Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Citing increased patient care, nurses at New York’s three biggest hospital systems are demanding a sharp increase in nursing staff. The group of nurses – 10,000 strong, according to The New York Times – say they are unable to fulfill their responsibilities and provide optimal care to each patient because there are not enough nurses on staff at Mount Sinai, New York-Presbyterian and Montefiore. The union representing the nurses in their negotiations with the hospitals, the New York State Nurses Association, say they are prepared to strike if their demands are not satisfied.

Speaking to The New York Times, Shanna Murphy, a neonatal nurse, said: “I’m often put in a situation where I’m having to choose between patients and not able to fully support my families.” This leads to what Murphy described as “drive-by nursing” where she does not have time to “actually sit with our patients and spend time with our patients and families.” Other nurses agree and cite a 2002 study directly linking patient care to the number of nurses on staff. Published by the Journal of American Medical Association, the research paper found that for every additional nurse the risk of patient fatality reduced by 7 percent.

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Once named one of ‘America’s Most Beautiful Physicians’, a New York doctor is now being hauled into court by former patients who say they lost his medical records and over-prescribed powerful pain medications, among several other allegations. Reported by NBC New York, cardiovascular surgeon David Gruener has recently come under scrutiny by government regulators and patients who describe less-than-competent experiences with the media-darling doctor. Despite allegations of overprescribing opioid medications, the doctor’s record is currently unblemished. The lawsuits against the doctor will likely change his spotless record soon, though.

The allegations against the doctor began surfacing when one of his former patients blamed him for an opioid addiction that became a $7,000-per-day habit. According to the patient, Dr. Gruener prescribed hundreds of Demerol shots and other opioids during 2011 and 2012. The surgeon prescribed all of this medication despite “clear signs of addiction” in, what the patient is alleging, a “clearly fraudulent scheme” to keep him addicted and the income flowing freely to his doctor. In the course of litigating his lawsuit against the doctor, the patient sought his own personal medical records. Unfortunately, the doctor could not produce these medical records, along with those of any other patients before 2012.

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The New York Medical Board is slow to punish doctors who lose their license to practice in other states. According to The New York Post, the state licensing board for doctors took between “a few weeks to several months” to stop 14 doctors who had lost their ability to practice medicine in New Jersey over the last six months. Perhaps even more worrisome, the local newspaper found that two of those doctors were still practicing medicine despite being deemed unfit to practice just across the river. New Jersey did not perform much better at ensuring potentially dangerous doctors stayed away from the state’s patients – five doctors with their New York licenses suspended in the last six months were still practicing in the state.

Perhaps overstating the obvious, Patient-safety advocate Betsy McCaughey told The Post that licensing board’s slow movement on incompetent doctors “could lead to unnecessary additional harm to patients.” The founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths then harped on the unnecessary risk to patients by stating “all you have to do is send an email.” McCaughey correctly notes that the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners receives a daily alert for doctors whose license has been suspended or permanently revoked. With this information delivered each day, it is not unreasonable to expect a prompt investigation.

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New York City spent approximately $1 billion settling tort lawsuits last year. According to the Wall Street Journal, this hefty sum actually represents an 8 percent decrease from the previous year. Tort claims include most personal injury lawsuits, such as slip-and-fall accidents, motor-vehicle damages, and medical malpractice lawsuits.

The decrease is largely driven by a small number of settlements against the New York Police Department. The newspaper reports that settlements against the NYPD reached only $230 million. Last year, settlements against the police were approximately $336 million. Despite the almost one-third decrease, the NYPD is still the most expensive city agency when it comes to settling lawsuits. According to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, the Department of Transportation, Department of Correction, Department of Sanitation, and the Department of Education round out the top five most expensive agencies when it comes to personal injury and tort lawsuits.

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A distracted driver is almost 30 times more likely to crash in a highway work zone. In a recent study reported on by Science Daily, researchers at the University of Missouri found that drivers who answered a phone call, texted, or reported being distracted by a passenger were 29 times more likely to be in a collision at or near a federal highway work zone. Given the decade-long increase in the number of car accidents on American roadways, state and federal transportation agencies will use the study to implement “countermeasures” to reduce the number of distracted drivers.

Traffic safety experts say the results of the study are not entirely surprising. Distracted driving is dangerous and substantially increases the risk of a car accident or pedestrian accident. Further, work zones typically have riskier road conditions such as poor signage, narrower lanes, and reduced visibility. The study, which included only data from federal highways, also pointed out that the high speed limit on highways – generally, 55 mph – meant that collisions would be harder to prevent and any resulting injuries more severe. The data included more than 3,000 drivers and covered more than 50 million miles.

