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medical malpractice, Chicago Illinois personal injury attorneyAccording to recent statistics from Patient Safety America, as many as 440,000 people die from preventable medical mistakes each year. If Stanford University researchers are correct, those deaths were likely caused by just a very small fraction of doctors (about one percent). Even more concerning is that many of those doctors – doctors who have removed wrong body parts, worked while intoxicated, overprescribed medication, and so much more – are allowed to continue practicing medicine, despite their negligent or even willful and wanton actions.

The Hidden Truth

Each state has its own respective licensing board. Comprised mostly of other doctors, these self-governed boards are responsible for the licensing and reprimand of physicians who have made grave mistakes or acted negligently. The problem is that, instead of protecting patients, they seem to protect their own. In fact, only a small percentage of complaints ever lead to a sanction for offending doctors; even if it does, the information does not become a part of public record. And, because many are allowed to continue practicing during that time and have no obligation to tell their patients about any investigations or disciplinary actions against them, the public continues to be placed at risk.

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medical mistakes, doctor malpractice, Chicago personal injury lawyerWhen, in any given city, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of doctors to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which one to trust. Most people turn to family or friends for help. Others peruse online reviews and forums. Unfortunately, both methods can put unsuspecting people at risk for serious illness and medical malpractice injury. A recent study provides valuable information how to choose the right doctor and why it matters so much.

Dangerous Doctors and the Damage They Do

Unbeknownst to the general public, there are doctors who are allowed to continue practicing, despite major and sometimes deadly mistakes. Intoxication on the job, removing the wrong body parts during surgery, and physical or sexual abuse are just some of their infractions. Some may be reprimanded through probation or a temporary suspension of their medical license, but after their disciplinary period, many are permitted to return to regular practice. Their patients – who are unable to look up this information because of “privacy rights” – are none the wiser.

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doctor medical malpractice, Chicago personal injury lawyerWhen people read the stories about medical mistakes and the resulting malpractice claims, they often begin to wonder if their own physician might be capable or responsible enough to care for them in a life or death situation. Many also begin to fear the idea of going to an unknown doctor. However, studies suggest that, while the vetting of a physician is certainly warranted and necessary, most patients are probably relatively safe; it is just a small portion of physicians that patients should be wary of.

One Percent of Doctors Linked to One-Third of All Malpractice Claims

Although they may not provide a complete and definitive guideline on just how many (or which) doctors are making the most mistakes, malpractice cases do give quite a bit of insight. As such, researchers at Stanford examined the information on more than 66,000 paid malpractice claims paid against 54,000 physicians nationwide between 2005 and 2014. Nearly one-third of those claims could be linked to just one percent of all doctors.

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avoidable medical errors, Chicago medical malpractice lawyersWhen people get sick, they visit their doctor to get better. When they are critically ill, they go to a hospital for treatment. But are doctors actually doing more harm than good? Evidence from the prestigious Journal of Patient Safety would certainly suggest as much. Published nearly two decades after the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) concerning report, To Err is Human, this new study indicates that people are not just dying by the very hands that are supposed to heal them; they are dying in significantly higher numbers than previously thought.

Preventable Deaths Now Third Leading Cause of Death

Using medical studies that were published between 2008 and 2011, researchers with Patient Safety America examined the occurrence of five commonly made medical mistakes: diagnostic errors, errors of commission, errors of context, errors of omission, and errors of communication. Overall, these mistakes caused as many as 440,000 deaths each and every year. That makes it the third leading cause of death in America, placing it beneath only heart disease and cancer.

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Compartment Syndrome, Chicago medical malpractice lawyersCompartment syndrome, a serious condition that causes increased pressure in the body’s muscle compartments, can be caused by even minor trauma to any part of the body. Its consequences, which can take hold quickly, can be devastating if not properly addressed by medical professionals. Indeed, in many cases, it is only their suspicion of the condition and prompt treatment that have the ability to save a patient from permanent and potentially fatal side effects.

Understanding Compartment Syndrome

Within any given muscle group, one will find thick layers of tissue, called fascia, separating it from the other muscle groups. Inside of each layer of fascia, there is a confined space, called a “compartment,” and within each one of those, there are blood vessels, nerves, and tissue. Swelling within the compartment, usually caused by injury, will place pressure on the internal parts and, if allowed to build up enough, blood flow to the compartment will become blocked.

