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Amputee Files Lawsuit Against Hospital for Cremating Amputated Leg

A patient has filed a lawsuit against Skokie Hospital for incinerating his amputated leg. The patient, an Orthodox Jew whose religious traditions indicate that the dead should be buried whole, claims that he informed a rabbi employed by the hospital and other medical personnel that he wanted his leg to be preserved to be buried with him after his death.

In March 2011, Moshe Lefkowitz had surgery to have his left leg amputated below the knee. The hospital claims that Lefkowitz signed consent forms permitting the hospital to dispose of his leg. Lefkowitz said in an affidavit that he is legally blind and was told by a nurse that he was only signing a form consenting to the surgery.

Lefkowitz sued the hospital and the rabbi in 2013, seeking damages in excess of $100,000. A Cook County judge dismissed the suit, but that ruling was reversed by an appeals court, and the case was sent back for trial.

The hospital argued in an appellate brief that Lefkowitz should not be able to sue the rabbi for what it termed “clergy malpractice,” saying that the plaintiff’s religious contentions have “no place” in the civil court system. Lefkowitz claimed in court papers that he is suing the rabbi for negligence for not properly informing the hospital staff of his wishes.

In reversing the circuit court’s granting of the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District ruled that Lefkowitz had raised at least a question of material fact as to whether he had knowingly consented to the disposal of his leg.

Rabbi Yona Reiss of the Chicago Rabbinical Council told the Chicago Tribune that under Jewish tradition, body parts that have been severed are preserved or buried for the day when it is believed that the bodies will be resurrected. Severed body parts are usually buried in private, low-key ceremonies, he said.

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Cerebral palsy among the most serious birth injuries

Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious injuries that can be caused by medical malpractice during labor or delivery. The condition can be caused by a deficiency of oxygen to the child’s brain, and the effects can last a lifetime.

Cerebral palsy includes a number of different neurological disorders that have a negative effect on muscle coordination and the movement of the body. Although most children who suffer from cerebral palsy have had the condition since birth, the condition may not be able to be diagnosed until the child is a few years old. In the United States and Europe, cerebral palsy occurs in between two and four out of every 1,000 births.

There are a number of different events that can lead to cerebral palsy, often involving a lack of oxygen to the brain, birth trauma or premature delivery. In some cases, action or inaction by medical personnel may constitute medical malpractice. 

Malpractice may include the failure to properly monitor the heart rate of the fetus, failure to detect infections in the mother such as meningitis, failure to detect a prolapse of the umbilical cord, delay in performing a cesarean section, or negligence in the use of instruments such as forceps or vacuum.

It is important to note that not all cases of cerebral palsy are the result of medical malpractice. If you believe that your child’s birth injury may have resulted from a medical mistake, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights.

Many misdiagnosis errors go unreported

Medical errors involving surgery or drug mistakes receive a lot of attention, perhaps in part because it is often obvious that an error has been made. But research indicates that misdiagnosis may be a far more common type of medical mistake.

Experts in patient safety say that misdiagnosis, which can include delayed, missed or incorrect diagnoses, may affect between 10 and 20 percent of all cases.

Medical errors that harm patients and are the result of negligence on the part of doctors or hospital personnel may give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. However, in the vast majority of misdiagnosis cases, lawsuits are not filed. In many cases, patients are not aware that an error was made because the misdiagnosis is never reported.

A report by Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, found that only one in seven mistakes or injuries involving Medicare patients are actually reported by hospital staff, even though reporting events that cause patients harm is a requirement of receiving Medicare payments.

Patients who suspect a misdiagnosis caused or worsened an injury should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate to recover compensation for the harm they suffered.

Over 14 million dollars awarded in birth injury lawsuit

An Ohio jury has awarded $14.5 million to a boy who suffered a birth injury.

The jury returned the verdict against a hospital and doctor in favor of the 11-year-old boy and his mother, Stephanie Stewart. The child suffered a brain hemorrhage after a delay in his delivery, and he now suffers from cognitive delays, cerebral palsy, visual impairments and other medical conditions. The family’s attorney said that he will require lifelong care.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2004, but it was dismissed without prejudice in 2006 due to personnel issues with the law firm handling the case. The case was refiled in June 2011.

