Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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medical-equipment-1342025-m-2.jpgIn the recent Maine Supreme Court case of Estate of Nickerson v. Carter, a man’s wife appealed from a judgment in favor of a doctor and a primary care facility after a jury found that the doctor was negligent, but that his negligence was not the legal cause of the man’s death. The estate argued that the trial court had erred in five ways. Among the errors it claimed was that the trial court had improperly admitted findings from the medical malpractice screening panel.

The doctor began seeing the man as a patient in the winter of 1993. In an initial visit, the doctor drew blood from the man and found that the man’s cholesterol level was moderately elevated, which is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. The doctor decided he would follow up with another exam in the next two years. Although he saw the man a few times over the next three years, however, he did not order retesting of the man’s cholesterol levels.

In 1997, the man requested an exam and asked the doctor to help him with filling out forms required for participation in an outdoor expedition. The doctor signed the forms but again did not order testing of his cholesterol. The man returned for an exam in 2001, and the doctor finally ordered the test of his cholesterol level. The test revealed that the man’s cholesterol levels had risen. The doctor advised him of corrections he could make to his diet. The doctor made a note to himself to recheck the man’s cholesterol levels in 6-12 months, but did not check the man’s cholesterol within that time frame.
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hospital-corridor-2-65904-m.jpgIf you are hurt by a professional’s negligence, you may be wondering what evidentiary rules apply to the professional’s apologies or expressions of sympathy. Can they be used to prove that the professional was negligent? In the recent Maine appellate case Strout v. Central Maine Medical Center, the Maine Supreme Court considered the effect of an apology in a medical malpractice case. The medical center appealed a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case arose when the plaintiff sought treatment in the ER for pain in his abdomen. A lesion was found on his liver. A surgeon evaluated his CAT scan and decided he was most likely suffering from cancer.

Days later, the plaintiff went to the office for a follow-up. The doctor telephoned the pathologist in charge of testing the tissue. The pathologist said he would send it for more testing, but that he believed the cancer to be of hepatic or pancreatic origin. He also told the doctor he needed more tissue to finish the assessment.

The doctor told the plaintiff that he was waiting for final results but believed he had liver or pancreatic cancer. He also told the plaintiff that if this was so, the cancer would be inoperable due to the location of the lesion and that even with chemotherapy, patients with these types of cancer usually had less than one year to live.
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stethoscope-2-1080262-m-2.jpgMost Maine residents go to the doctor in hopes of taking care of their health. They don’t anticipate that a visit to the doctor will get them sick. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that every day an estimated 1 in 20 patients develops an infection, a good percentage of which happen because pathogens have spread between patients through the hands of health care professionals. There are guidelines recommending all physicians wash their hands before and after a patient visit. However, there aren’t similar guidelines that mandate disinfection after the use of medical equipment that comes into contact with patients.

A study by the Swiss director of infection control at University of Geneva Hospital found that people might be getting sick because doctors are not taking adequate precautions cleaning their stethoscopes between patients. The study’s author explained that there are no guidelines to clean stethoscopes, even though they carry as much bacteria as a doctor has on his fingertips.

The study was conducted between January 2009 and May 2009 at a Swiss university teaching hospital. The researchers studied three doctors that examined 83 hospital patients. The researchers were analyzing how much bacteria accumulated on different parts of the doctor’s gloved or ungloved dominant hand versus on the diaphragm and tube of the stethoscopes. 489 surfaces were sampled to assess bacteria.
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surgeon-3-391477-m.jpgA USA Today investigation uncovered thousands of unnecessary surgeries around America last year. USA Today looked through government records and medical databases and concluded that 10-20% of surgeries are performed unnecessarily in certain specialties. Public attention has focused on unnecessary cardiac stent surgeries, but actually a number of other specialties have also been plagued by unnecessary surgeries.

Some other common operations that may not be warranted by the medical facts are spinal surgeries, angioplasty, pacemaker implants, hysterectomies and cesarean sections. The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed records for 112,000 patients and found that, in a surprising 22.5% of cases, there was no medical evidence to support installing an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, for example.

Similarly, Surgical Neurology International looked at 274 patients with back and neck complaints in 2011. More than 17% of these patients were told they needed surgery although they had no neurological or radiographic findings to show necessity.
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airbus-a380-1064682-m.jpgDoctors in Maine are trusted with important decisions about peoples’ lives every day. However, it has been found that doctor’s errors kill thousands and hurt millions of Americans, including Maine residents. Most people wouldn’t travel by air if there were 365 jumbo jet disasters every year — one a day. But most people agree to be admitted to the hospital for necessary medical procedures. You should be aware that 210,000 hospital patients die every year from medical errors that could have been prevented — the equivalent of 365 jumbo jet disasters.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States — third only to heart disease and cancer. Medical errors comprise such things as improperly performed surgeries, preventable infections, medication errors, and misdiagnosis. It has been difficult for researchers to reach consensus on just how damaging these medical errors are.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report called To Err is Human. The report estimated that 44,000-98,000 people die every year due to medical mistakes. Other researchers have made similar findings. For example, the Society of Actuaries found that 1.5 million patients are hurt due to medical mistakes. In 2010, the Office of The Inspector General estimated that 180,000 Medicare patients die every year from mistakes made by medical professionals. And last September, the Journal of Patient Safety found that the earlier death count was wrong and that it is closer to 210,000-400,000 deaths per year.
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ambulance-1334533-m.jpgSurvivors of serious accidents do not always have a choice about what day of the week to go to the hospital in Maine. However, when scheduling surgeries or other treatments that require hospitalization in advance, what days are the best? It turns out that patients who are hospitalized on Friday or the weekend must stay in the hospital longer than those patients who are admitted on other weekdays for the same medical concerns. This can be expensive.