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physician error, Illinois medical malpractice lawyerIt is true: Physicians are only human, but they also have the unique responsibility of protecting and saving lives. They went through years of intensive schooling, were required to show they were proficient in both knowledge and skills, and they vowed to uphold a specific set of standards. Unfortunately, there are physicians who, for whatever reason, commit medical malpractice by failing to fulfill their responsibility. Sadly, it is always patients who pay the price.

Physician Faces Lawsuits from Nearly 300 Patients

After 30 years of practicing medicine, a cardiologist in the Midwest is facing nearly 300 lawsuits from former patients. They all claim that to be victims of unnecessary procedures, all of which were performed by the physician or his colleagues. Though still in the early phases of litigation, the buzz surrounding the case has left many feeling wary of medical professionals, and angry that their health had been taken so lightly by someone who had vowed to protect it.

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recorded surgeries, Chicago medical malpractice lawyerMedical errors can have catastrophic, and sometimes deadly consequences. For those affected by such errors, the medical malpractice lawsuits that often follow can be complex, stressful, and lengthy. During that time, the injured or the family of the deceased must bear the weight of financial burdens caused by the death or injury. But what if it were possible to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, if a death or injury had been the result of an unpreventable complication, or if it had been caused by negligence?

The University of Toronto has already created a device that could do all of this, and more.

University of Toronto Device Spurs Bills in Wisconsin and New York

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no free passes initiative patient safetyHurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. managing partner, Attorney Chris Hurley, founded the No Free Passes Initiative after representing a family who lost the mother. He realized she could have been saved if the emergency room staff had more training on intubating patients. Multiple attempts at intubation is not acceptable. The more times a doctor and their team need to attempt an intubation, the more likely the patient is to have complications.

Attorney Chris Hurley has been a trial lawyer for over 30 years and has seen many clients or their family members live with life altering complications or death. After seeing many cases over the years that could have been prevented, Attorney Hurley came up with the idea for the No Free Passes Initiative to educate and train doctors and staff in the hospitals.

Those involved in the 12-month initiative program will go through the program through in-person meetings, webinars, advisory groups, and go through advanced skill training. They will talk with advisors throughout the program and receive coaching. These steps and programs are designed to ensure the teams involved will learn how to improve patient safety when attempting airway maintenance. With over 25,000 daily occurrences of life-threatening errors occurring daily in emergency rooms or intensive care units across the United States daily, improving patient safety is crucial.

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no free passes initiativeNo one wants to lose a loved one, but to lose them because of a preventable error is unacceptable. Thousands of people are treated in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and Emergency Rooms (ER) every day across the United States. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who have gone through years of education to provide help and assistance to those who need it are the ones who can prevent these errors. Intubation errors are preventable with more training and education on how to successfully intubate a patient on the first pass.

After representing a family whose young mother had lost her life after an asthma attack and went without oxygen while in the ER, Attorney Chris Hurley, managing partner of Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., thought the exact same thing. Hurley partnered with Airway Management Education Center (AMEC) and Cynosure Health to start the No Free Passes Initiative and improve patient airway safety.

Attorney Chris Hurley has put together a presentation with other presenters to explain how the No Free Passes Initiative was started, the program vision and opportunities for support.

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tort reform, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyTort reform laws put limits on the amount of compensation a victim of medical malpractice can receive. Tort reform does not favor victims; rather it favors negligent hospitals, doctors, and companies. The victims of medical malpractice should be able to get fair compensation as determined by a jury of peers, not what lawmakers, insurers and companies believe victims should receive.

Recently medical malpractice victims’ family members testified before Illinois lawmakers about how their lives had changed because of mistakes made by doctors and other medical professionals. The family members talked about how an arbitrary cap on awards for victims and their families limit and impact their lives.

Those who testified before Illinois legislators ranged from widows of Illinois State Troopers to mothers speaking for their children to the victims of medical malpractice who relived their tragedy. Those who spoke before the lawmakers took a stand because they have fought for themselves or someone they cared about for the justice they deserve. The compensation some received from their medical malpractice suits will take care of their injured family members’ medical and living expenses.

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medical error rate, malpractice attorney in ChicagoMedical malpractice affects thousands of Americans every year due to hospital negligence or patients suffering from some type of preventable harm due to medical error. NPR referenced a Journal of Patient Safety study that concluded between 210,000 and 440,000 patient deaths occurred as a result of  preventable harm in hospitals, making it the third leading cause of death in America.

