the Affordable Care Act, including financial penalties, public reporting on errors and technical help, were credited for the decline.

Understanding nursing home abuse and neglect

New York residents may benefit from understanding more about the statistics concerning nursing home neglect and abuse. Researchers found that nursing home staff are not the only perpetrators, as some abuse is inflicted by roommates or other residents. Studies found that 20 percent of the residents experienced some degree of abuse within the last month. The incidents under consideration could be considered hostile, disruptive and invasive. Physical and sexual abuse were committed in some cases.

Overall, there are nearly 1.4 million people in the country living in nursing homes. Researchers found that the frailty of the residents made the high-rate of altercations, violence and hostility even more detrimental than in normal circumstances. Incidents between residents may result in fractures, bruises or lacerations. Researchers discovered that people most likely to suffer hidden abuse are often those who share housing together.

An overview of stillbirth

A stillbirth can be devastating for a New York family, and there may be many questions about the reasons for the intrauterine death of a child. A delivery of a child who has died in utero after at least 20 weeks of gestation occurs in approximately one pregnancy out of 160. Most instances occur before labor has begun although some cases coincide with the labor process.

One of the most effective ways to pinpoint a cause of stillbirth is an autopsy, but not all hospitals include this as standard procedure. A family dealing with a stillbirth may need to request an autopsy if this action is desired for understanding more about the situation. It is also helpful to understand some of the more common issues that can contribute to stillbirth. Placental abruption, the tearing of the placenta from the uterus, can result in oxygen deprivation that might lead to an in-utero death or other pregnancy-related injury. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy face twice the risk of stillbirth as those whose blood pressure remains stable.

Nerve damage due to use of Avalox, Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones

Lawsuits are being filed for muscle weakness, pain, loss of feeling, and numbness injuries associated with fluoroquinolones. Our litigation team has sued for tendon injuries caused by Levaquin, and now doctors in leading medical journals are describing peripheral neuropathy injuries in users of these drugs, some so severe that there are permanent injuries.

The three most prescribed drugs involved with causing this damage are Avalox, Levaquin and Cipro. These drugs may also be prescribed under their generic names (moxifloxacin, levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin). These are popular drugs because of the wide range of infections they can treat with short-term use.

Partner Thomas Giuffra Enters Trial Verdict Hall of Fame

Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, McCartney & Giuffra is proud to announce that four verdicts obtained by partner Thomas P. Giuffra has been selected for inclusion in the New York Law Journal's Verdict & Settlements Hall of Fame. On October 10th, VerdictSearch, an affiliate of the New York Law Journal, announced the honorees in their first ever New York's Verdicts and Settlement's Hall of Fame. The practice area focus for this year's Hall of Fame honors is medical malpractice. The induction to VerdictSearch's New York Verdicts & Settlements Hall of Fame is based solely on five years of data from cases submitted to the Verdict Search database. The cases were ranked by size of final verdict or settlement. Our firm was one of the few firms honored that had multiple verdicts selected for inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

Malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes

Nursing homes both in New York and across the nation are in a shocking state, providing often poor care to the elderly residents. As many as 85 percent of nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition or dehydration.

The problems in nursing homes can be attributed to several things. First, many of the staff are inadequately trained. There is a very high turnover rate, leading to inconsistency of care. The staff to patient ratios are often far too high. According to some reports, in some nursing homes, 30 to 50 percent of the residents are underweight. Other conditions, such as depression, can also lead to weight loss and a loss of desire to eat, compounding the problem.

Treatment for Erb's Palsy

New York mothers should know that Erb's Palsy, or brachial plexus birth palsy, is a birth injury that causes the arm of a baby to grow weak and leads to loss of motion. Erb's Palsy often develops after a difficult delivery when the neck of a baby is moved to the side during a tumultuous delivery.

Infants with Erb's Palsy tend to suffer from a weakened arm during the first two years of their life. A child suffering from this condition not able to move the afflicted arm, but a physical therapist may be able to teach the parents exercises to stimulate the appendage. These therapy exercises should ideally be done when the baby is around three weeks old so that the affected arm does not become too stiff and cause contracture of the joints.

What is informed consent?

New York patients know that decisions concerning their health care are rightfully theirs to make. To accomplish this, a patient must be given adequate and clearly presented information. This allows for combined participation by the patient and his or her doctor. If the patient is incapable of understanding and participating in their care, his or her legal representative may give permission. Informed consent may not be required in emergencies.

Informed consent is a structured, thorough explanation of a patient's health status and condition provided by a physician. It also offers information concerning possible treatment or procedures, the risks and probability of success that these might render, as well as other available options. The format may be written or verbal, and the patient must understand what is being said to them. It is the physician's responsibility to ascertain that the patient comprehends this information. It is a patient's right to accept or refuse the proposed care.

Types of brachial plexus injuries

Statistically speaking, newborn children in New York will encounter brachial plexus injuries only rarely. However, when such birth injuries occur, they tend to fall into one of three types, which are stretch, rupture, and avulsion. These injuries are further designated by the site at which they occurred.

A stretch injury is the least serious. The nerves are pulled too far, often during the process of birth, and the sheath surrounding the nerve is strained. Stretch injuries often make a full recovery. A rupture is the second degree of severity. Nerves are torn and the nerve sheath is disrupted. Although the body will attempt to heal, there will be scarring and a loss of function.

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