But is this only a financial concern? Actually, no. Patients who have to stay in a hospital setting longer have a higher likelihood of enduring a complication.

Multiple studies have shown that weekend hospitalizations result in a higher likelihood of death. For example, Canadian scientists found that patients who suffer an ischemic stroke and are consequently admitted to the hospital over the weekend are more likely to die within seven days than are those admitted on a weekday and who stay in the hospital only on weekdays. Johns Hopkins also found that older adults hospitalized for head trauma over the weekend are more likely to die than their weekday counterparts — even when their injuries are not as severe.
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dental-mirror-809184-m.jpgIt can be difficult for a patient who is injured at the hands of a healthcare provider to learn that the provider has a history of behavior that has not been up to professional standards. But can you bring in evidence of disciplinary action taken against a health care provider when suing for negligence in Maine? A 2011 case arose that addressed this question.

In the case, a Maine oral surgeon treated a woman in 2002. Her tooth was removed and she needed to get a partial denture.

She was referred to the oral surgeon. The referral document mentioned pain and swelling. Upon examination, the oral surgeon stated he thought it was an infection and gave her antibiotics. When she came back 11 days later, she had new symptoms. Her gums had a different texture.
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Calendar,morguefile,dave.jpgIf you are hurt by a doctor’s negligent care, shouldn’t you have the right to tell a jury about all the years that the doctor was careless? And if you are called to sit on a jury in the Maine, don’t you want to hear as much of the truth as possible under the law so that you can make the right decision based on all the facts?

Every Maine trial lawyer knows how tough it is to try to prove medical malpractice in Maine- with its strict rules about sealed filings of a notice of claim and confidential panel hearings with a brethren Maine doctor sitting in judgment of his colleague–almost always insured by the same medical malpractice insurance company as the doctor being judged. But at least now, under the continuing negligent treatment doctrine, a patient can bring a lawsuit for continuing negligent treatment that arises from two or more related negligent acts where each negligent act can be proved to have caused harm and as long as at least one of the negligent acts occurred within three years of the notice of claim. The patient still has to go through the confidential process, but in the end, hopefully, the patient can bring the truth out into the open.

In other words, when a case alleging a doctor was careless with a patient for a long number of years, a Maine jury can hear about what the doctor did or didn’t do for the patient for all the years of care as long as the years of carelessness is the combined cause of harm.

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Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 4.27.42 PM.pngIf you are injured by a doctor or other healthcare professional in Maine, it is important to retain an attorney who is familiar with the complex rules of medical malpractice. The rules for medical malpractice are not the same as for general personal injury or other similar types of cases. One example of a difference between medical malpractice and other personal injury claims is that before the medical malpractice claim is filed, the plaintiff must file a complaint with a pre-litigation screening panel.

The policy behind this screening panel requirement is to encourage speedy resolution of claims and to avoid or reduce prosecution of claims that are not meritorious. This process can be bypassed only if all the parties agree. The parties may also agree to submit the claim to the panel for a binding decision. The panel is composed of judges and qualified people, particularly those with judicial experience.

A case decided last year illustrates the importance of finding an attorney who understands the special procedures that govern medical malpractice cases in Maine. In that case, the plaintiff had a bypass surgery in 2006 and developed a bedsore on his tailbone. The surgeon who had performed the bypass was away and his partner was looking after the plaintiff. The partners had privileges at the hospital, but were not employees there.
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bookphoto.jpegThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the average American has a 30 percent chance of being involved in a serious automobile accident in their lifetime. However, few of us are actually prepared for such an event. Many of us do not understand the nuts and bolts of the personal injury legal process until faced with it out of necessity- for ourselves or our loved ones.

For these reasons, the attorneys at Briggs & Wholey have authored a book in an effort to assist accident victims with personal injury claims. Maine Injury Law: A Reference Guide for Accident Victims has been written to help empower victims and their families when they have been affected by any type of serious personal injury, by offering insight into the world of civil personal injury law.

Whether you’re a victim of medical malpractice, a slip and fall, a trucking accident, a birthing injury, nursing home neglect, or in an automobile accident–this book is for you!
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