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South Carolina Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Can unauthorized patient records release be medical malpractice?

Most of the time "medical malpractice" is associated with physical harm to a patient that results from a medical mistake like a surgical error or a misdiagnosis. But medical malpractice can also have an administrative component, which includes injury to patient privacy rights.

The right to privacy of your own health information, including hospitalizations, surgeries, other treatments for physical and mental health, health-related counseling, prescription medications and more, is one of the most intensely private areas of anyone's life. Federal laws, like HIPAA, act in concurrence with state laws to protect that privacy. Violations of either federal or state laws can result in both civil and criminal lawsuits against both individuals and health care facilities for willful or negligent behavior that results in unauthorized disclosures of patient information.

A vitamin may reduce premature birth problem in South Carolina

Recent reports listed South Carolina as one of the states in which newborns are most at risk. Support for this conclusion came, in part, from the fact that 80 infants died in 2013 due to premature birth or because their weight at birth was too low.

Researchers have now concluded that taking vitamin D during pregnancy might not eliminate risk of serious injury to a newborn during the delivery process or after, but it appears to lower the incidence of premature birth. As part of an ongoing study of the effects of the vitamin when given during pregnancy, 500 women are being offered free vitamin D in exchange for their consent to having their blood levels monitored.

Hospitals can afford defense lawyers -- how can you compete?

Hospitals can be imposing places. Even a community hospital in a medium-sized or small town can be a multi-story building with several doctors and surgeons accompanied by a multitude of staff and carrying the latest in medical technology. None of these personnel or their equipment are cheap, for you or for the hospital; all of this speaks to the financial resources that are available to the hospital, and those resources include having not just one but typically several attorneys available to represent it.

When you put yourself in the care of a hospital or other health care institution, you put yourself in a position where the hospital has a strong position when it comes to determining what care you receive; and if someone at the hospital makes a mistake, like a surgical error, delayed or misdiagnosis, or anything else that causes you injury or other harm, the hospital will count on its superior financial resources to defend itself against you.

A fatal medication error leads to state proposal to punish nurses

A fatal medication error that resulted in the death of a 7-year-old South Carolina boy appears to be the catalyst for proposed legislation aimed at punishing nurses. The boy died after a nurse administered an incorrect drug dosage that was 10 times what had been prescribed by the doctor.

The proposed legislation must still go through a committee process before it ever comes to a vote by the legislature. The law would take away the license of a nurse whose medication errors rose to the level of gross negligence. 

Medical device sterilization may still lead to patient injuries

Some medical devices used by hospitals and doctors throughout South Carolina for such common diagnostic procedures as endoscopies have come under the regulatory microscope of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA reports that following the procedures provided by the instruments' manufacturers may not be enough to keep patients safe from injuries caused by infections.

Hospitals in other parts of the country experienced deadly outbreaks of bacterial infections in patients on whom the devices were used after hospital staff disinfected the devices using standard methods. Because the devices are so widely used in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, discontinuing their use is out of the question.

Preventing prescription medication errors

Government studies and investigations have shown that about half of all prescription medication errors could be prevented. Administering an incorrect drug and other medication errors account for the hospitalization of 100,000 people each year 700,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms throughout the country.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, points out that doctors and other health care professionals have the ability to choose from more than 10,000 prescription drugs. Depending on the illness being treated, the number of medications that might be appropriate for a patient adds to the decisions a doctor must make in determining the best way to treat a particular patient. 

How long do I have to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice?

A nursing home injury or a personal injury caused by hospital negligence or doctor error might provide the victim with a right to obtain compensation from the party whose negligence caused it to happen. Medical professional negligence or, as it is more commonly referred to, medical malpractice is like any other personal injury claim in that a victim has only a limited amount of time within which to file a claim.

Horry County, South Carolina, residents who have experienced a worsened medical condition due to misdiagnosis of a medical condition or a surgical error, such as wrong-site surgery, must file a lawsuit against the responsible person or entity within the time specified under the South Carolina Code of Laws. This time period within which a lawsuit must be filed is referred to as the "statute of limitations."

FDA issues safety alert related to hospital disease outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety alert concerning the use and cleaning of endoscopes in hospitals. The alert follows the deaths of two people who contracted a deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, "Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae bacteria.

The first known case of this "superbug" infection in the United States occurred in 1996, and has spread to most states, including South Carolina, since 2006. It is most commonly being found in hospitals. One way that the infection can enter the body is via contaminated medical devices, such as the duodenoscopes subject to the FDA's safety alert.

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?

Unfortunately, medical procedures do not always go as planned. However, the mere fact that you experienced unsuccessful results or were misdiagnosed does not necessarily mean that medical malpractice occurred.

So what do you do if you suspect that a medical mistake caused your injury or the death of a loved one? How do you know if a health care provider committed medical malpractice in South Carolina?

Hospitals can be negligent in the same way as human beings

One aspect of South Carolina business law that can be overlooked is the concept of legal "personhood" for an organization – in several key ways, a business such as a corporation can have the same rights and duties under the law as a human being. But if you suffer an injury while in the care of a health care institution the legal entity status of that institution can have a direct impact on your ability to be compensated for your injury.

Ordinarily, the reason why a business such as a hospital chooses to incorporate or otherwise become a legal entity is to protect the people behind it from liability. But once the business becomes a "person" in the eyes of the law, then just like a real person, it can be subject to a cause of action for negligence. Moreover, this artificial person can also be held accountable for negligent acts or failure to act on the part of individuals under its control, such as administrators, doctors and medical staff, and indirectly, even contractors that it engages.

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