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Vietnam veteran wins twelve million dollars in medical malpractice settlement

A Vietnam veteran and Chicago-area resident will receive a $12 million settlement from the federal government in a medical malpractice case.

John Johnson is a Vietnam combat veteran who served in the Army from 1970 to 1971. In 2007, Johnson was admitted to Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois for oral surgery. After he was put under anesthesia, Johnson went into cardiac arrest, which resulted in brain damage. Johnson filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital.

According to the lawsuit, doctors did not prepare adequately for the surgery and failed to properly monitor Johnson’s heart condition after he received anesthesia.

Johnson’s attorney said that the $12 million settlement will be used to cover Johnson’s medical and living expenses, and that his family is looking for a house that will accommodate his daily care needs. Johnson’s attorney said that this was one of the largest malpractice settlements paid out by the U.S. government.

The Hines V.A. Hospital is a 471-bed facility, located on 147 acres 12 miles west of downtown Chicago. The hospital also operates six community-based outpatient clinics in the Chicago area. In fiscal year 2010, the hospital served more than 600,000 patients with a budget of more than $510 million.

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Federal judge has entered a judgment against the United States in a brain injury case

A federal judge has entered a $28 million judgment against the United States in a brain injury case.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon entered the judgment in favor of Sean Cobbs — who suffered a severe brain injury when doctors allegedly did not perform a timely cesarean section — and of his parents, Sean Cobbs Sr. and Patoya Bryant.

The award includes lost earnings damages of $3,216,827, future care damages of $15,165,708, past medical expenses of $231,713, $5 million for the loss of a normal life, pain and suffering damages of $3 million, disfigurement damages of $2 million and $1 million in damages for risk of future harm.

The lawsuit was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act in November 2010, citing the conduct of three obstetricians. Claims against Southern Illinois Hospital Services and two nurses were settled at a prior date.

The lawsuit claimed that the child’s brain injuries were caused by the failure to perform a timely C-section. According to the lawsuit, medical records indicated that the injury to the brain occurred at or near the time of the child’s birth. However, the government claimed that the injury occurred before the mother came to the hospital.

According to the plaintiffs, the cause of the brain injury was oxygen deprivation, and evidence indicated that it occurred between 40 minutes before birth and ten minutes after birth.

Unreported robotic surgery injuries pose new FDA questions

More than 350,000 surgeries were performed with Intuitive Surgical Inc.’s robotic da Vinci device in 2012 alone. The use of robotic devices in surgery has expanded greatly in recent years. Unfortunately, however, injuries associated with these surgeries have also increased, and such injuries often lead to medical malpractice litigation.

Patients considering surgery may find it difficult to assess possible dangers. Gaps in reporting requirements mean that a clear, complete picture of injuries caused by robotic surgery devices is hard to find.

While the Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of reports of deaths and injuries sent by doctors and hospitals, the agency does not have the authority to compel doctors to make such reports. Hospitals are supposed to make the reports, but they often choose not to.

A Bloomberg News analysis of reports involving the da Vinci device found that dozens of patient injuries went unreported for years at a time. David Challoner, who co-authored a report by the Institute of Medicine calling for a better adverse event reporting system, said that the current system is a “disaster,” in part because medical professionals and medical device companies have an incentive to under-report patient problems.

The FDA said that it is aware of the problem of under-reporting and is working to improve the system.

Thirteen Million Dollars Awarded in Birth Injury Lawsuit

A Michigan jury has awarded $13 million to a woman who claimed that medical errors during childbirth left her daughter disfigured and unable to fully use her right arm.

The large verdict was awarded September 27, 2013 to Libbey Bryson of Flint, Michigan after a 12-day trial. The defendant hospital indicated that it was considering an appeal.

The lawsuit claimed that doctors pulled too hard on Bryson’s daughter’s head after she got stuck during childbirth on January 1, 2008. According to the suit, the baby’s arm became stuck on the pelvic bone, and when doctors pulled on the baby’s head, nerves controlling the baby’s right arm were severed. The lawsuit also claimed that doctors should have performed a Caesarean section. Court records showed that a C-section was neither requested nor offered.

Multiple surgeries have since been performed on Bryson’s daughter, and she wears a brace on her right arm. Bryson’s attorney said that the injury will require ongoing therapy. He also said that the judgment will be worth approximately $4 million once it is reduced to its present cash value and again reduced to comply with state laws capping non-economic damages.

Group Seeks to Reduce Diagnosis Errors

The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine is seeking to reduce diagnosis errors that lead to delayed or inappropriate treatments. Diagnosis errors are some of the most common of medical malpractice instances.

Dr. Mark Graber is the founder and president of the society. He has stated that the group is pushing the Institute of Medicine to issue a comprehensive report on diagnosis errors to bring the subject to the attention of medical professionals.

Graber, a Senior Fellow in health care quality and outcomes at RTI International’s research institute, argued that medical professionals need to be made more aware of the negative impact of diagnostic errors. He noted that he encountered numerous diagnostic errors first-hand — many of them his own —
during 20 years working at Northport, New York’s Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

According to Graber, the group is currently focusing on raising awareness. He said that while the group has sought to educate medical professionals, they have been met with apathy. Once stakeholders are engaged, the group hopes to spread solutions, such as the use of “trigger tools” as part of electronic health records to identify patients who are at a high risk of diagnostic errors.

