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New York City Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Preventing medication errors after hospital discharge

Health literacy in New York is defined as an individual's ability to interpret and follow health care instructions and information. A study now shows that people with the lowest health literacy levels are the most likely to make medication errors after they are discharged from a hospital. Common errors include failure to have a prescription filled and failure to continue taking the medication as recommended by the health care professional.

There are also cases of misunderstandings that have the potential to compromise a patient's health. This includes patients taking medications without understanding the purpose, frequency or proper dosage of the medication. There is a growing belief in the medical community that identifying the people most likely to make errors and providing them with more support may work to minimize the risk of medication errors.

Uncertain testing leaves lyme sufferers in poor health

New York residents may have heard that a Boston music professor suffering from Lyme disease found himself fighting his own physician's preventable errors as well as his worsening symptoms. While one test came back negative, another more comprehensive screen was not administered at all; the test needed to diagnose the disease was only available in Europe.

After a tick bite he suffered in Spain, the professor spotted the rash that reveals the serious infection. The standard Lyme disease test given in the U.S., known as the Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay, screens only for infection from a single, common tick species. It reportedly took 10 months for the man to locate a doctor that could properly treat and diagnose the disease.

Initiatives underway to protect lives of mothers in childbirth

Readers in New York who know of or are expectant mothers are likely to understand the fear of fatal complications related to childbirth. The U.N. and the World Health Organization published a new report that ranks the United States last among fully developed countries for maternal mortality, and along with the study's findings that between two and three women die daily from pregnancy problems in the U.S., evidence seems to show that the country's current standard of care for pregnant women might benefit from improvements in many areas.

Some motivated medical professionals are taking steps to help make childbirth a safer prospect for American women. The California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, for example, produced a toolkit for treatment of hemorrhaging that has managed to significantly lower the maternal mortality rate in that state.

Hospital faces wrongful death lawsuit in misdiagnosis

Residents of New York may be familiar with the news release regarding the medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit recently filed against a hospital in New Mexico by the widow of Russell Means, an Arizona American Indian activist and former leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In the lawsuit, Mrs. Means claims that the hospital's staff incorrectly diagnosed her husband's health condition, which contributed to his death in 2012.

According to the report, the woman alleges that in 2011, doctors with the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe failed to notice that her husband was suffering from esophageal cancer, even though he displayed clear symptoms such as spitting up blood and trouble swallowing. In the lawsuit, which was filed in a state court in San Miguel County, it was stated that medical personnel at the hospital reportedly told Mrs. Means that her husband did not have cancer but could be suffering from enlarged tonsil instead, even though his tonsils were removed when he was a child.

Woman files lawsuit for medical negligence during operation

New Yorkers considering surgery may wish to learn about a lawsuit that a California woman filed in regards to a surgical error. The woman went in for a routine hysterectomy in 2007 and was released. However, she returned to the hospital three days later with complications. The complications included nausea, abdominal pain, blurred vision and constant thirst, and they persisted for four years.

During that time span, she repeatedly visited the hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with severe constipation at first and sent her home. During another visit, doctors diagnosed the woman with unspecified gastrointestinal issues. The woman was given a third diagnosis of ovarian cysts after she began bleeding in 2011. It was during the removal procedure intended for the cysts when a doctor discovered that a surgical sponge had been left inside her during her hysterectomy. The sponge had become encased in scar tissue, and as a result, 50 percent of the woman's intestines had to be removed.

Nursing home accused of neglect announces staff changes

New York residents who have parents who are living in nursing homes may remember that 17 people who were employed at the HighPointe on Michigan nursing home faced charges for allegedly neglecting one of their patients. On June 11, it was announced that Kaleida Health intended to improve hiring practices by removing its director of nursing and the Buffalo facility's director. The initial probe that ultimately resulted in 17 employees being charged was conducted in June 2013. They were arraigned in April 2014 on felony charges that included endangering the welfare of a disabled individual, falsifying business records and willfully violating state health laws.

The decision came after Kaleida Health's new chief executive officer and leadership team conducted a review of the facility's operations. Several individuals from other health care systems were selected to fill the positions on an interim basis as they were still searching for individuals to fill the spots permanently.

Tips for hospital patients to protect their health

Many New York residents are likely to maintain the hope that area medical professionals will take reasonable steps to keep them or their loved ones safe during a hospitalization. Unfortunately, medical errors do occur and can have catastrophic consequences. A patient or his or her loved ones can still take measures in many cases to help avoid such errors and find help for those already hospitalized before a frustrating situation escalates into tragedy.

Surgery can carry tremendous risks for multiple reasons. According to one expert, surgeons in the United States perform 40 to 60 operations weekly on the wrong patients. A patient who is alert enough before the procedure to verify the surgery he or she needs may be able to avoid a disaster. Contact with capable doctors who understand the surgery a patient received can be life-saving in the postoperative phase, and patients or their relatives should keep track of important vital signs such as skin tone, pain level and consciousness to know when to call for help.

New York city report undereports hospital deaths

A recent study conducted by researchers from the New York University School of Medicine showed that the city's Health Department is failing to report many of the deaths that occur as a result of preventable medical complications in state hospitals. The study covered a five-year period that ended in December 2010.

The report only listed 188 deaths during the five-year period that was under investigation. However, it was revealed that the Medical Examiner's office stated that 2,471 deaths actually occurred as a result of complications while an additional 312 deaths occurred from medical accidents.

Negligence and patient notification

When a New York doctor is sanctioned for negligence, more than three-fourths of them are permitted to continue with their practice. The state has more than 102,000 licensed doctors, and very few have sanctions against them. However, a minimum of 300 doctors were sanctioned between 2004 and 2013, but they have suffered no lasting penalties.

Current laws do not require that patients be advised if their doctor is practicing while sanctioned. A survey questioned people and asked them if they would want to know if their doctor had been sanctioned. The New York Public Interest Research Group also wondered if the government should provide further oversight of physicians in the cases, which include all types of issues, such as an overuse of tests and medical malpractice.

Mother files lawsuit after being pressured to have C-section

A woman in New York recently filed a lawsuit against the Staten Island University Hospital and her doctors for medical malpractice after doctors allegedly forced her to deliver her son via Cesarean section in July 2011. The woman wanted to give birth naturally after already having two previous C-sections, but the suit alleges that doctors pressured and threatened her into delivering surgically.

According to the lawsuit, the mother was told that if she did not go through with a C-section, her baby would be in danger, her uterus would rupture and she would be committing the equivalent to child abuse, causing her child to be taken away from her. Hospital records show a handwritten note from the doctor stating that he had decided to override the mother's decision with the agreement of her doctor and the hospital's lawyer.

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