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Woman Wins $1.36 Million from SSM Health Care in Malpractice Lawsuit

 

SSM Health Care must pay $1.36 million to a Jefferson couple as ordered by a jury due to a medical malpractice suit resulting from the loss of their 14 week-old fetus in 2012.

Details of the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

According to reports, the pregnant woman suffered from kidney stones and a urinary tract infection, which, due to negligence by SSM Health Care, ultimately led to the death of her fetus. Nine out of twelve juror reached this verdict after a five day trial.

The couple, Lindsay and Michael Sezter, have filed two lawsuits involving the death of their unborn baby. The couple sued SSM and the doctor who treated Lindsay, Dr. Joseph Herrmann. After reaching a confidential settlement with the doctor, the couple filed a lawsuit against only SSM.

SSM spokesman Brian Westrich said in a statement: “While our thoughts and prayers are with the family for their loss, we’re disappointed with the jury’s decision. As a result, we’re reviewing the decision with our counsel to determine options and will take additional steps as necessary.”

The lawsuit outlines the events which led to the Setzlers losing their unborn baby. In July 2012, Lindsay Setzler was experiencing pain in her right side and urinary tract infection, so she went to the SSM St. Clare Hospital-Fenton. Several kidney stones were revealed on an ultrasound. She also had a history of kidney stones. The doctor discharged Lindsay Setzler within 24 hours with a heart rate above 140 beats per minute, fever, nausea, and without prescribing antibiotics.

She awoke the next day with severe fever, and rapid heartbeat. She checked into the emergency room at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur where she was treated for sepsis resulting from the urinary tract infection. She spent seven days in intensive care, says one of Lindsay’s nurses, David Horan. Ultimately, the Setzler’s unborn baby did not survive.

According to SSM’s lawyers, the plaintiffs failed to show a link between the death of the Setzler’s fetus and actions taken by the hospital. In addition, SSM says that Dr. Herrmann was a private physician, not an SSM employee.

Lindsay Setzler had another child, and went on to become an obstetrics nurse in order to prevent future cases similar to her own.

What is a Breach of the Medical Standard of Care?

Although each of the four elements can be difficult to prove, proving that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care for the given procedure or treatment is perhaps the most contentious. Not only does the plaintiff’s legal team have to determine what exactly the standard of care is for the unique case but also show how the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard. Both of these tasks can be incredibly difficult and will require extensive testimony from one or more experts in the appropriate medical field.

It is possible that a doctor can adhere closely to the medical standard of care and still perform an error. If the given error is within the scope of the risks associated with the treatment or if the error did not causally contribute to the patient’s injury, the case for medical malpractice is weakened.

What are Common Types of Medical Malpractice?

When people think of medical malpractice, usually the first thing they envision is a form of error that occurred before, during, or after a medical procedure. However, there are several different situations that could lead to a valid medical malpractice claim:

  • Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • Prescription errors
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Injuries during childbirth (to the mother or child)
  • Surgical errors
  • Lack of informed consent

In each of these cases, the plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider failed to adhere to the standard of care that any other reasonably careful healthcare provider in the same position would have.

In cases of a lack of informed consent, a doctor may perform a procedure skillfully but a complication associated with the procedure occurs. If the doctor failed to warn the patient about the potential for this complication to arise, the doctor failed to meet the standards of care of that any reasonably prudent doctor in the same situation would. A patient with proper warning of the complication may have chosen to forego the procedure.

Have you been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Thomas J. Henry immediately. Dealing with a significant injury or a loss of a loved one after a medical procedure can be difficult and emotionally draining. Our attorneys have experience handling a variety of complex malpractice cases and can help you determine if you have a legitimate claim to make against a healthcare provider or facility. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.

Jury Awards HIV Patient $18.4 Million in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

On Monday, June 25, a federal jury in Boston awarded $18.4 million in damages to a man who alleged that two of his former physicians failed to test him for HIV despite risk factors that made him more vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Details of the Plaintiff’s Failed Diagnosis

According to the Boston Globe, Sean Stentiford, 48, was more susceptible to developing the virus that causes AIDS because he is gay and, earlier in his life, worked as a paramedic, a job that regularly exposed him to bodily fluids.

Even though he consented to an HIV test in 2007, his doctors never performed one. Three years later, another doctor performed the test which came back positive. His HIV eventually progressed to AIDS.

Stentiford said he had agreed to the testing because someone had told him that his symptoms were highly suggestive of HIV infection. However, a neurologist Stentiford visited disagreed and noted in Stentiford’s medical record that there was “no risk of HIV.”

