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Medical malpractice leads to more birth injuries and maternal deaths

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

According to a blog post on the Injury Lawyer News website, birth injuries due to medical malpractice are on the rise in the United States. Moreover, this country has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the industrialized world, according to Save the Children, and is only 28th on the list of best places to be a mother.

A recently released study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that severe complications during childbirth have increased in recent years. From 2000 through 2009, emergencies during delivery grew by 75 percent and post-delivery complications rose by more than 50 percent.

Some of the complications, such as severe bleeding, can be deadly. Other complications are especially dangerous to women with pre-existing medical conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes. Caregivers must consider a woman’s health when managing labor and delivery.

Medical experts called for better guidelines and training after the release of the report, which also described the recent growth in birth injuries to infants. They emphasized the need for effective communication and the ability to respond rapidly when emergencies arise. They encouraged providers and hospitals to develop training techniques that include drills that re-create emergency situations.

Several recent birth injury lawsuits have received attention on professional websites and in the general media, including a Massachusetts case involving a baby born with a severe form of cerebral palsy that his parents charged was caused by the failure to perform a C-section. The infant did not breathe for many minutes after his mother’s long and difficult labor.

The family settled for $5 million during out-of-court negotiations. The settlement will pay for the around-the-clock care needed by the boy, who cannot perform normal functions such as eating, walking, talking or sitting up without help.

Similar medical malpractice cases occur throughout the country, including in New York. The CDC report indicates that the situation will not change significantly, even with recommended improvements in care during labor and delivery.

Source: Injury lawyer News, “Birth Injuries Due to Medical Errors on the Rise in the United States,” Dec. 28, 2012.

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Jury awards $78.5 million for faulty ultrasound

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The personal and financial hardship of a disability is severe and impacts a family for life. Victims suffer a lifetime of cognitive and physical injuries, while their families are burdened with responsibility and care for their adult children. Last week, a jury agreed that the hardship was overwhelming and awarded a woman $78.5 million for her son who suffers from cerebral palsy because of faulty diagnostic procedures by a Pennsylvania hospital where the child was delivered.

The plaintiff had arrived at the hospital with complications caused by a lack of oxygen to her unborn child. According to experts, the brain damage could have been averted had the doctors pursued a prompt delivery. The woman was given an immediate ultrasound when the doctor concluded that the fetus was already dead. When the hospital staff performed a later, second ultrasound, a fetal heartbeat was detected and an emergency cesarean section was performed to save the life of the baby.

The lawyer for the plaintiff contended that the 81-minute delay caused the fetus to deteriorate and resulted in cerebral palsy. The jury agreed that if the hospital had provided a trained ultrasound technician and used better equipment, the injury could have been prevented. The jury did not find the doctor responsible, but blamed the hospital for the incident.

Birth injury cases are always emotional and many believe that the significant verdict is entirely justified, given the trauma to the mother and the child. The verdict is intended to provide financial compensation for future medical care of the child, lost earnings, pain and suffering for the baby as well as emotional distress for the single mother.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Phila. Jury awards $78.5M in medical malpractice case,” Chris Mondics, May 6, 2012

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New York family’s medical malpractice suit settled for $5 million

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

A New York family will be able to better care for their disabled child now that their law suit against a New York hospital has been settled in their favor. The lawsuit alleged that hospital staff failed to provide proper care to the mother during her pregnancy. After several visits for observation and treatment during her pregnancy, her child was born prematurely and was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

Medical malpractice lawsuits encompass a wide variety of areas from nursing home negligence, surgical errors and birth injuries. More common birth injuries include bleeding in the brain, spinal injuries, skull fractures and cerebral palsy. These cases are based on the belief that negligence was involved in causing the serious injury, either prenatally or during the birthing process. A birth injury suit allows parents to file a claim on behalf of their child and seek damages for past and future medical expenses as well as pain and suffering.

The main complaint in a medical malpractice case is that the patient did not receive proper medical care at a standard of quality expected in the medical profession. Birth injury plaintiffs might claim the hospital or health care provider did not properly monitor the mother or baby, or the doctor may have failed to take the necessary precautions during certain types of pregnancies.

