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New York City Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Prevention measures for wrong-site surgeries

Research has shown that doctors in New York and across the nation are not infallible. One clear example of this is wrong-site surgeries. Whether the surgeries are performed on the wrong part or side of the body, the results for the patient can be devastating. It is estimated that these types of errors are very rare, and that the typical hospital might only have such an incident once every 10 years, but the goal for medical professionals should be to eliminate these types of preventable errors completely.

To that end, efforts are under way to protect patients by putting an end to these surgical errors. One preventive measure is preoperative site marking where the patient is actively engaged in marking and initialing the site to be operated on. The work to be performed is also reviewed before the patient is given any anesthesia or other drugs that might impair the ability to comprehend and engage in the conversation. Another measure is the timeout procedure. Designed to improve communication among the surgical staff, a checklist is reviewed before the surgery begins. The goal is to confirm that all members of the operating team are aware of the surgery to be performed and the surgical site.

What constitutes medical misconduct by a physician

Medical misconduct takes on many forms in New York. It may be reported to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct of the New York State Department of Health and, if the complaint has substance, an investigation may ensue. State residents may be interested in knowing specifically what constitutes medical misconduct and what steps need to be taken if it is suspected.

Numerous actions may be construed to be misconduct by a health care provider. Practicing while impaired by drugs or alcohol or having been criminally convicted are examples. However, telling a patient that treatment will be curative without clarification may also be considered medical misconduct. Filing reports that are false, providing fraudulent information to the patient or a third party or not treating a patient due to religion, color or nationality are all considered wrongdoing by a medical provider.

Medical malpractice and cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a series of conditions that affects a child's brain and nervous system. Cerebral palsy is often the result of head trauma or oxygen deprivation at birth. Cerebral palsy is a long-term condition that requires continuing care. States with higher rates of low-weight and premature births, like New York, experience more frequent instances of cerebral palsy.

The symptoms of cerebral palsy vary greatly. The effects can range from mild physical impairments to severe crippling that requires constant care. Cerebral palsy sufferers can also experience cognitive challenges that result in reasoning, communication and behavioral impairments. The severity of the condition depends on the parts of the brain that are affected.

Family claims elderly relative was neglected at nursing home

The family of an elderly woman in New York has filed a Notice of Claim alleging that two caregivers neglected to provide their loved one with adequate daily care. The 79-year-old woman suffers from dementia and Alzheimer's disease and relies on the staff at Terrace View Long Term Care Facility in Buffalo for 24-hour care.

According to the state attorney general, a hidden camera that was placed in the patient's room captured footage of two certified nursing aides neglecting to provide the non-ambulatory woman with proper care. The 48-year-old woman and 35-year-old woman were observed failing to employ a mechanical lift to move the patient and failing to perform incontinence care with at least two people. The women are also accused of concealing the neglect with falsified documents. A lawyer for the elderly woman's family commented that the case was representative of many other elder neglect cases where the nursing facility does not employ enough staff.

Understanding birth injuries and implications

Two of the most common birth injuries are Erb's palsy and cerebral palsy. New York parents may be aware that these can result from complications that occur as a child is born. There may be a concern about the actions of medical staff during child birth when such conditions are diagnosed.

Cerebral palsy actually refers to a variety of disorders that can impact the brain function and physical activity of a baby. Commonly believed to be a result of poor oxygen supply during birth, CP can also occur due to a brain injury that takes place before labor and delivery. Tt can also occur at some point after a baby is born as well. A baby born very prematurely may have a high risk of CP. Head trauma after delivery can also cause brain injury and CP. Some prescription medications used by a mother during the pregnancy can result in CP. An obstetrician's failure to ensure a proper oxygen supply in a timely manner through Caesarean section or other means could facilitate a CP-causing brain injury as well.

How instances of wrong-site surgery can be prevented

With less than 600 wrong-site surgeries reported nationwide in 2007, a New York resident might figure that the probability of experiencing such an incident is unlikely. However, specialization of a medical professional may cause a slightly different view as approximately one-fourth of orthopedic surgeons with 25 years of experience and one-fifth of hand surgeons are reportedly involved in wrong-site incidents during their careers.

In order to establish better reporting and preventive standards, the issue has been studied and addressed on a national level. Major goals have been adopted that focus on prevention through better patient-identification procedures. Additionally, efforts to include family members in the process have been important. A pre-operative process is integral to limiting the risk of a wrong-site event.

Death of Joan Rivers prompts medical safety questions in New York

After the death of comedian Joan Rivers in a New York outpatient center, some officials have questioned the safety of medical procedures done in these types of facilities in the state. According to media sources, the 81-year-old comedian went in for a low-risk surgery on her vocal chords at an outpatient facility. Complications occurred, and she was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital. She was later declared deceased by medical staff. An autopsy has not yet confirmed the cause of death, and the incident is reported to be under investigation by the New York State Health Department.

Outpatient facilities routinely perform procedures that were previously done only in hospitals and surgical centers. Under New York law, such facilities are required to report the occurrence of any event in which a patient is harmed during care. Between the years 2010 and 2013, approximately 1,000 credited facilities reported about 2,200 events, and more than 250 of those incidents resulted in death.

New tech to record surgical data, may not be admissible in court

A New York University law professor says that most medical malpractice lawsuits come down to arguments due to a lack of information by all parties involved. A new technology being developed by Canadian researchers may have an impact if its data is allowed into courtrooms. Either way, the surgical black box reportedly promises to improve patient safety by preventing medical errors and helping doctors learn from the errors that do occur.

The technology is reminiscent of black boxes in airplanes which record relevant flight data for review if something goes wrong. According to a surgeon in Toronto, however, the surgical black box would give real-time feedback, allowing medical personnel to address potential problems before complications occur. It makes use of cameras and microphones in the operating room and records details about the surgeon's movements and the interaction of the medical team during procedures.

Wrong-site surgical errors in New York

If you have suffered from a medical malpractice incident such as a surgical error, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the hospital or surgeon. According to a 2011 study, preventable surgical errors occur in approximately 40 cases each week. Furthermore, wrong-site surgery cases have nearly doubled since 2004.

In some instances, surgical errors may be attributed to the surgeon or staff's failure to follow proper protocol. Errors could include amputating the wrong limb, operating on the wrong patient, receiving the wrong surgery due to an incorrect diagnosis or performing surgery on the wrong body part. Depending on where you live, the caregiver who committed the error may not even be required to notify an oversight organization or report the incident, meaning that without the right approach, it could be more difficult to bring a case against a medical professional.

Many factors influence the decision to settle a malpractice suit

According to a medical liability defense lawyer practicing in New York, there are several reasons a physician may choose to settle a case outside of court. For instance, a settlement may be a better option if an expert opinion reveals that the physician failed to provide the reasonable standard of care expected to a patient or if a doctor's actions are indefensible. Furthermore, if the malpractice insurance is inadequate, it could lead to loss of personal assets in the event litigation results in a high trial verdict.

Additionally, an early settlement could provide for faster compensation to a plaintiff and reduce the overall cost of a case. A trial may be lengthy, but a settlement offers a quick relief to both sides from the stress and burden of the litigation process.

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