When Stewart was pregnant in 2003, she went into labor prematurely and was admitted to the hospital on three occasions, where the labor was stopped with medication, her attorney said. Stewart’s water broke on April 10, and she was admitted to the hospital again. A cesarean section had previously been discussed, and Stewart requested that her baby be delivered soon after she was admitted. But the delivery was delayed for several hours, according to her attorney. When the baby showed signs of distress, an emergency cesarean section was performed. By then, the infant had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage.

The jury determined that medical negligence had occurred, and awarded $8 million for future care, $5 million for pain and suffering, $1 million for the cost of Stewart’s services and $500,000 for economic losses.

Infection rates in Iillinois hospitals may bring Medicare penalties

This fall, Medicare payments may be docked for six or more Illinois hospitals as the government cracks down on infections and other injuries to patients.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has one of the highest rates of hospital-acquired medical conditions in the state, is on the list.

Beginning in October, annual penalties for Northwestern and five or more other hospitals in the state could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The penalties are assessed at the rate of one percent of all Medicare payments per year and are intended to provide an incentive for hospitals to improve the care of their patients. Infections and other injuries acquired at hospitals are a major public health concern, and they cost the federal government and taxpayers money for additional treatment. 

When a patient injury is the result of negligence on the part of medical personnel, a medical malpractice lawsuit may also be filed.

In April, the federal government released a preliminary national list of 761 institutions that may be assessed, although that list may now change as further data is taken into account. The list includes 26 of Illinois’ 125 hospitals. A smaller list of six includes the institutions most likely to face penalties, which rank in the bottom 10 percent on a national basis in infection rates and avoidable safety problems. Northwestern is the only Chicago-area hospital included in the list of six.

Labor trauma can cause birth injuries

A number of birth injuries can result from trauma experienced during the labor and delivery process. Said trauma can result from mistakes on the part of medical professionals attending the birth.

Head trauma suffered during delivery can cause several different types of birth injuries, including cephalohematoma, caput succedaneum and epidural hemorrhage.

Cerebral palsy, a disability of the central nervous system, can result if the baby’s brain lacks oxygen during the labor and delivery process.

Perinatal asphyxia can also appear when a baby is deprived of oxygen. That deprivation can be caused by interference with blood flow to the baby’s brain or a drop in maternal blood pressure.

Erb’s Palsy is a paralysis of the arm resulting from an injury to a group of nerves in the arm. This condition can occur if the baby’s head and neck are pulled excessively during delivery.

Brachial plexus injuries can be caused by shoulder trauma, inflammation or tumors, and they may occur if the baby’s shoulder is stretched during birth.

A leading cause of severe illness and even death in newborns is meconium aspiration syndrome. If a fetus is stressed during delivery and inhales a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid into its lungs, severe injury can result.

Each of these birth injuries may be caused by the mistakes of doctors and other medical personnel. An unnecessary injury may constitute medical malpractice. If your child suffered a birth injury due to a medical error, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Briskman Briskman & Greenberg to learn more about your legal rights.

Up to 12 million adults could be affected by misdiagnosis

A new study in BMJ Quality and Safety, an international journal of healthcare improvement, estimated that one in 20 adults in the United States could be misdiagnosed in outpatient visits. The study found that approximately half of those mistakes could cause the patient harm.

The researchers set the definition of misdiagnosis as a missed opportunity to make a correct or timely diagnosis based on the evidence available. A misdiagnosis may be an instance of a physician making an incorrect diagnosis, or it may be a case of a delay in diagnosis. The researchers performed an analysis of data from three previous studies of outpatients in the United States, with the goal of estimating the frequency of misdiagnoses.

Researchers examined data on lung cancer misdiagnoses, delays in colon and prostate cancer diagnoses, and diagnostic mistakes in the primary care setting. The authors of the study said that diagnostic errors are often multifaceted, and that factors such as unclear clinical guidelines, cognitive biases and the structure of outpatient systems may play a part in misdiagnoses.

