Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The United States stands alone in the developed world for its high rate of maternal deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 700 women die each year during childbirth. According to NBC News, the number of maternal deaths is even more disturbing because they seem to be isolated to racial minorities, particularly black women. In New York, which has been fruitlessly trying to reduce its maternal mortality rate, the number of deaths is still increasing and the race gap is growing larger each year. Last year, a black woman was 12 percent more likely to die during child birth in New York. 

“It’s extremely alarming,” Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an NYU professor and author of a recent study on the subject, told NBC News. “We actually learned that most of the women who died had received no prenatal care. These women who are under-served in the city are not seeing their physicians.” 

The study analyzed New York’s maternal death rate over the last two decades and focused on the effect of several initiatives – some at the hospital level and some at a government level – to reduce the rate. “What we found was that hospitals are doing some programs to reduce maternal mortality, and there are programs being done in the community as well, but they’re not linked up.” According to Dr. Shirazian, this lack of coordination means minority mothers and low-income mothers are unable to reap the “maximum benefits” of the program.

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A new study suggests that doctors are more likely to skip screenings and otherwise make mistakes with patients later in the day. According to a JAMA Network Open study, doctors ordered fewer breast and colon cancer screenings for patients with an afternoon appointment – despite the fact that all patients were due for a screening. According to the study, the doctor was most likely to order a medical screening for his patient with an 8 AM appointment. By 4 PM, the likelihood that the doctor would order screens for their patient had dropped by 10 to 15 percent.

Other studies have confirmed that poorer outcomes for patients are more likely in the afternoon. A 2014 study, cited by The New York Times, found that doctors were more likely to dole out unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in the afternoon. In fact, the likelihood of an unnecessary antibiotic is 26 times higher for a 4 PM appointment compared to an 8 AM appointment.  Other studies located by the New York Times found that patients were less likely to receive the flu vaccine and more likely to receive prescription opioids for back pain. Even the amount of hand washing by doctors fell during the afternoon hours.

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Last month, an Ohio doctor was charged with killing at least 25 of his patients administering lethal levels of the powerful opioid fentanyl. After four years of intentionally drugging his patients, murderous doctor’s killing spree finally ended late last year when a pharmacist finally alert hospital authorities. After an internal inquiry, the hospital deemed the deaths of 35 Dr. William Husel’s patient’s “suspicious.” Now, patients told that their loved ones died of natural causes are furious at the doctor and the hospital for allowing the doctor’s murder spree to continue for so long.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Husel began prescribing lethal amounts of fentanyl to patients at least four years ago. Typically, the doctor would prescribe these deadly doses to patients unlikely to survive anyway. As an acute care doctor who worked the overnight shift, prosecutors say he frequently worked with “new nurses” who may have lacked the experience or bravery to challenge the doctor’s prescribing habits. According to interviews with hospital authorities, the pharmacists also proved complicit in the overdoses by overriding hospital protocols which specifically warned about the likelihood of death caused by a massive fentanyl dose. Amazingly, prosecutors say they will not charge any other hospital staffers in the deaths although some have lost their jobs and nursing licenses.

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Sprain Brook Manor Rehab in Scarsdale, New York received 40 citations for violations of public health laws between October 2015 and September 2019, according to the New York State Department of Health records accessed on November 4, 2019. The citations resulted from eight inspections by the Department of Health, the public entity tasked with overseeing health and safety standards in nursing home facilities; the statewide average is 32 citations. The violations described by the Department’s citations include the following:

1. The nursing home did not ensure the competency of its nursing staff. Section 483.35 of the Federal Code requires nursing home facilities to employ “sufficient nursing staff with the appropriate competencies and skills sets” to care for residents. A May 2019 citation found that Sprain Brook Rehab did not ensure that its Certified Nursing Assistants “demonstrated competency to provide safe care and respond to individual needs” for one of three residents reviewed. An inspector specifically found that the resident, who was unable to stand and needed assistance to transfer with the aid of a mechanical device, was transferred by nursing assistants when that device was not functioning, but that the assistants did not inform the nurse or seek “guidance for how to safely transfer the resident.” The inspector noted that the resident described feeling pain when she was being transferred.

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Between 2015 and 2019, Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care received 48 citations for violations of public health laws, according to the New York Department of Health on November 2, 2019. The Briarcliff Manor, New York nursing home received these citations after four inspections during that period, in addition to the two fines it received between 2010 and 2016. Briarcliff Manor’s 48 citations are 16 more than the statewide average of 32. The violations described by state surveyors include the following:

1. The nursing home did not develop and implement comprehensive care plans. Section 483.21 of the Federal Code requires nursing home facilities to “develop and implement a comprehensive person-centered care plan for each resident” in accordance with residents’ rights. A March 2019 citation found that Briarcliff Manor did not develop and implement care plans adequate to address one resident’s bladder and bowel incontinence, and one resident’s non-pressure skin conditions. An inspector found that there was no documented evidence of an adequately designed care plan for the resident with incontinence, and that a nurse manager interviewed during an inspection said she did not know why a care plan was not in place. Similarly, the Department of Health found no documented evidence of an adequately designed care plan for a resident’s surgical wound; although a nurse manager attested during an interview that she was responsible for the implementation of care plans, she could not identify the care plan for the surgical wound during a review of the individual’s chart.

