Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A Texan surgeon is going to spend the rest of his life in prison because of his horrific incompetence on the operating table. The almost unbelievable case follows Doctor Christopher Duntsch who managed to maim 32 of his patients. Nicknamed by local newspapers as “Dr. Death,” the criminal conviction shows how a broken system allowed a deranged, drug-addled, and incompetent doctor to harm so many of his patients.

After studying medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Duntsch moved to Dallas where he worked at Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, a $600,000-a-year job that only lasted a couple weeks. After leaving the institute, the deranged doctor moved to Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano. Less than a year into his stint at the prestigious hospital, colleagues begin to describe surgeries gone horrifically wrong. Concerned about excessive blood loss, one surgeon told The Dallas Morning News that he grabbed  Duntsch’s medical instruments to stop him from operating. Another doctor described one surgery as “pathetic on what should have been a fairly easy case.”

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New York charged five doctors for prescribing millions of unnecessary opiates to their patients. State prosecutors describe doctors who led their patients down the dark path of addiction, and in some cases even death, solely for personal profit. The criminal complaint against the five doctors, which lists several other co-conspirators, including a White Plains pharmacist, is part of a string of lawsuits meant to hold reckless doctors, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid epidemic that seems to only grow worse each year.

According to New York prosecutors, these five doctors’ malpractice was so brazen that addicts from across the Northeast came to their clinics. Carl Anderson, one of the indicted doctors, ran a pill mill in Staten Island with “lines at all hours of the night,” according to The New York Times. Many of the doctor’s patients died from overdoses, including two of Anderson’s employees. According to the indictment, the crooked doctor received millions of dollars for the oxycodone prescriptions he carelessly wrote to his patients. Another doctor, Dante Cubangbang, ran a pill mill in Queens that wrote an astounding 3.3 million opiate prescriptions over a three-year period, the highest in New York State. A Manhattan psychiatrist prescribed 600,000 oxycodone pills to just 200 patients, warning them not to fill their prescriptions at chain pharmacies to avoid scrutiny.

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Across the United States, women giving birth are now almost three times more likely to die than they were just three decades ago. In a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States now leads the developed world in maternity mortality. Tragically, the majority of these deaths fall upon poor women and women of color. Perhaps even worse, the study shows that the majority of these deaths are completely preventable. With the increased attention on infant mortality rates in recent years, it appears medical professionals and researchers need to focus their efforts on improving the health of both the pregnant mother and the infant.

The wide-ranging report published by the government agency surveyed nine states to identify the characteristics and causes of maternal deaths, and consequently provide recommendations for reducing the nation’s shamefully high mortality rate. After collecting data from the states, the CDC reports that almost 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. The most common causes of death among all Americans were hemorrhaging, cardiovascular and coronary conditions, and infections.

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In response to an increase in superbugs, medical centers are taking an aggressive stance by implementing strict hygiene standards and educating patients about antibiotic resistance. Superbugs are bacterial infections resistant to medical treatment, such as antibiotics. A global increase in the number of antibiotic prescriptions coupled with a lack of new antibiotics produced in the last few decades created strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, superbugs (and antibiotic resistance, more generally) present one of the world’s “most pressing public health problems.”

Filled with infectious diseases and compromised immune systems, hospitals are a breeding ground for superbugs and their patients are uniquely susceptible. Thankfully, hospitals are stepping up and setting new standards to prevent the spread of infection. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, several hospitals detail new procedures meant to improve hygiene and stop germs from spreading. In addition to routine hand washing, medical staff at these hospitals also clean stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, IV poles and pumps, bed railings, and computer keyboards. Stethoscopes, in a surprise to hospital staff interviewed by the WSJ, usually carry the same number of germs as a doctor’s hands after just a single physical examination.

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New York became the first state in the country requiring all nurses to complete a four-year degree program, according to Nurse.com. The new law, which the American Nurses Association has lobbied for since 1964, marks the standardization of nursing education across the state. Under the new law, which took effect in January 2018, all nurses will have up to ten years from receiving their nursing license to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. If a nurse fails to attain the four-year degree within the allotted decade then they will be stripped of their nursing license unless “extraordinary circumstances” can be shown.

The new law will not apply to currently licensed registered nurses in the state, students enrolled in a nursing program in New York State, or any individuals who have already been accepted to nursing school in New York State. In common parlance, these groups will be “grandfathered” in to the policy. For anyone that starts their nursing career or applies to a nursing school starting in 2018, the new law will apply. Under the previous law, nurses can become licensed in New York after completing either a two-year associates degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree and then passing a state licensing exam.

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After a lack of response from management, a group of nurses is going public about the poor treatment of patients at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Speaking to The Daily News, the nurses describe “horror stories” of overcrowding, understaffed medical personnel, unsanitary conditions, and a management structure who seems oblivious or unconcerned about these serious problems. The deteriorating quality of care at the Bronx hospital endangers both patients, who are more likely to become sick with infectious diseases, and nurses, who are frequently attacked by mentally ill residents at the hospital.