There are several factors required for a successful medical malpractice claim. First, the plaintiff must offer proof that the injury in question was caused by the negligent act of a medical staff member. Ultimately this means they must prove that the physician or staff member’s actions did not meet the accepted standard of care and that failure to do so is what caused the injury.

In this birth injury medical malpractice case, the New York hospital settled the suit for $5.3 million before it went to trial, indicating there must have been enough evidence to meet the required threshold for successful trial verdict.

Source: Reuters, “NY Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Settled for $5.3M,” Stephanie Rabiner, April 13, 2012

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Doctor Left Baby for Dead, Claims Lawsuit

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed in Tennessee revealed that a doctor left a newborn baby for dead in a plastic bag and only when a passing nurse noticed that the baby was alive was treatment provided. The baby was born early on June ’13, 2009, apparently fighting for his life, with gasping breaths and an irregular heartbeat. The doctor is charged with failing to treat the infant, deciding on his own that the baby had no chance of survival.

The baby suffered a brain injury and other injuries. The lawsuit claims that the doctor failed to provide “timely and appropriate diagnosis, intervention, treatment, and care.”

After being resuscitated, the baby was transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, where he received specialized care for three months. The doctor involved is no longer practicing at NorthCrest Medical Center in Robertson, and has let his medical license lapse. This is the first malpractice claim filed against him, according to Tennessee Department of Health records.

Source: The Tennessean, “Lawsuit claims Robertson doctor neglected newborn“, Dec. 22, 2011.

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‘Pregnant robot’ used to reduce medical malpractice in childbirth

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

In medical education, it has long been believed that observation of real patients, along with practical, hands-on experience performing procedures on actual patients, is the best form of education. However, recent technological advances in the field of simulation have encouraged medical educators to update their curriculum. More medical schools are now joining the ranks of the military and aviation professions in employing simulators into their pedagogy.

Not only are the simulators fun and interesting, they are aimed at providing practical education to medical students and fledgling doctors without the risks to patient safety that may lead to medical malpractice.

These simulators, which can be incredibly life-like, demonstrate actual human functions so new students do not have to practice on each other, or worse, on patients.

Previously, for example, medical students would learn how to perform an intravenous drip course by performing the task on other students. Now, they no longer have to offer up their own flesh of the benefit of other learners. With a simulated intravenous trainer, nursing students can practice on a latex arm that is realistic enough to give them real experience, but that doesn’t experience pain or harm.

‘Noelle’ robot simulates pregnant woman to train obstetricians and midwives

A robot called “Noelle” is a $38,000 simulator used to train obstetricians and midwives. Elsie is ultra-realistic — she is not just a rubber dummy, like the old “Resuscitation Annie.”

Noelle is an anatomically correct rubber model of a woman outfitted with computer chips that provide symptoms, cues and feedback to the students. Noelle’s eyes blink and her pupils react to light. A speaker calls out phrases similar to what could be expected of an actual woman experiencing contractions.

Inside Noelle’s abdomen is a unisex rubber infant. The infant simulator has similar features to Noelle: It cries, breathes and has a pulse. The infant will turn blue if there is a lack of oxygen. Its skull is modeled on the natural curves of a real baby’s head.

Noelle and the baby are used to train medical personnel on possible complications during delivery, such as shoulder dystocia, a potentially fatal complication that occurs when an infant’s shoulders are turned vertically during delivery and become lodged against the mother’s public bone.

The mother-and-baby simulators are programmed to show students the signs and symptoms of potential birth injuries like shoulder dystocia, hypoxia and hemorrhage conditions. Noelle can also be used to simulate a C-section birth.

Ideally, the use of these robot simulators will give many more obstetric and midwifery students the opportunity to experience and resolve birth complications when real lives are not at stake. If this innovation helps reduce the incidence of birth injuries and obstetric malpractice, Noelle and her baby will be very welcome additions indeed.

Source: International Business Times, “The Patient Is Rubber and She’s Talking to You,” Yiting Sun, July 25, 2011

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Medical malpractice suit filed after data error caused baby’s death

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Genesis, a baby born four months premature, died after about six weeks in the hospital because of medical malpractice, specifically a transcription error. The Chief of the Division of Quality and Medical Informatics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York said that this type of error happens much more than they would like.