The researchers also said that misdiagnoses are underreported, which is a problem in itself. In the period between 1986 and 2010, payouts for medical malpractice claims due to misdiagnoses amounted to $38.8 billion. Diagnostic mistakes accounted for the largest percentage of malpractice payouts.

How brain injuries occur during birth

Injuries to a baby’s brain can occur during or shortly after labor and delivery, as a result of three main categories of cause: reduced oxygen, reduced glucose and trauma.

A baby in the womb gets its oxygen from its mother, as the mother’s oxygenated blood flows across the placenta and through the umbilical cord. If this flow of oxygen is interrupted during the labor and delivery process, serious birth injuries can occur. This can be caused by a rupture of the uterus, umbilical cord compression or premature abruption of the placenta. If the medical professionals attending the birth fail to deal with such complications immediately, the infant’s brain may be damaged.

A lengthy or difficult labor can reduce the amount of glucose in the baby’s blood. It is important for a baby’s glucose levels to be checked immediately after birth. Failure to correct low glucose levels promptly is a common cause of injury to an infant’s brain.

Trauma during labor and delivery can also cause injuries to a baby’s brain. Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors can cause damage to the brain through cerebral contusions, cerebral bleeding and the tearing and stretching of brain tissue and blood vessels.

If your child suffered a birth injury, contact Briskman Briskman & Greenberg for a free consultation.

Research suggests under-reported birth injury

Research suggests that Chiari malformation may be an under-reported birth injury.

Chiari malformations are structural problems in the cerebellum, the area of the brain that maintains balance. The cerebellum normally sits above the foramen magnum with parts of the brain stem. The foramen magnum is in the lower back portion of the skull and leads to the spinal canal. 

In a Chiari malformation, part of the cerebellum develops beneath the foramen magnum. This causes pressure on the brain stem and cerebellum, which may affect the brain adversely and prevent cerebrospinal fluid from flowing properly to the brain.

Symptoms of Chiari malformation may include neck pain, numbness, dizziness, vision problems, buzzing or ringing in the ears, nausea, insomnia, depression and headaches. Individuals with Chiari malformations often have related conditions such as hydrocephalus, spina bifida, syringomyelia, tethered cord syndrome or spinal curvature.

Chiari malformations were once believed to occur in approximately one in every 1,000 births, but research suggests that it may be much more common than previously thought. A complication in diagnosing the condition is that individuals may be asymptomatic until adolescence or adulthood.

Chiari malformations that happen during the development of a fetus can be caused by medical malpractice — including a doctor’s failure to warn a pregnant mother of the dangers of taking certain medications during pregnancy.

Illinois sees decrease in medical malpractice payouts

In 2013, Medical Malpractice payouts decreased in Illinois, according to research from a medical malpractice insurer.

Diedrich Healthcare performed an analysis of 2013 medical malpractice payments that were recorded by the National Practitioner Data Bank. The insurer found that medical malpractice payouts in Illinois decreased by $28 million from 2012 to 2013.

The insurer also found that 2013 was the first year since 2003 that medical malpractice payments increased nationwide. National payouts increased by $168 million, a figure 4.7 percent greater than 2012’s.

The greatest state decrease in payouts was seen in New York, with a $73 million drop. In Massachusetts, there was a drop of $7 million; in Florida, a decrease of $4 million; and in Mississippi, a drop of $3 million. The largest increase in medical malpractice payouts occurred in California, which saw a $51 million uptick.

On a national basis, 96 percent of the payouts were represented by settlements. In cases that went to judgment, the average payment amount decreased by more than $200,000.

Diedrich Healthcare also analyzed malpractice payouts according to the type of allegation. The insurer found that in 33 percent of payouts, the allegation was related to diagnosis. Twenty-three percent involved surgery, 18 percent involved treatment and 10 percent concerned obstetrics. Allegations related to medication, anesthesia, monitoring, equipment and other causes accounted for five percent or less of the total.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County.
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