Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A Brooklyn jury returned a $15 million verdict in a lawsuit against a Brooklyn hospital after the patient’s doctor at the hospital failed to diagnose glaucoma on several different occasions, according to the Associated Press.  After complaining of blurred vision and pressure around her eyes, both symptoms of the degenerative disease, Amanda Velasquez set up an appointment with her obstetrician. Dr. Reginald Ruiz, at Woodhull Medical Center. Dr. Ruiz told Velasquez, who was seven months pregnant at the time of the appointment, that her eye problems were related to her pregnancy and she should not be concerned.

With her vision continuing to decline, Velasquez complained about her vision and the pressure around her eyes at six different appointments with Dr. Ruiz over the following two months. According to her testimony before the New York Supreme Court, the lowest court in the state, Velasquez knew something was seriously wrong after she gave birth and could not see the child on her lap. She immediately made an appointment at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, where she was diagnosed with glaucoma. By the time Velasquez could undergo surgery, she was already 90 percent blind and the damage to her vision was irreversible.

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Doctors accused of medical malpractice or other unprofessional conduct in another state may still be able to practice in New York State. In a report analyzing 250 doctors accused of professional misconduct, USA Today found that doctors accused of running pill mills, were found liable for medical malpractice, and engaging in inappropriate relationships with their patients, are still practicing medicine – just in a different state. In most states, including New York, a doctor who voluntarily surrenders his license in a different state is not automatically disqualified from practicing medicine.

Unlike most states, however, New York even allows some doctors with felony convictions to practice medicine. Under New York’s licensing scheme for doctors, a medical board is allowed to approve or deny a doctor’s license to practice medicine in the state based on their own criteria. In circumstances where a doctor voluntarily relinquishes his or her license in another state, there is rarely a “paper trail” describing any misconduct. According to LoHud.com, some states do not track allegations of misconduct against doctors and other states do not make the information available to licensing boards in other states. This haphazard system undoubtedly endangers these doctor’s patients.

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Continuing the state’s decade-long decline, New York ranked a dismal 48th in overall patient safety. The rankings, which are released twice each year by the non-profit organization Leapfrog Group, compile data from hospitals across the country and measure the rate of medical errors, infections and injuries, and patient satisfaction, to determine each hospital’s ranking. Since Leapfrog Group began ranking patient safety in 2012, New York has fallen from 40th worst state in the country to 48th.  In the tri-state area, Connecticut also ranks low for patient safety while New Jersey ranks among the best states in the country.

According to Leapfrog, the worst hospitals in the state are located in New York City and upstate. In fact, five of the 20 hospitals across the country that received an “F” from Leapfrog are located in the five boroughs. In the Hudson Valley, the hospital results were mixed. Here are Leapfrog’s patient safety ratings for the local-area hospitals:

A

The rate of bedsores, or pressure injuries, declined 23 percent between 2010 and 2014. However, the decline in bedsores across the country is mostly caused by a reduction in early-stage sores, according to a new report by Health Affairs. According to the study, early-stage bedsores comprised 96 percent of the nationwide reduction in bedsore rates. The rate of late-stage bedsores, which are more harmful and expensive, has mostly remained constant over the past decade, according to the published research.

Bedsores are one of the most common and preventable medical errors occurring in hospitals across the country. Bedsores, also called pressure injuries or pressure sores, can be excruciatingly painful and may not heal for months or years. In many cases, this preventable medical error does not heal – an estimated 60,000 Americans die each year from bedsores, according to Health Affairs. For these reasons, federal and state governments across the country have cracked down on hospitals and nursing homes with high rates of pressure ulcers. Beginning in 2008, Medicare began paying less to hospitals with high rates of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. States across the country have also heightened enforcement by tracking the rates of pressure ulcers at hospitals across the state and imposing various penalties for hospitals with above-average rates of pressure ulcers.

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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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