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April 27, 2006

We Don't Even Know Where to Begin

Mryuk1) More than a dozen more ear-stapling businesses have been told to shut down by the Mississippi Medical Licensure Board because they aren’t licensed. The small, stainless steel staples are supposed to apply pressure to points that control appetite and cravings for nicotine. Do people sue if they keep eating? Read [Clarion Ledger]

2) This happened in Canada, but we couldn’t let it go. A hospital had to cancel 17 elective surgeries after six doctors were suspended because they were not completing patients’ charts. Oh, yeah, the slackin’ docs had 28 days to take care of this huge liability risk. Read

3) A New Jersey woman with a history of beating her son laid a real swift kick to his neck in 2003. The boy died from internal bleeding and heart failure several hours after being admitted to a hospital. Now, three medical experts say it was Pascack Valley Hospital’s shoddy care--not mom's footwork--that caused the boy’s death. So mom was found guilty of assault instead of murder. Even if the facts are what they are, the whole thing just sickens us. Read [Bergen Record]

Read more news that MakesUsSick here and here. And contact us if you have some news that MakesYouSick.

April 26, 2006

Guest Blogger Greatest Hits

We thought it was a good a day to thank a few of the many smart minds who have contributed guest pieces to ThisMakesMeSick over the past six months. They've helped bring a personal voice to uncovering—and overcoming—the liability mess.

Pkh1_1_2We’ve gotten great support since the beginning from Philip Howard and the crew at Common Good who are helping bring special health courts to states across the nation. Howard wrote a powerful piece about hospitals’ fear of lawsuits helping allow a nurse, Charles Cullen, to kill at least 29 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Read

Dougwojceszak_51_1Doug Wojcieszak first asked when he joined the TMMS squad: "What if you could lower lawsuits and litigation costs without any politics?" Read

Novack_3_1_1_2Dr. Eric Novack started the first of his many guest columns by flatly stating: “Solving the medical liability crisis will require medicine embracing the legal system. That sounds like complete heresy coming from an actively practicing surgeon!” Read

Thronberry_1We got the real political deal of trying to clean up the medical liability mess from U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry. He watched the wind blowing the special health court sails disappear like magic as a fellow congressman’s support for the solution vanished: “the Association of Trial Lawyers caught wind of his interest in the bill and they quickly changed his mind by threatening to cut off all campaign contributions.” Read

Muriel_1Muriel in Seattle, an 87-year old grandmother, detailed the nonsense of having to sign liability wavier after wavier while facing a frightening hospital stay over Thanksgiving in 2005: "They stick it right in front of you." Watch

We bet you have something to say. Maybe a sad or chilling experience from the frontlines. A solution that might help ease the liability mess. Or maybe just your two cents. Let it out, here.

April 25, 2006

No My Left Foot, So Sorry, and More Liability News

News_2_1_1_1_1_11) While surgery on the wrong patient or wrong body part often makes headlines, a new study that looked at 20 years of data from a malpractice insurance provider found that cases of "wrong-site surgery" are rare. Read [Forbes]

2) British Columbia is considering "The Apology Act," which could become the greatest Canadian export since hockey. Read [Press Telegram]

3) A doc with a new book about a 'Broken Medical System' says she laments having "to order an MRI just to prove they don’t have a brain tumor, even though we know they don’t." Read [Beverly Citizen]

4) Philipsburg Area Hospital in Pennsylvania battled to stay in business. But difficulties in recruiting doctors hurt and the rising cost of malpractice insurance "hit like a lead balloon." Read [Centre Daily Times]

5) Conservative estimates say doctors and lawyers will invest over $1 million in this year's races for the Tennessee General Assembly. One writer noted an interesting sight at the state capital: "hallways filled with physicians, clad in white coats, earnestly confronting lawmakers." We're sure lawyers in bespoke suits were lurking, as well. Sigh. Read [The Tennessean]

April 24, 2006

What Scares Docs? Being a Patient. Seriously.

TimecoverHating the hand that feeds you? Not exactly. As you know, we're not docs. So we found this week’s TIME mag package especially interesting. Docs fear the health care system as much as the rest of us. Dig in. Here's a not to earth-shattering blurb:

“While there are bad doctors practicing bad medicine who go undetected, that's not what scares other physicians the most. Instead, they have watched the system become deformed over the years by fear of litigation, by insurance costs, by rising competition, by billowing bureaucracy and even by improvements in technology that introduce new risks even as they reduce old ones. So doctors resist having tests done if they aren't absolutely sure they are needed.”

TIME also tells us how to be good patients: be nice. Stop the presses!

Take a read and tell us how if the current climate clouds the liability situation.
Did they ask patients what they want in a doc?

Let us know what strikes you in the articles. Read [TIME]

April 21, 2006

Medical Liability Blog Roundup

RoundupDr. Charles extols his fellow dos and regular Joes alike to support the Senate plan to pass a cap on non-economic damages in med-mal cases. He asks: “Who's going to be left to perform brain surgery or deliver babies? Uncle Steve?” We told you the Senate is where the May action is. Read

These posts have been on the shelf awhile, but there are still some interesting personal responses to Reader’s Digest’s question: Do you trust your local hospital? Read

Whom do you trust?

Overlawyered.com notes a woman who is suing a hospital for having a healthy baby girl. Turns she had an abortion, but neither her nor the doc knew she had been carrying twins. She wants the doc to pay for raising the kid. More medical stories here.

Enjoy the weekend.