In response to the allegations of overcrowding, understaffing, and inadequate medical care, a Montefiore spokeswoman pointed towards the Bronx hospital’s high ranking on Indeed.com – a website where employees review their employer. While Indeed may believe Montefiore is a pleasant work environment, their nurses disagree and, according to The Daily News, they have ample evidence. In one example, emergency room patients wait an average of 64 minutes before meeting with a healthcare professional – almost double the national average.

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In a stunning and tragic case out of Florida, a new mother passed away after four medics allegedly told the woman she could not afford an ambulance ride. The woman, Crystle Galloway, had recently given birth to a son via C-section a few days before the event. According to Galloway’s mother, Nicole Black, Galloway was found slumped over in the bathroom and immediately called 911. According to Black, she told the emergency dispatcher that something was wrong, but that her daughter was still breathing

When the medics arrived later, Black says they told her that Galloway had suffered a stroke. Then, amazingly, told her that she could not afford a ride to the hospital in an ambulance and proceeded to “buckle-up” Galloway in her mother’s vehicle. Speaking to ABC Action News, Black says, “They never asked us if we had insurance, which we do.” She continued, “The whole conversation as the EMS put my child in the car was that was best for us because we couldn’t afford an ambulance. My daughter begged for her life, she begged!”

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After the rapid pace of consolidation in the healthcare industry over the past decade, many patient advocates are beginning to study the effects of these mergers and acquisitions on the quality of patient care. While many of the business executives in charge of these restructurings tout improved patient health as a benefit, it appears the opposite may be true – at least in the short-term – for many patients. The study, which was reported by STAT, found that new patient populations, unfamiliar infrastructure, and new settings for physicians caused the bulk of problems related to possible declines in patient health after a hospital merger.

Since 2014, there have been more than 100 hospital or healthcare mergers each year. Last year alone, there were 115 mergers and this trend is likely to continue. For that reason, it is important to learn about its effects on patient care. After thoroughly reviewing several randomly chosen mergers and acquisitions, STAT found a disturbing pattern of patient neglect. In two examples, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist ended up in the wrong part of the hospital after being summoned for a time-sensitive procedure. In another example, an ER doctor was given only thirty minutes of training before being put to work in an Emergency Room. According to STAT, “[The Doctor] had not been brief on how to obtain backup help in the case of an unexpected emergency.” Therefore, when multiple ambulances arrived with several critical patients, the hospital was overwhelmed and ineffective in treating the majority of patients. In all of these circumstances, the hospital had reorganized itself and not properly trained the medical staff at the hospital.

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Patient neglect causes serious issues in hospitals throughout the country, including pressure ulcers, falls and medication errors. However, a new company is attempting to gather data about patients using artificial intelligence which will, hopefully, led to fewer patients neglected in hospital rooms. The new sensor from start-up Inspiren is currently on trial at a hospital in Queens.

The sensor, which is roughly the size of a thermostat and possesses a glowing ring, will attempt to accurately report when a patient is “checked on” by a nurse or hospital staff member. While common procedure across the country, “hourly” check-ins by nurses are not uniformly followed when the hospital or staff are busy. The sensor, which is named “iN” will sit on a wall and monitor when a staff member enters and leaves a room. If the “iN” glows green, then the patient has been checked on recently. Unsurprisingly, yellow and red serve as warning signs that a patient may need assistance. Unsurprisingly, iN will come with an app notifying nurses whenever a patient has not been checked on in an hour.

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A new report found that New York doctors who received payments from opioid manufacturers were more likely to prescribe opioids to their patients. More disturbingly, the report, released by the New York State Health Foundation, found that as payments from the drug manufacturers to the doctors increased the prescription rate for their addictive painkillers increased almost lock-step. Overall, opioid manufacturers paid more than $3.5 million to New York state doctors between 2013 and 2015, as the opioid problem in the country began to reach epidemic levels.

According to the New York State Health Foundation, a nonprofit foundation established less than a decade ago, roughly one in 10 physicians received payouts from opioid manufacturers. The President and CEO, David Sandman bluntly said, “The more money you get, the more opioids you prescribe.” The data released by the agency confirms his statement. Doctors who received less than $20 from opioid manufacturers – approximately the cost of lunch or dinner – billed Medicare for an average of $34,000 just for opiates, which include hydrocodone, oxycontin, and fentanyl.

If the doctor received between $20 to $50 from the drug companies, the average billing went up to $50,000. For the 3,000 New York physicians who received more than $1,000 from these companies, Medicare was billed an astounding $1.24 million just in opioid prescriptions. The doctors who received payments from opioid manufacturers increased their prescriptions for these dangerous and addictive drugs by almost 37.2 percent in just two years. Doctors who did not receive any payment from the drug companies increased their prescriptions by just 15.6 percent.

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