New Research Could Help Treatment of Children with Cerebral Palsy

Research being conducted at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow may lead to treatment to help children with cerebral palsy to speak more clearly. Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a birth injury to the brain, and children with the condition often have trouble controlling their movements as they grow older.

Dr. Anja Kuschmann is studying the speech patterns of children with the condition in order to better understand why they often struggle to speak clearly. Kuschmann has stated her belief that a better understanding of cerebral palsy could lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

Kuschmann said that speech problems encountered by children with cerebral palsy include difficulty with rhythm, melody and stress. Such problems are usually referred to as “prosodic difficulties,” and they can make a great difference in how intelligible a child’s speech may be to listeners.

According to Kuschmann, the prosodic development of young people with cerebral palsy is not well understood at present. Currently, she said, it is unclear whether the issues result from an inability to store prosodic information in the brain or from muscular problems that arise during speaking. The doctor’s research is intended to find the cause of these prosodic difficulties.

The research will be conducted over three years with the help of a $350,000 research fellowship. Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy today, better treatment could greatly improve quality of life for children with the condition.

Three Million Dollar Settlement in Cancer Malpractice Case

A $3 million settlement has been reached in a medical malpractice case that alleged failure to diagnose ovarian cancer in a 49-year-old woman.

The plaintiff alleged that a Chicago-area hospital failed to identify a complex cyst during an ultrasound that was ordered by the woman’s physician. The lawsuit claimed that the radiologist recommended that follow-up scans be performed, but that no such scans were ordered by the physician the woman saw in a follow-up visit.

According to the lawsuit, because of failure to diagnose, a treatable Stage I tumor had time to grow into a non-curable Stage IIIC cancer. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it had spread to lymph nodes and multiple organs, requiring radical surgery and extensive chemotherapy, according to the lawsuit. Although the patient is currently in remission, the lawsuit claimed that the delay in diagnosis dramatically decreased her expected survival rates.

The case was initially filed for the plaintiff alone, but a loss of consortium claim was later added for her partner. The couple is joined in a civil union; attorneys for the couple said that benefits under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act will apply should the patient succumb to cancer.

Johnson & Johnson Must Pay Over $10 Million in Birth Injury Case

The parents of a boy who suffered birth injuries after being exposed to anti-seizure medication have been awarded more than $10 million by a Philadelphia jury, which decided against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

The five-year-old boy suffered from cleft lip and other birth injuries after being exposed to Topamax while his mother was pregnant.

The verdict came just weeks after another multi-million dollar verdict against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, also regarding birth injuries suffered after exposure to Topamax.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said that the verdicts confirmed that Janssen knew of the risks of birth injuries when Topamax was taken by pregnant mothers, but failed to warn physicians of the danger and continued to market the drug.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys also said that the large verdicts were appropriate, as the children’s birth injuries will necessitate numerous surgeries and will have long-lasting effects on their health.

A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson said the company was disappointed in the verdict and planned to appeal. The drug maker said that the evidence indicated that the mother and her doctor were aware of the side effects of the drug. Johnson & Johnson also said that the jury failed to consider critical factors, including other potential causes of the birth injuries.

Pfizer Not Liable for Birth Injuries Caused by Generic Zoloft, Judge Rules

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, cannot be held liable for birth injuries allegedly caused by a generic version of the drug, a New York state judge ruled. New York County Supreme Court Judge Carol E. Huff issued the ruling, saying that a company does not have a duty regarding products and labels over which it has no control, even if they are based on the company’s own products.

The initial complaint was filed by a woman who claimed that her daughter was born with severe heart defects after she was prescribed sertraline, a generic version of Zoloft. The drug is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, prescribed as a treatment for depression.

The case against Pfizer was based on the fact that federal law requires generic drugs to carry the same warning label as the medication on which they are based. The lawsuit alleged that Pfizer issued an inadequate warning label on the original Zoloft, resulting in an inadequate warning label on the generic equivalent.

Judge Huff said that New York courts have not addressed the issue of whether drug makers have a responsibility to ensure adequate labeling on generic versions of their products. She said that Pfizer had no role in providing the plaintiff with sertraline. The judge said that the sertraline was supplied by a third party, and that another third party, the federal government, created the labeling requirement.

New Guidelines Say Doctors Should Report Colleagues’ Medical Mistakes

New guidelines have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine encouraging doctors to talk to colleagues directly when they observe an error in medical treatment. The Journal also set a standard for when and how to disclose such mistakes to patients.

It is estimated that medical errors kill 440,000 people each year in U.S. hospitals, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Mistakes like misdiagnosis and errors in medication are everyday occurrences.

Addressing the problem has been difficult, in part because of a health care culture in which doctors do not admit their mistakes — sometimes because they fear it will be used against them in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Additionally, doctors often fail to report or correct their colleagues’ mistakes. The lack of communication when something goes wrong is a major issue for patient safety.

The new guidelines acknowledge that patients have the right to a full account of any problems that occur during their treatment. Patients who are harmed by mistakes should be able to learn the facts about what happened without resistance from the hospital.

Hospitals that have implemented programs to help doctors report one another’s errors say that incidence reports have gone up. That is a positive, promising development, as medical errors are believed to be severely underreported. This shift may be part of a changing culture that recognizes the value of acknowledging mistakes. 27 states, including Illinois, now provide that doctors may apologize for errors without the fear that the apology will be used against them in medical malpractice lawsuits.

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The 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. Briskman Briskman & Greenberg also represents injured people throughout Wisconsin, including Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Madison.
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