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Pedestrian deaths are set to hit a 30-year high in America and government regulators are blaming SUVs and distracted driving for the record-setting number. According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian deaths in 2018 increased by 250 people – bringing the total to a tragic 6,227 pedestrian deaths in America last year. According to the federal agency, the number of pedestrian deaths increased a whopping 51.5 percent since 2009. Less than a decade ago, America’s pedestrian death rate hit an all-time low of 4,109 following decades of declining pedestrian deaths caused by increases in safety technology and stricter enforcement of traffic safety laws.

Despite the continued innovations of safety technology, America’s pedestrian death rate has increased every year in the last decade. Traffic safety experts say that SUVs are a large part of the problem, noting that SUVs, which have outsold passenger cars since 2014, are more likely to kill pedestrians because of their larger size. A report by The Free Detroit Press bears out this theory finding that passenger deaths caused by passenger vehicles have increased only 30 percent since 2013, while deaths caused by SUVs have increased 50 percent during the same time period. Like other parts of American life, cell phones have also changed America’s driving habits and, unsurprisingly, contributed to more pedestrian deaths. According to AAA, wireless data usage increased by 4,000 percent between 2010 and 2017. The same report found that 49 percent of Americans talk on the phone while driving and 35 percent say they send emails and text. The final contributing factor, according to traffic safety experts, involves the higher percentage of Americans walking to work.

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A stunning and heartbreaking story about the unnecessary deaths of 28 emergency room patients caused by lethal doses of opiates prescribed by a single emergency room doctor has left families with two questions: Was the doctor woefully incompetent or intentionally murdering his patients? And, just as shockingly, how did a hospital allow the doctor to prescribe and administer a deadly dose of fentanyl to so many patients?

According to NBC News, Dr. William Husel, an intensive care doctor, is responsible for the deaths of 34 patients between 2015 and 2018. According to a hospital investigation, 28 of these patients died after receiving a dose of fentanyl 10 times higher than normal. In some circumstances, pain medication was unnecessary and administered without the patient’s permission. Dr. Husel’s medical license was suspended permanently last week without a hearing, a rare action depicting the gravity of his barbarous actions. Before the Ohio Medical Board’s action, the attorney general for the state called Dr. Husel “a serial killer on the loose with a medical license and access to fentanyl.” A criminal investigation is currently underway, but no homicide charges have been filed against the deadly doctor.

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America is one of only two countries in the world where the rate of deaths during pregnancy increased between 1990 and 2018. In an exhaustive expose in National Geographic, the news magazine details the causes of the country’s high rate of death for pregnant women, the widening racial disparity, and the progress meant to help alleviate the unnecessary and tragic problem. Given the increased attention to the issue in recent years, public health advocates are hopeful the trend will begin reversing itself in the next few years.

Overall, 700 women die each year giving birth in the United States – a rate of approximately 14 deaths per 100,000 births. However, this data does not show the wide racial disparities in the maternal death rate. For black Americans, the likelihood of dying during birth is more than three times higher than the average at 47 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Native Americans also have a higher maternal death rate at almost 39 per 100,000. Comparatively, Hispanic and Asian American women have a lower-than-average rate of maternal deaths at 12.2 and 11.6, respectively. Researchers and public health advocates say the high maternal death rates are directly linked to a woman’s ability to access adequate prenatal healthcare – with almost 9 percent of black Americans receiving no prenatal care before giving birth. The research found a full 60 percent of the maternal deaths last year were fully preventable. Continue reading

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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Concerned over the growing rate of construction accidents, Mayor de Blasio and City Hall passed a new set of safety regulations on the construction industry last year. However, according to a news report this law is being ignored by the construction industry. As the rate of accidents and deaths in the construction industry reach a record high this year, safety advocates hope that the government steps up enforcement of the law or pursues further legislation to protect construction workers.

Under the safety legislation passed by the city, construction workers must undergo additional training – a 10-hour class should have been completed by March 1 of this year, with an additional 30-hours of safety training required by December 1. Upon completion of the training, construction workers will receive a “Site Safety Training” card that must be brought with them to their construction site each day. However, despite the city’s noble efforts to address a real problem in New York, injuries and deaths in the construction industry have only grown this year.

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