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March 31, 2006

Liability Stories from the Papers, er, Web

News_2_1_1DEVELOPED to help prevent scans--and signs of cancer--from getting lost in the shuffle, a new automated coding system that tracks medical imaging test results. Read [Forbes]

DEMANDED by the Missouri State Senate that the state's insurance director keep tabs on the rates charged by companies providing medical malpractice insurance. Read [Kansas City Star]

SHELVED until September 2007, new medical malpractice and personal injury suits in Circuit Judge Miles Sweeney's court in Missouri's Greene County. Get in line people, the docket's full. Legislators think a couple more judges need to be brought in at $108,000/year each. Read [News-Leader]

Read something interesting lately? Let us know about it.

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March 30, 2006

Sorry Works! on the Road

Doug Wojcieszak takes a break from travelling the country speaking about SorryWorks! to give us on update on this "middle ground solution to the medical liability crisis."

Dougwojceszak_5A movement begins to gain acceptance when speaking invitations and opportunities to testify begin to fill up the calendar. So is the case with Sorry Works!

As the founder and spokesperson of the coalition, I’ve testified before the South Carolina Senate subcommittee on medical malpractice and the Vermont House judiciary committee, and appeared at a Capitol Hill press conference with Senators Clinton and Obama to introduce S. 1784. This spring I’m slated to testify before the Tennessee House Judiciary Committee and Congress’ 21st Century Health Care Caucus in the coming weeks, and our coalition continues to receive calls from legislators all around the country asking for advice on crafting apology legislation.

Continue reading "Sorry Works! on the Road" »

March 29, 2006

Spring Has Sprung

TulipsHear ye, hear ye. ThisMakesMeSick sports a new look for all those stopping by to get to the bottom of America's medical liability mess. Information is now easier to find, as are opportunities to get something off your chest and to share your own stories and experiences in this arena.

So if you are a lawyer, a doctor, an insurance maverick, a patient, a spouse of the aforementioned, or just a concerned citizen worried about what’s happening to our health care system and how nefarious parties are abusing it, SPEAK UP.

Contact ThisMakesMeSick.

Driving the Yellow Bus

Flea_1We'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.

Continue reading "Driving the Yellow Bus" »

March 28, 2006

Caps Aplenty


March 27, 2006

Monday Fix

There’s a nice roundup of MDs thoughts on defensive medicine over on the Kevin MD blog.

Our friends at Common Good keep serving up news bits from across the U.S. that show how legal fear is killing healthcare.

Thanks W for this Bushism delivered in DC while discussing medical liability reform: "And so I'm for medical liability at the federal level.” Now that, cowboy, is taking responsibility! Slate.com 

Rangel MD asks if a doc has “the right to refuse to treat patients (non-emergency) who continue to smoke when that smoking may hinder their recovery or threaten the intended goal of the surgery?”

Let us know about more med-mal and liability quips.

March 23, 2006

The System Defended

StatusquoA few days ago we noted some moves down in the great state of Massachusetts to make malpractice payouts predictable and consistent with the injury. One reader, Matt, responded otherwise.

"Why should payouts be based on the type of injury? Wouldn't it be more equitable to base them on the person's circumstances in terms of their pre-injury quality of life, or their lost earnings? Why should the injury to an 80 year old in a wheelchair have the same value as the same injury to a 20 year old college football star?

Of course, evaluating those factors is what juries do already, and there is no statistical evidence that they aren't already consistent, is there?"

Bothered? Interest piqued? Do you too agree and think the system is fine how it is?

March 22, 2006

Step to the Mic

ShoutSince launching this forum back in 2005, we've written about a lot of WhatMakesUsSick. Docs getting squeezed by malpractice insurance premiums, here. Patients dealing with aloof, callous health care providers, here. Elected leaders getting busy, here. 

Now we want to hear from you.

We want docs to vent about defensive medicine and what it's like to practice now. Maybe your spouse or child had a ER nightmare. How about a truly frivolous malpractice lawsuit. Step up and tell your story. Changing the system begins with you.

Shout here

Fear of Lawsuits Begets Deaths

You may have heard about the east coast nurse, Charles Cullen, who recently pleaded guilty to killing 29, yes 29, patients. Philip Howard who chairs Common Good penned a brilliant piece for The New York Sun about how hospitals fearing a lawsuit from providing a negative reference allowed Cullen to bounce from one job to the next. And continue to kill.

Pkh1_1 When Fear Is Deadly

Earlier this month, Charles Cullen, the nurse who pleaded guilty to killing at least 29 patients in hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms. He is no longer a danger to society, but the underlying problem that allowed him to kill still is.