It was not until about three years later, as his condition worsened, that Stentiford learned he was not tested for HIV in 2007, and that he did in fact have the virus. By that time, Stentiford was struggling with brain damage and cognitive impairment.

About the Jury’s Decision

After an eight-day trial in US District Court, the jury found that two doctors, internist Stephen E. Southard and neurologist Kinan K. Hreib, were negligent in caring for Stentiford and caused him injury. Additionally, jurors found that a third doctor, Daniel P. McQuillen, an infectious disease specialist, was also negligent but concluded his actions didn’t cause Stentiford harm.

During the medical malpractice trial, jurors were shown the consent form for HIV testing that Stentiford signed in May 2007. The form was signed in the presence of his sister as he underwent a battery of tests at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington as he was experiencing facial paralysis.

Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 be screened for HIV at least once, according to the agency’s website.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured due to a medical error, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our firm has a proven track record of winning large cases for severely injured clients for more than 25 years. Thomas J. Henry has the experienced medical malpractice lawyers and the legal and financial resources necessary to properly develop your case. Our dedication and determination is reflected in the record-breaking results we have helped our clients achieve.

Our firm has offices in Corpus ChristiSan Antonio, and Houston, serving clients across Texas and nationwide. Call us today for a free case review — attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends.

Jury Awards $18 Million to Savannah Woman in Medical Malpractice Case

A Savannah woman was awarded $18 million in medical malpractice damages after delayed medical care left her paralyzed.

About the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

According to the Savannah Morning News, 58-year-old Joan Simmons developed a serious nervous system infection while receiving treatment for an acute illness at the Candler Hospital emergency room in July 2014.

Upon being discharged from St. Joseph’s Hospital in September 2014, Simmons was diagnosed as paralyzed and remains without functional use of her legs. She is confined to a wheelchair.

In a lawsuit filed in Chatham County State Court, Simmons alleged that Southcoast Medical Group and the infectious disease physician employed by Southcoast, Dr. Sarah Barbour, were negligent in failing to timely diagnose and properly treat her spinal infection.

The jury ruled in Simmons’ favor, awarding the following damages:

  • $18 million proportioned between Southcoast Medical Group and Dr. Sarah Barbour and St. Joseph’s/Candler
  • $16.2 million against Southcoast and Barbour
  • $1.8 million against St. Joseph’s/Candler

How Common is Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when an individual suffers injury or death due to negligence or incompetence on the part of a medical professional. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, medical errors cause approximately 250,000 deaths each year in the United States — only heart disease and cancer claim more lives each year than medical errors. In addition, medical malpractice often leads to significant injuries which can leave survivors with life-altering disabilities and disfigurements.

Among the most common forms of malpractice observed in the medical community are:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis — When a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis, misses a diagnosis, or makes a delayed diagnosis, the recommended treatment may no longer be an effective option for the patient.
  • Childbirth injuries — Negligence from a physician or nurse can occur before, during, or after childbirth that causes injury to the infant or mother.
  • Medication errors — An incorrect dosage or method of administration are just two kinds of negligent medication mistakes that can cause serious harm.
  • Anesthesia errors — Errors by an anesthesiologist, such as failing to monitor vital signs or administering too much medication, oftentimes lead to fatal consequences.
  • Surgery errors — Negligence can occur before, during, or after surgery and leave patients with infections and other complications.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

At Thomas J. Henry, our team of experienced malpractice attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call and hear your malpractice claim. We have lawyers who have handled a multitude of medical, pharmaceutical, and legal malpractice lawsuits. What sets Thomas J. Henry apart is our history of achieving multi-million dollar verdicts for our injured clients and our proven track record of helping our clients receive the compensation they deserve.

Our firm has offices in Corpus ChristiSan AntonioAustin, and Houston, serving clients across Texas and nationwide. Let us help you with your medical malpractice, pharmacy malpractice, or legal malpractice claim. Contact us today for a free legal consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

 

Regulators Fault United Medical Center for Leaving Patient on Floor Before Death

The Department of Health has faulted United Medical Center’s nursing home for not promptly assessing a patient who was left on the ground after falling out of his bed and later died.

About the Nursing Home Fall and Death

According to the Washington Post, Warren Webb, 47, died of a heart attack at the United Medical Center’s facility in August. Prior to his death, Webb had called for help, fell out of his bed, and was left on the floor for an extended period of time.