April 19, 2006

Disciplining Docs, Lawyers Get By and An Uninsured Farmworker

News_2_1_1_1_1Washington’s Governor thinks the state’s system for disciplining bad docs needs serious help. “There is a consensus, I think, among all of us that it’s broken, and it needs — not tinkering — it needs reform,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said after signing the new medical malpractice bill into law. Read about some smart proposed changes. [The Olympian]

The number of malpractice cases has been dropping steadily the last few years in Ohio’s Montgomery County. Tort reform and the expense of medical malpractice litigation—think experts—seem to have played a role in this. But local lawyers aren't hurting-- they’re specializing in the field—taking serious cases—or moving on to more profitable pastures. Read [Dayton Business Journal]

Question: if caps are enacted and taking on a case is no longer financially sensible, does this end up hurting a patient’s options for justice?

After a February car accident shattered his right eye, Jorge Alvarez was taken by helicopter to the trauma unit at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach. He was unconscious for several days and needed to have the dangling eye removed. But the 19-year-old uninsured farm worker from Fort Pierce was not treated for a week because an eye specialist could not be found to remove the eye. Dr. Steve Spector, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist who operated on Alvarez after taking his turn on the trauma unit, contends other, more experienced doctors turned down the case because the patient was uninsured. Read [Palm Beach Post]

April 18, 2006

Celebrities Aren't Immune To Medical Malpractice

We’ve seen tons of examples where medical malpractice has had disasterous consequences for patients. Now we read that a number of celebs have faced these screw-ups. Here are some famous and, unfortunately, some fatal cases.

NOTE: Some readers are mistakenly thinking that being aware of medical malpractice means one doesn't want to reform the system. Quite the contrary. Mistakes DO happen. But the current system benefits everyone except MOST patients, it hurts docs and it cripples healthcare. Thank you, the management.

John Ritter
RitterIn March 2006, the wife and four children of the late actor who died in 2003 at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, reached a settlement with the hospital for his death. Ritter's family alleged that doctors misdiagnosed his condition as a heart attack and failed to provide proper treatment for the tear in his aorta, which led to his death.

Dick Schaap
SchaapThe legendary sportswriter and broadcaster went in for a routine hip replacement surgery at the prestigious Lenox Hill hospital in New York in 2001. Schaap contracted an infection at the hospital and died three months later at the age of 67. After Schaap’s death, his widow Trish said, “I'm so angry because Dick did his--any job that he did, he did very well. He did them to the best of his ability. He didn't leave stones unturned. And all those doctors had to do--they didn't have to be brilliant or geniuses. All they had to do was do their job the way Dick always did his. It's devastating that this is the way he had to die.” The Schaap family filed a lawsuit and the jury found the doctors negligent in their care for Schaap and awarded the family $1.9.

Dana Carvey
CarveyThe comedian sued his heart surgeon for operating on the wrong artery when he underwent a double bypass in 1998. The doctor settled for an undisclosed amount, which Carvey donated to charity. Carvey said, “This lawsuit, from the beginning, was about accountability and doing everything I could to make sure that it wouldn't happen to someone else.”

Julie Andrews
AndrewsShe underwent surgery in 1997 to remove non-cancerous nodules in her throat. The surgery ended her singing career. She filed a lawsuit claiming she had not been told “the operation carried the risk of permanent hoarseness, ‘irreversible loss of vocal quality’ or other complications that might leave her unable to sing.” It also accused the doctor of operating on both sides of her vocal cord when there was no reason to do anything to the right side. The case was settled in 2000.

April 17, 2006

Senate to Debate Med-Mal Caps

Caps_2Next month, the U.S. Senate will take another swing at medical malpractice reform. The medical liability bill (S 1955) would cap total non-economic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $750,000 and would cap such damages at $250,000 per defendant. These bills have been debated before and the fact we’re still writing about it tells you about the past results.

But it’s a new year and Sen. Frist, M.D., is charged up and so are people on both sides of the issue. Learn about docs pushin’ here and opponents shoutin’ here.

Can you, the reader, offer some reasons for and against capping non-economic damages? We still don’t know if this is a real solution.

April 13, 2006

Medical Malpractice Caps Affecting Healthcare?

Hat tip to PointofLaw.com for an interesting post comparing the latest rankings by HealthGrades on relative safety of hospitals across America versus states with caps on malpractice rewards. Simplified, yes, but interesting nonetheless. They also sum up the cap fight in a tidy way:

"Recall that reform opponents argue that caps reduce the quality of care because doctors no longer fear malpractice awards. Reformers argue that malpractice litigation is so random that it deters the practice of medicine without any real effect on quality of care, because good doctors are almost as likely as bad doctors to be sued."

The findings:


What does this prove?

April 12, 2006

Docs Living Fat Off of Malpractice 'Suits

Expertwit3"This isn’t doctors against lawyers,” said Dan Kopen, M.D., an independent general surgeon in Kingston, PA. “It’s people who have a vested interest in the current system versus people who want something better for the population in general…. There are doctors who are becoming very wealthy as part of the current system because they provide expert testimony on a regular basis,”

Alright, we knew that, but this is what was news to us: “One of the biggest national brokers for expert medical testimony — Berkeley, Calif.-based American Medical Forensic Specialists Inc. — said it has a nationwide network of about 7,500 expert doctors and they bill hourly rates of $400 to $500, depending on the type of doctor needed.” Read [Scranton Times]

I want a slick corporate lawyer and a stethoscope-sportin’ med expert to arm wrestle on pay-per-view.

There is simply too much money involved in the medical liability world. Scrap the high-paid experts. Do away with the 40% cut-getting attorneys. Give us a better way. Someone. Somewhere. PLEASE!

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?

    Let us know about groups and individuals offering real solutions. And be sure to add your comments to our posts.

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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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