During his 16-year nursing career, Cullen was able to move from one hospital to another - to 10 medical facilities in all - because fear of litigation prevented those hospitals from giving him a bad reference. Co-workers observed his strange behavior, and caught him in rooms of patients with medications that weren't appropriate. But they didn't know he was murdering people, and couldn't prove that he was doing something illegal. So the hospitals would eventually let him go, and, when the next hospital in line asked for a reference, merely gave the stock response of all employers nowadays: "We confirm that he worked here from this to that date."

Even the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees the state nursing board and had been warned about Cullen's penchant for diverting medications, could not comment on his reputation. "Legally, we can't speak about any information we receive that doesn't result in disciplinary action," a spokesman said.

Continue reading "Fear of Lawsuits Begets Deaths" »

March 21, 2006

Indeed, We Are Family

Ss_we_are_family1There are something like 48 trillion blogs. And it seemed a perfect Tuesday exercise to see who else is yapping about the nation's medical liability crisis. Docs, lawyers, rabble-rousers....

While Dr. Andy wishes us "good luck" in cleaning up the system, he does "like the idea of approaching things from a variety of different angles." (Dr. Andy: We know it's a tall order, but we're still taking a few swings.) This allergist/immunologist at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh noted the piece by guest blogger Dr. Eric Novack on bogus lawsuits now being dismissed.

A tasty debate between a doc and a lawyer broke out over at CodeBlueBlog. It all began innocently enough when the blogger, a 24/7/365 inpatient radiologist in South Florida, coined the term "torter"--"you know, like tort lawyer and snapping turtle all rolled into one." Well, the gloves were off and a fellow doc--we presume--added "bottom dwelling scum suckers" to the list. (Side note: It's kind of fun to play tabloid as we usually keep things civil). Anyway, a lawyer finally hit back: "3.5% of the doctors licensed in this country cause 43% of the preventable medical errors." And he says it's prime time for three strikes and you're out for guilty docs. The conversation actually turns intelligent here and the real truth of the matter comes forth: the two schoolyard adversaries actually both know the system needs fixin'. Read

Kevin, M.D exposed us to an interesting directive from the AMA on avoiding  malpractice: "Family doctors and internists especially, when they are unsure, should refer patients to specialists, and cancer should be a first, not a last, consideration.'" AliveDefensive medicine is alive! One doc notes: "How are we ever going to solve the problem of escalating health care costs if we continue this spiral of constant defensive medicine." But another adds: "Just keeping ordering those tests and referrals, then you will be protected and the only one who is harmed is the patient with needless copays and tests." Defeatism lives. Sigh.

Send us your favorite medical and legal and liability and malpractice musing blogs. Spread the words. Thanks, the management.


About TMMS

  • ThisMakesMeSick answers renowned medical inventor Dr. Robert Fischell's wish to spread awareness (and outrage!) about the medical liability crisis that's ruining our healthcare system.

    Learn more...

What makes you sick?

  • We want to hear your thoughts and personal stories.

    Have you...

    • Fretted over rising malpractice premiums?

    • Signed a truly unbelievable medical liability waiver?

    • Faced a frivolous lawsuit?

    • Dealt with a doctor or a hospital who wouldn't take responsiblity for their actions?

    • Practiced defensive medicine?

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You don't say...

  • "This election destroyed a popular Karl Rove myth. The truth is that trial attorneys are winning, attacks on trial attorneys are backfiring and opponents of the civil justice system are losing."

    The CEO of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America said.

  • "We have discovered that virtually all patients are willing to sign a contract in which they agree not to sue their doctors on frivolous grounds."

    Jeffrey Segal, M.D, a board-certified neurosurgeon and the founder and president of Medical Justice Services, Inc., said.

  • "Low-risk obstetrics has been done here for 60 years, but not anymore."

    Carl Hanson, chief operating officer of the county-run Minidoka Memorial Hospital in southern Idaho hospital's, explained as they get out of the baby business. Read

  • "I have children, and I don't know where they're at."

    Rosalinda Elison, a former patient at the UC Irvine Medical Center’s fertility clinic, said after learning that that her eggs and embryos had been stolen and implanted in another woman who then gave birth to twins.

    Read more You Don't Say, here.

Crisis by numbers:

  • $4.6 million

    New York state grants available to expand the use of electronic medical records. Such initiatives have been hailed nationally as a way to cut medication errors, save money and improve patient safety. LINK

  • $700,000

    Amount raised by Fairness and Accountability in Insurance Reform to oppose malpractice limits in Arizona. LINK

  • $450,000

    Amount the Arizona Medical Association says Arizonans for Access to Health Care has raised to decide whether to push for montetary limits on lawsuits. LINK

    Read more CRISIS BY NUMBERS, here.

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