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St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, New York received 45 citations for violations of public health law between 2015 and 2019, according to state records accessed on November 2, 2019. The citations were issued by the New York State Department of Health, the public entity responsible for enforcing nursing home safety standards, and resulted from six inspections by state surveyors. The violations described by the Department of Health include the following:

1. The nursing home did not ensure the competency of nursing staff. A citation issued in April 2019 described St. Cabrini Nursing Home’s failure to ensure a Certified Nursing Assistant “demonstrated competency in dealing with a confrontational/difficult situation involving the CNA and one resident reviewed for abuse.” Section 483.35 of the Federal Code requires that nursing staff have “appropriate competencies and skills sets to provide nursing and related services to assure resident safety and attain or maintain the highest practicable… well-being of each resident.” In this instance, however, authorities found that the CNA did not properly “communicate or respond” to the conduct of the resident in question, so as to keep circumstances from escalating. The Department of Health’s findings go on to describe a confrontation between two roommates that led to the CNA pushing the resident’s face, which the CNA denied. The CNA was suspended following this incident and later told authorities that “she could have spoken to the resident using different words to be less confrontational.”

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A disgraced doctor pleaded guilty to three charges of manslaughter last week in Queens, according to The New York Daily News, Indicted on felony charges last year, Dr. Lawrence Choy ran a ‘pill mill’ out of his Queens office from 2012 to 2016. The former doctor routinely prescribed the so-called ‘Holy Trinity’ of drugs to his patients – an opioid, a benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxer. All three medications are both extremely addictive and extremely dangerous because of their ability to suppress breathing and cause an overdose. Tragically, Dr. Choy’s reckless prescribing habits caused three of his patients to fatally overdose.

After the deaths of his patients, Dr. Choy closed his medical practice and fled to Wyoming. The long-distance move did not matter to federal authorities who charged Dr. Choy with 231 crimes last year in a complaint detailing the doctor’s recklessness and indifference to his patient’s suffering. According to prosecutors, Choy’s pill mill in Queens was popular across the entire northeast – patients from New Jersey and Pennsylvania routinely made the trip just to visit Choy. According to federal prosecutors, Choy began doling out oxycodone prescriptions beginning in 2012 when Choy received a tax bill for more than $1 million. Once word got out that Choy would exchange prescriptions for cash, addicts would travel to the Queens doctor to get their fix and drug dealers would travel to get their supply. A single oxycodone pill prescribed by Choy could be sold for $30 on the street, less than the cost of a month’s prescription without insurance.

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An outbreak of a rare blood infection in a New York hospital traced back to an opioid-stealing nurse, reports Gizmodo. According to the technology and science website, six cancer patients developed a serious and rare blood infection from June to July 2018 at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. According to the website, none of the victims died as a result of being infected by Sphingomonas paucimobilis.

The bacterial infection is typically found in soil and water, thus rarely harming people. When six people all came down with the infection – which sickens individuals to the point of constant vomiting – hospital authorities say they suspected a medical contamination. After an investigation at the hospital, authorities realized the common thread between the patients involved a nurse who administered their hydromorphone intravenously.  Hydromorphone is a powerful opioid. In response to questions by hospital investigators, the nurse admitted that she removed a certain amount of medication for the patients and then diluted the syringe with water so the dosage appeared unchanged.

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New York may join the rush of states requiring explicit informed consent for patients undergoing medical exams. The new law aims to prevent medical students and residents from performing pelvic, rectal or prostate exams on patients while they are under anesthesia. Amazingly, these medical exams are routinely performed on men and women while they are under anesthesia. Given the sensitive and personal nature of these exams, medical students and residents have long learned the procedure by using unconscious and anesthetized patients.

“There’s a surprising disconnect between the culture of medicine, where intimate exams without explicit consent of the patient are considered a defensible, standard practice, and the rest of us, who are horrified that a trainee could be allowed to perform a pelvic or rectal exam without asking,” said Amy Paulin, New York Democrat who sponsored the bill. Teaching universities across the country oppose the stricter consent laws, saying that practicing on unconscious patients is necessary to teach medical students. The Association of American Medical Colleges has denounced pelvic exams without explicit consent as “unethical and unacceptable.” According to the newspaper, most – but not all – of the country’s medical schools agree with the association and have already implemented policies requiring explicit consent at their hospitals.

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New York hospitals regularly score on the lower end when it comes to patient safety. According to the CMS, almost 50 hospitals in New York are “one-star facilities” – denoting the lowest possible score by the government agency. In addition to a plethora of poorly-performing hospitals, New York also has several high performing medical facilities. According to U.S. News and World Report, which compiles a list of hospital rankings each year, the system for judging hospitals changed slightly this year with a “new outcome measure” meant to examine how many patients must be readmitted to other hospitals.

According to the national newsmagazine (via LoHud), New York’s top 30 hospitals are:

    1. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and Cornell in New York
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