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South Carolina Medical Malpractice Law Blog

More than 1 in 20 Americans misdiagnosed each year

South Carolina residents may be surprised to learn how frequently doctors make mistakes when diagnosing their patients' symptoms. A survey published on April 16 in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety reports that up to 12 million Americans, which equates to more than one in 20 adults, are misdiagnosed each year. The study was conducted by a Houston-based veterans affairs center that compiled research from several sources, including medical malpractice claims.

Finding complete and accurate data presented a problem for the researchers. Malpractice claims do not reflect the overall population, and many misdiagnosis cases involve multiple trips to a doctor. The research team examined hundreds of medical records, and they paid particular attention to patients who had returned for medical treatment shortly after their initial visits. The researchers felt that these cases indicated that a chronic condition may have been missed during the original consultation. The team then extrapolated the results for the entire population based on the assumption that 80 percent of American adults visit a doctor each year.

The value of follow-up calls by pharmacists

Pharmacists often review prescriptions with patients in South Carolina and elsewhere over the telephone in an effort to reduce medication errors, but some wonder if they actually help. The efforts really don't assist those who may need more care, according to a recently-published study. The author of the study, an associate professor of pharmacy practice, stated that the results showed that people who are considered low-risk benefit the most from the phone check-ups by pharmacists.

The phone calls and other medication therapy management services are part of an effort to help manage and reduce the bad health effects, as well as the high cost of hospitalizations, of those who may have had a bad reaction to a particular drug or from a drug that was wrongfully prescribed. It has been estimated that more than $290 billion was spent during 2009 to cover prescription-related deaths and illnesses.

Woman freezes to death in morgue freezer

An incident involving a woman who died by hypothermia and asphyxiation after she was put in a body bag by hospital personnel may be of some interest to people who live in South Carolina. The 80-year-old woman from California was originally believed to have died from a heart attack back in July 2010. The hospital declared her to be dead, and she was put in the hospital's morgue, according to the report.

Morticians for the woman were the ones who found her body with bruises and cuts on her face and a broken nose. Since her body was also face down in the body bag, a pathologist concluded that she had woken up in the freezer and had tried to get out.

Tubal ligation at center of malpractice suit

South Carolina residents who are interested in malpractice litigation might know about an appellate decision in Illinois allowing the case against a surgeon to proceed despite a motion to dismiss it. A woman filed a suit in 2010 against her surgeon for performing a failed tubal ligation, resulting in the birth of a child with a serious genetic disease.

Both the mother and father are carriers of sickle cell disease, and their children had a one in four chance of inheriting the disease from their parents or there was a chance of becoming carriers themselves. Children who are born with sickle cell disease have severe medical issues throughout their lifetimes while children who are merely carriers of the gene do not.

New practices could improve patient care, reduce medical errors

Some hospitals are adopting practices for handing off patients when doctors and nurses change shifts that could reduce misunderstandings. Sometimes when shift changes occur, important information is not communicated to the new staff or is misunderstood, thereby increasing the possibility of poor patient care in South Carolina and nationwide. By taking a moment to personally hand off patients to the people coming on shift, medical professionals might be able to decrease errors that lead to medical malpractice litigation.

The approach at certain hospitals specifically involves bedside handoffs, whereby the staff members starting their shift would introduce themselves to the patients and speak directly with the personnel who have been caring for the patients up until that point. Doctors and nurses could go over important points, such as forthcoming test results and what needs to be done for the patient during that shift. This bedside introduction not only reduces the chances for mistakes but also is reassuring to patients who will then know who to look to for help until the next shift change.

Surgeon pleads guilty to defrauding government in insurance case

South Carolina residents concerned about medical malpractice may have heard of the recent sentencing of a New York surgeon who admitted to performing thousands of surgeries improperly from 2007 to 2011 and defrauding the federal government. The surgeon pled guilty to one count of health care fraud and was sentenced to four and a half years in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay $5 million in restitution to the government for fraudulent Medicare claims and had his medical license suspended.

The government presented evidence that the surgeon had performed thousands of surgeries, sometimes as many as 20 a day, for which he had billed health insurance companies more than $35 million in total. The medical group that employed him during the scheme allegedly rewarded him with more than $7.5 million in compensation for his work. The surgeon said in court during his sentencing that the pay and the admiration of his fellow shareholders were his primary motivation.

Nurse education may affect quality of care

Readers from South Carolina may be concerned to learn of a recent study that may indicate marked inequalities in the quality of medical care around the nation. According to researchers, inpatient mortality rates can potentially differ by as much as 30 percent depending on factors as seemingly basic as the number of nurses assigned to each patient and the proportion of nurses with bachelor's degrees. Statistics like this could mean that the chances of falling victim to a form of medical malpractice could increase depending on factors that are wholly outside the patient's control.

Moreover, the research also shows that increasing a nurse's responsibility by even one patient can lead to a 7 percent increase in the probability of that patient's death within 30 days of his or her admission to the hospital. The director of the Center for Health Outcomes at Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania says that physicians and other hospital staff may be more likely to respect and communicate effectively with nurses with college degrees. In addition, she believes that nurses with bachelor's degrees may be more inclined toward critical thinking than those without.

Boxer's family files $100 million lawsuit

Boxing fans in South Carolina might know the story of boxer Magomed Abdusalamov. He had just completed a bout at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 2, 2013. When he was seen by doctors after the fight, he was diagnosed with a broken nose and had a cut over his eye treated. A trainer noticed that there was blood in his post-fight urine sample. The man who noticed the blood understood that it could mean internal bleeding and recommended that the man go to the hospital.

Neither of the ambulances that were at the facility were used to bring Abdusalamov to the hospital, and the man's family and his interpreter eventually found a taxi to bring him to the hospital several hours after the fight. While at the hospital, Abdusalamov had emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. After waking from a coma, the boxer was left bedridden and unable to do more that follow simple commands.

Planned Parenthood settles after woman dies

South Carolina residents may be interested in knowing about the recent case of a 24-year-old woman who died after an attempted abortion given at a Chicago Planned Parenthood clinic. The late-term abortion was performed in a clinic was supposed to offer only limited services. A news report of the incident did not detail the nature of the woman's injuries. She reportedly received improper care at the clinic and was finally transferred to a hospital, but Planned Parenthood staff members reportedly did not give the hospital sufficient information to treat her. The woman died while in the hospital.

The pursuit of the wrongful death medical malpractice case resulted in a settlement in which planned Parenthood paid a $2 million sum to the family of the victim. While the initial malpractice case was still being reviewed, a legal group known as the Thomas More Society filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation that called for further investigation of the 24-year-old's death in 2013.

18 people exposed to deadly brain infection in hospital

South Carolina patients and family members may be interested to learn that a hospital in North Carolina may have accidentally exposed 18 patients to a deadly brain disease. According to the report, the disease in question is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which causes dementia and could result in death very quickly.

The hospital reportedly may have had reasons to believe a patient had the disease when a brain surgery operation was conducted. Usually, the surgical equipment that is used on such patients goes through a special sterilization process that kills the prions that cause the disease. However, it appears that the tools were not properly sterilized before they were used on the 18 patients.

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