Audio recording of the incident and interviews with three eyewitnesses revealed that Webb had cried out for help at least 25 times and was left on the floor for roughly 20 minutes. Once finally lifted back into bed, nurses were unable to find a pulse.

He was rushed to the hospital’s 7th floor for emergency attention, but was pronounced dead shortly after.

Regulators Determine Incident Report Made False Claims and Omitted Key Facts

An investigation revealed that the hospital’s initial claim that it had acted promptly to assess and assist the Webb was not accurate.

In a report completed by the facility, the facility claimed Webb was told to “wait for staff before attempting to get out of bed by himself.” An employee told investigators that account was false, as were other key details in the incident report.

Regulators also noted that the nursing home did not have an instrument prepared to measure patients’ blood sugar in the case of an emergency.

Webb’s death came at a critical moment for UMC, as the hospital was under scrutiny for dangerous medical errors that led regulators to shut down its obstetrics ward in early August.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured due to a medical error, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our firm has a proven track record of winning large cases for severely injured clients for more than 25 years. Thomas J. Henry has the experienced medical malpractice lawyers and the legal and financial resources necessary to properly develop your case. Our dedication and determination is reflected in the record-breaking results we have helped our clients achieve.

Our firm has offices in Corpus ChristiSan Antonio, Austin, and Houston, serving clients across Texas and nationwide. Call us today for a free case review — attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends.

Vet Sues VA After Scalpel Left in Body

An Army veteran is suing a Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Connecticut alleging a scalpel was left inside him after a surgery. The scalpel was discovered years later after the man suffered from long-term abdominal pain.

Details of the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

According to CBS News, Bridgeport resident Glenford Turner, 61, underwent surgery at the West Haven-based VA hospital in 2013. Roughly four years later, Turner returned to the VA complaining of dizziness and severe abdominal pain.

An x-ray revealed there was a scalpel inside his body. Turner had to undergo surgery in April 2017 to have the instrument removed.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court last week.

Medical Malpractice Rates in the United Sates

According to the BMJ, medical errors result in 251,454 deaths every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Even when not fatal, medical errors can result in a life-time of pain and disability.

It is important to note, not all medical errors will result in a medical malpractice claim. In fact, medical malpractice requires that plaintiffs prove:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed
  • The doctor was negligent in their diagnosis or treatment
  • The doctor’s negligence was the cause of the injury claimed
  • The injury claimed led to specific damages

Common forms of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Childbirth injuries
  • Medication errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Surgery errors

 

 

12-Year-Old Dies After Infection Misdiagnosed as Flu

Family members of a deceased 12-year-old girl say her death was the result of doctors misdiagnosing her with the flu when she was actually suffering from an infection.

About the Misdiagnosis and Resulting Death

According to WCVB, Alyssa Alcaraz, 12, died on December 17; it was not until after her death that her family learned what was actually causing her to be sick.

Alcaraz’s family says her illness was initially marked by her throwing up and displaying symptoms similar to food poisoning. However, during a trip to the doctor, Alcaraz was diagnosed with the flu and sent home.

After a few days of missing school, Alcaraz’s condition did not improve and she was admitted to urgent care where doctors noted low oxygen levels. She was then rushed to Kaweah Delta Medical Center.

Within hours of arriving, Alcaraz’s organs began to shut down and she was pronounced dead soon after. Her death certificate noted that she went into cardiac arrest and septic shock from a strep blood infection.

Medical Malpractice and Misdiagnosis Statistics

According to the BMJ, medical errors result in 251,454 deaths every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Even when not fatal, medical errors can result in a life-time of pain and disability.

It is important to note, not all medical errors will result in a medical malpractice claim. In fact, medical malpractice requires that plaintiffs prove:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed
  • The doctor was negligent in their diagnosis or treatment
  • The doctor’s negligence was the cause of the injury claimed
  • The injury claimed led to specific damages

Common forms of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Childbirth injuries
  • Medication errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Surgery errors

Study: Electronic Health Record Use Increasingly Cited as Contributing Factor in Medical Malpractice Claims

Patients in hospital bed with vital sign monitor in foreground.

According to The Doctors Company, 80 percent of physician office practices and 90 percent of hospitals currently use electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs were adopted by healthcare facilities to provide easier access, facilitate collaboration, and improve efficiency for healthcare providers. Unfortunately, despite the positive impact on patient safety and health care, the use of EHRs has also presented new kinds of errors that can cause dramatic negative consequences on patient health outcomes.

