Driving the Yellow Bus
We're happy to offer the first post from Flea--a guest blogger who's also pediatrician in the northeast. You can check out his drfleablog, here.
A pediatrician shouldn’t be writing about medical malpractice. We fleas don’t get sued very often. Our malpractice insurance premiums are a fraction of what our colleagues on OB/GYN pay. Parents like us. We wear cute ties and nice fuzzy animals on our stethoscopes.
But pediatricians and other fleas do get sued. If a bad outcome occurs in a hospital, the hospital may get sued as well. Hospitals don’t like to be sued. They will do anything legally and reasonably in their power to prevent medical malpractice suits.
A few years ago, a baby born at a hospital in my community died of a rare condition known as kernicterus. It seems the baby had a very high level of a substance called bilirubin in his blood. Bilirubin is the yellow pigment that gives rise to the yellow skin condition known as jaundice. In high enough concentrations, bilirubin can be toxic to brains and can even cause death. The hospital settled for an undisclosed, but presumed very large amount of money.
A few months later, the hospital decided to implement a universal bilirubin screening protocol. In other words, every baby born at the hospital would have a bilirubin test, regardless of how yellow the baby appeared. The chairman of the department of Pediatrics confided in me that the main reason for the policy was to prevent any more damaging medical malpractice suits.