A new study has found that the number of payments for medical malpractice claims has dropped sharply since 2002.
The study also found that many doctors are seeing declining liability insurance costs and payment amounts. The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers analyzed data from Illinois, California, New York, Colorado and Tennessee for the period from 2002 to 2013. They found that the overall rate of paid malpractice claims per 1,000 physicians dropped from 18.6 to 9.9 during that time. The average annual decrease was estimated to be 6.3 percent for doctors of medicine (MDs) and 5.3 percent for doctors of osteopathic medicine (Dos).
Trends in liability premiums paid by doctors were mixed. In Illinois, premiums charged to internists and obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs) by the state’s largest issuer of medical malpractice insurance policies dropped by 36 percent from 2004 to 2013. The premiums paid by general surgeons decreased by 30 percent. California and Tennessee experienced similar declines. Colorado saw a drop in premiums for internists but a rise for OB/GYNs and general surgeons, while New York saw an increase in premiums charged by the state’s largest insurer for all three types of doctors.
A new study has analyzed anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims.
The study, published in the Journal of Healthcare Risk Management, analyzed 607 medical malpractice claims involving anesthesia that were reported to The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance company with reported assets of $4.3 billion and 75,000 members.
According to the study, damage to teeth was the most frequent anesthesia-related injury reported, accounting for 20.8 percent of the claims. According to the study, 18.3 percent of the claims involved the death of the patient, 13.5 percent involved nerve damage, 12.7 percent involved damage to organs, 10.9 percent of claims were over pain and 10.7 percent involved cardiopulmonary arrest. Obesity of the patient was the most frequent contributing factor leading to a claim.
Smaller hospitals had fewer claims, but greater rates of mortality and nerve damage, the study found. The lowest death-to-claim rate was found in ambulatory surgery centers. The average indemnity payment for anesthesia medical malpractice claims was $309,066, higher than the average of $291,000 for all physician specialties.
According to the study, in 80 percent of claims, the complication that led to the claim had been explained to patients before the procedure. However, researchers said that patients may not have had enough understanding to associate those risks with the injuries they suffered.
Proponents of limits on medical malpractice lawsuits have long argued that lawsuits drive up the cost of care, in part because doctors order expensive and unnecessary tests in order to protect themselves from legal liability. According to the theory, wasteful “defensive medicine” could be reduced if doctors were in less danger of being sued.
Now, a Rand Corporation study has examined the data and found that the theory is unsupported by the evidence. Placing limits on medical malpractice lawsuits does not reduce the volume or cost of emergency room care.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed data from emergency rooms in South Carolina, Georgia and Texas, three states that put strict limits on medical malpractice claims in the past decade.
All three states raised the bar for a medical malpractice claim for emergency care to “gross negligence,” meaning, basically, that doctors had to actually know that they were providing improper care, but provided it anyway. Researchers compared metrics on defensive medicine procedures and costs for Medicare claims in these states, compared to states that did not have higher bars for malpractice claims. Overall, the study found no reduction in the metrics studied. There was only a small reduction in one metric, charges per patient, in one state.
“Good Samaritan” laws exist in many states to ensure that people who volunteer to help in an emergency are not sued for damages if they negligently cause harm to another. Good Samaritan laws create an immunity where liability would otherwise exist, so that people are not discouraged from helping others out of a fear of being sued. In Illinois, the statute provides that licensed medical professionals who provide emergency care “without fee” are not liable for damages.
A recent Illinois Supreme Court case tested the meaning of the phrase “without fee.” In Home Star Bank and Financial Services v. Emergency Care and Health Organization, Ltd., the Court unanimously held that an emergency room doctor was not entitled to immunity under the Illinois Good Samaritan Act when he responded to a “Code Blue” emergency in a different part of the hospital.
The case involved a physician working in the emergency room who responded to a Code Blue emergency in the intensive care unit. The doctor attempted to intubate the patient, and the patient suffered severe brain injuries. Plaintiffs sued the doctor and his employer for medical malpractice, and the doctor moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was entitled to immunity under the Good Samaritan statute because the patient was not billed for the doctor’s services. Plaintiffs argued that the issue of billing was irrelevant and that the doctor was not volunteering, but doing his job.
The trial court granted summary judgment, but the Appellate Court reversed, and the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision.
A Milwaukee County jury awarded $25.3 million to a woman and her husband, finding that the loss of all four of her limbs was caused by medical malpractice.
In 2011, Ascaris Mayo had a Strep A infection, which causes strep throat. The infection went undetected, resulting in septic shock. Because of the damage caused, the woman’s limbs were amputated. Mayo is a 53-year-old mother of four.
Experts said that the case could lead to a challenge to Wisconsin’s cap on non-economic damages. The jury’s award included $1.5 million for the husband’s loss of companionship and $15 million for pain and suffering. However, Wisconsin law limits such damages to $750,000, and the defense attorneys are expected to ask the judge to lower the non-economic damages to that limit.
The jury found that the doctor and physician’s assistant failed to provide Mayo with alternative diagnoses that would have led her to pursue other treatment. In March 2011, Mayo spent nine hours in the hospital being treated for severe abdominal pain, fever and rapid heartbeat. She was discharged and instructed to contact her gynecologist the next day regarding fibroid issues. However, the next day, she collapsed at home. She was then treated for septic shock, but the vascular damage led to the amputation of all four limbs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.