A study conducted by The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance provider, compared closed medical malpractice claims that the company received between 2007 and 2014 and between 2014 and 2016. The company found that the number of medical malpractice claims in which electronic health records were a contributing factor have continued to increase over the past decade.

EHR-related claims involved both system factors and human error factors.

System factors include:

  • EHR system design
  • Lack of access due to the system being offline or dysfunctional
  • Data not shared amongst relevant parties or departments
  • Insufficient area for documentation
  • Lack of system alerts and alarms
  • Lack of system security

Human error factors include:

  • Inconsistency between hard copy records and electronic records
  • Copy-and-paste and auto-populating fields
  • Data entry errors
  • Insufficient training on EHR use
  • Bypassing or ignoring alerts and alarms

Key Findings from the Electronic Health Record Study

Between 2007 and 2010, the company stated that there were only two claims involving electronic health records as a contributing factor. The recent study revealed that there were 66 cases between 2014 and 2016.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • Between 2014 and 2016, 50 percent of EHR-related claims were due to system design errors and 58 percent were due to user errors. Some claims involved multiple factors, both system and user-related.
  • Most EHR-related claims events occur in hospital clinics and doctor’s offices.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, there was an increase of EHR-related claim events occurring in patient rooms.
  • The most common allegation in malpractice claims related to the use of EHR were diagnosis-related. The second most common allegation involved medication-related allegations, including improper medication management, wrong dosage, or wrong medication.
  • EHR-related claim events occurred most often in the obstetrics and gynecology specialty.

In the medical malpractice claims that The Doctors Company handled, typically EHR was cited as a contributing factor and not the primary cause. The company also noted that a study has not been conducted on written health record-related medical malpractice claims that they have seen, stating that the risk posed by this form of documentation “may well be higher” than that of electronic records.

Sources of EHR-related Problems

The authors of the study believe that many problems pertaining to the use of electronic health records could have been avoided in the first place. For one, the authors believe that the government could have done a better job in developing standards for EHR use and requirements to ensure usability and safety before ushering in widespread adoption in 2009. According to the study, healthcare workers played a small role in helping develop the EHR, and their concerns have not been properly addressed. Future optimizations of EHR technology, including workflow improvements, standardization of protocols, and use of artificial intelligence, could take years to implement.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered an injury or illness due to the negligent actions of a healthcare provider, call Thomas J. Henry. Our medical malpractice attorneys are experienced in handling many types of complex malpractice cases. Healthcare professionals have a duty to look after your health and well-being and adhere to the standards of their profession. Contact our attorneys for a free legal consultation — we are available 24/7, nights and weekends.

How do I Know if I have a Medical Malpractice Case?

Several surgeons operating on a patient in the operating room.

Following a medical procedure or treatment, patients usually expect their ailment, illness, or injury to improve or resolve. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In some cases, a person is left worse off than before. How can you tell if the ineffectiveness or negative outcomes of a treatment or surgery are due to medical malpractice?

If a procedure or treatment does not have the intended result, it does not necessarily mean medical malpractice occurred. Simply being unsatisfied with the outcome of a medical treatment does not mean the treating healthcare provider will be on the hook for medical malpractice.

Patients bringing forth a medical malpractice claim in the United States generally have to prove four elements:

  1. A legal duty on the part of the healthcare provider to provide treatment or care (a doctor-patient relationship);
  2. A breach of the legal duty by the healthcare provider to adhere to the standards of the profession (medical negligence);
  3. Causality between the alleged breach of duty and injury sustained by the patient; and
  4. Damages stemming from the injury sustained by the patient caused by the healthcare provider’s breach of duty.

Oftentimes, patients have pre-existing injuries or conditions that could contribute to the undesired result from the treatment. In medical malpractice cases, medical experts from a wide range of specialties will likely be called upon to testify on your behalf that the results of the treatment were in fact caused by the negligence of the healthcare provider and not a prior injury.

In general, most injury claims require the presence of damages, which may include physical pain, permanent disfigurement or disability, emotional or mental anguish, lost future earnings, or additional medical costs. In a medical malpractice case, these damages must be a result of the injuries sustained by the patient due to the healthcare provider’s negligence.

What is a Breach of the Medical Standard of Care?

Although each of the four elements can be difficult to prove, proving that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care for the given procedure or treatment is perhaps the most contentious. Not only does the plaintiff’s legal team have to determine what exactly the standard of care is for the unique case but also show how the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard. Both of these tasks can be incredibly difficult and will require extensive testimony from one or more experts in the appropriate medical field.