A pharmacy technician entered information incorrectly when processing an electronic IV order for the baby, which resulted in a massive sodium chloride overdose. The solution contained more than 60 times more than the amount prescribed by the physician, and it caused the infant’s heart to stop.

After two miscarriages, the hopeful parents named their baby Genesis, wishing for a new beginning. The baby made it through a heart operation in the morning without complications, but later that day the mother was called to the hospital. When she arrived, the medical staff was performing CPR on the infant, and about 40 minutes later he was pronounced dead.

The parents have filed a lawsuit for an unspecified amount of money, citing that the hospital’s actions were the cause of their son’s death. The hospital is pursuing a settlement, and it has apologized for the errors and vowed that similar mistakes will not happen again.

The specific cause of the baby’s death, an incorrectly filled form, is a common clerical error. It can be easily avoided with double-checking, but is also easy to overlook. In addition, it was found that the outermost label on the IV bag was inaccurate. When a blood test showed abnormally high sodium levels, a lab technician then assumed that the reading was inaccurate. This series of events is also under investigation.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Baby’s death spotlights safety risks linked to computerized systems,” Judith Graham and Cynthia Dizikes, 27 June 2011

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$58 million awarded to family in medical malpractice lawsuit

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

As New York legislators consider placing a cap on medical malpractice pain and suffering claims, one family in another state received a $58 million award in their medical malpractice suit, the largest in state history.

The family claims that their 8-year-old son developed cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage caused by an obstetrician delaying the child’s delivery. The family’s attorney explained that the award marks a major victory for the family, and much of the will be used to help care for the severely disabled boy.

The case dates back to 2003 when the boy was born. The family argues that although the mother’s amniotic fluid dropped to a level that should have prompted delivery, the doctor waited several days. Even once the doctor finally delivered the child via a Caesarian section, the procedure was performed incorrectly.

Experts confirm that cerebral palsy is typically caused by injuries or abnormalities in the brain while infants are still in the womb. The condition ranges in severity, but in this case, the child cannot eat, speak or walk. He also suffers from regular seizures.

According to court records, $8 million of the awarded sum is to be used to pay for the boy’s medical expenses, while the rest was awarded for pain and suffering. The doctor’s attorney argued that the family’s case lacked hard evidence, claiming that the boy’s condition cannot be attributed to the doctor’s performance. The doctor plans to appeal the ruling in the near future.

Source: Huffington Post, “Family Gets $58 Million In Record-Breaking Malpractice Suit,” 26 May 2011

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Some New York hospitals ban recording child birth

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Friday, February 4th, 2011

Parents have been recording their children’s lives since the inception of technology. However, with the growing abilities of technology and the rise of successful medical malpractice lawsuits, hospitals are rethinking their policies. Up to this point, many health care professionals allowed recording the birth process because video cameras could be used without being in the way.

Many hospitals in New York are now changing the rules regarding recording devices allowed in the delivery room. In many places, cell phones and video cameras must be turned off, and pictures and videos are only allowed once the baby has been safely delivered. The hospital says their intent is not to limit the rights of new parents; rather, they are interested in protecting the rights of their staff, especially in lieu of recent medical malpractice lawsuits.

Video of a child’s birth introduces a wild card if it is presented to juries. What may have previously been a “he said, she said” argument between the parents and the hospital may now be recorded. Jury can witness first-hand how nurses and doctors responded to parents’ concerns or emergencies. Some hospitals attribute their ban on recording devices on the doctors’ need to focus. When there are flashing cameras or extra bodies moving around the room, it gets harder to concentrate.

Other hospitals have taken a more proactive approach, and they simulate the situation by recording their practice operations. One such doctor encouraged patients to record everything, stating that his goal is to be as transparent as possible. “If something goes wrong, we try to explain immediately what happened. A video is not inconsistent with the goal of trying to be transparent.” Everyone hopes their doctors will be so forthcoming, especially if mistakes lead to a birth injury lawsuit.

Source: The New York Times, “Cameras, and Rules Against Them, Stir Passions in Delivery Rooms,” Katharine Q. Seelye, 2 February 2011

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