It is possible that a doctor can adhere closely to the medical standard of care and still perform an error. If the given error is within the scope of the risks associated with the treatment or if the error did not causally contribute to the patient’s injury, the case for medical malpractice is weakened.

What are Common Types of Medical Malpractice?

When people think of medical malpractice, usually the first thing they envision is a form of error that occurred before, during, or after a medical procedure. However, there are several different situations that could lead to a valid medical malpractice claim:

  • Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • Prescription errors
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Injuries during childbirth (to the mother or child)
  • Surgical errors
  • Lack of informed consent

In each of these cases, the plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider failed to adhere to the standard of care that any other reasonably careful healthcare provider in the same position would have.

In cases of a lack of informed consent, a doctor may perform a procedure skillfully but a complication associated with the procedure occurs. If the doctor failed to warn the patient about the potential for this complication to arise, the doctor failed to meet the standards of care of that any reasonably prudent doctor in the same situation would. A patient with proper warning of the complication may have chosen to forego the procedure.

Have you been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Thomas J. Henry immediately. Dealing with a significant injury or a loss of a loved one after a medical procedure can be difficult and emotionally draining. Our attorneys have experience handling a variety of complex malpractice cases and can help you determine if you have a legitimate claim to make against a healthcare provider or facility. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.

Hospital Cited as a Cause of Boy’s Death While Using a Heating Blanket 

A young boy died while he was in the hospital after being left under a heating blanket for a long period of time, causing his body temperature to soar to a deadly level.

Details on the Heating Blanket Death

The 6-year-old boy died at Penn State Hershey Medical Center after he was left under a heating blanket without having his temperature checked for 10 hours.

It was reported that the child had arrived at the hospital with a below normal temperature, so he was then given the heating blanket. The hospital records show that he didn’t have his temperature checked over the course of 10 hours. The hospital also said that the boy had “ongoing, complex and life-limiting health issues.”

Once he finally had his temperature checked, it had risen to 107 degrees Fahrenheit and his blood pressure dropped, so he was taken to the ICU where he later died.

While the protocol for officially reporting deaths is to notify the health department within 24 hours, the hospital waited 77 days to do so.

Because of this incident, the hospital has launched its own investigation for find out more information on what led to the boy’s death.

More Than 250,000 Die from Medical Errors Every Year

Research suggest that at least 250,000 people died due to preventable errors in hospitals in 2013  – far exceeding the number of deaths attributed to strokes and Alzheimer’s combined.  According to Discovery News, this new study supports a previous analysis which estimated that 250,000 to 440,000 preventable medical error deaths occur each year, making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Currently, the United States uses a system for collecting national health statistics which is recommended by the World Health Organization; however, this system does not keep track of medical errors. This means there is no way of knowing the exact number of deaths caused by botched surgeries, faulty prescriptions, or simple computer glitches.

Additionally, researchers reported that the death toll from medical errors would have been even higher had they chosen to include nursing homes and out-patient care in their analysis. The study’s authors hope their work will help shine light on what they claim is one of the most underreported endemics in global health.

Texas Dentist Facing Charges After 4-Year-Old Suffers Brain Damage

A Texas dentist was indicted Monday for a 2016 incident which left a 4-year-old girl with permanent brain damage.

Dentist Accused of Overdosing Child and Waiting to Notify Emergency Responders

According to FOX News, Dr. Bethanial Jefferson is accused of intentionally and knowing by omission causing serious bodily harm to a child by failing to seek and provide adequate medical attention.

Courissa Clark says she brought her daughter, Nevaeh Hill, to Jefferson’s office in Houston to have a tooth pulled. Upon receiving anesthesia, Nevaeh suffered a seizure and severe brain damage. Navaeh is now confined to a wheel chair and will be brain damaged for the rest of her life.

Court documents say that Jefferson administered too many sedatives in combination with other drugs, causing Nevaeh to fall into respiratory distress. The distress reduced oxygen levels to her brain, resulting in brain damage.

After the incident, Jefferson allegedly placed Nevaeh in a recovery room where she remained for several hours without adequate medical care before Jefferson finally contacted 911.

Dentist Facing Criminal and Civil Litigation

Jefferson has since been suspended from practice by the Texas Board of Dental Examiners, and Clark has filed a civil case against Jefferson on behalf of her daughter.

On Tuesday, a judge issued a warrant for Jefferson’s arrest. Jefferson turned herself in to Montgomery County Jail but has been released on $50,000 bond.

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