This number is more than double the 98,000 patients previously reported by the Institute of Medicine. When it comes to hospital safety, patients may be in harm’s way more often than they realize. The American Association for Justice points out more startling statistics that further emphasize a problem the nation continues to face. Its report concludes:

  • An estimated 40 wrong-site surgeries occur on a weekly basis;
  • Up to 1,500 medical sponges or surgical instruments are left inside patients every year; and
  • The same five percent of doctors are responsible for over half of all medical negligence cases.

These statistics prove that the problem is not being properly addressed. The consistent rate of medical error is cause for concern. Patients victim to medical negligence compromise not only their immediate health, but their future quality of life and financial stability. When patients must have corrective procedures or surgeries as a result of medical error, these costs cause undue hardship and health care providers need to be held accountable.

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colonoscopy screenings, illinois medical malpractice lawyerAccording to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer ranks third as the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. A colonoscopy allows a doctor to examine the inside of the colon to detect polyps, diseases, or other abnormal results. The recommended time interval between procedures is 10 years beginning at the age of 50.

It is the responsibility of medical providers to ensure their patients are informed of the need for these types of health screenings in order to adhere to the standard of care. A recent report published by The Boston Globe refers to an Illinois gastroenterologist on the board of the American Gastroenterological Association who says there are substantiated reasons for people to have their screenings performed earlier than the recommended timeline, such as:

  • Patients may be under the guidance of their primary doctor who has recommended an earlier follow-up;
  • Patients may not have properly prepared for the screening the first time, which means a possibly skewed view of the entire colon;  and
  • Patients may fear history of colon cancer in their family.

The director of endoscopy from Boston Medical Center supports this by saying that the bigger issue is people are not undergoing these important health screenings. An estimated 40 percent of Americans over the age of 50 have not been screened for colon cancer in any way.

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missed diagnoses in Chicago, Illinois medical malpractice attorneyThere have been several studies published in recent years that shine light on aspects of health care that are considered increasingly unsafe. In particular, there is concern about the level of care performed by medical providers on the weekend compared to on a weekday.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery concluded that pediatric surgical patients who underwent common urgent operations during the weekend faced a higher risk of mortality, blood transfusion, and surgical complications.  Another Johns Hopkins Medicine study revealed the same type of “weekend effect” for head trauma victims. Its review of more than 38,000 patient records reflected a higher mortality rate in older adult patients who sustain head trauma injuries over a weekend than those hospitalized on a weekday.

These findings have been previously documented in cases of heart attack and stroke, but now have been linked to head trauma care as well. Researchers surmise that there is not a medical explanation for these statistics, but rather a hospital operational insufficiency due to reduced staffing and lack of accessibility to specialists during the weekend.

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medical malpractice lawsuits, Chicago medical negligence lawyerWhen the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ranked the consequences of medical malpractice, the DOJ listed death as the most common injury in medical malpractice cases, followed by injuries such as:
  • Organ damage/infection;
  • Brain or head injury;
  • Chronic pain; and
  • Back/neck injury.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that recorded deaths due to preventable medical errors every year exceeds the number of deaths linked to breast cancer, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents. However, the amount of filed medical malpractice cases are significantly less.

A law review article published by the Northern Illinois University College of Law explores and debunks four myths regarding medical malpractice lawsuits:

  • Plaintiffs file frivolous medical negligence lawsuits;
  • Premiums are on the rise due to skyrocketing jury awards;
  • Access to healthcare is restricted; and
  • Doctors fear negligence liability.

Medical errors occur at a rate that is not matched by statistics of court-filed claims. The first of the listed myths is debunked by research that states that the majority of medical errors do not result in a lawsuit. The second myth is contradicted by research which shows that most victims of medical malpractice are never compensated for their injuries.

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Chicago medical malpractice accountability, Illinois injury lawyerAs of 2011, Illinois ranked in the top 20 of medical state licensing boards’ serious doctor disciplinary action rates. The state reported 143 cases, resulting in an average of 3.45 serious actions per every 1,000 physicians from 2009 to 2011.

Doctors called into question for medical malpractice face the possibility of having their license suspended or revoked. However, this only limits medical practice in the state they are currently licensed and a doctor under investigation can still obtain licensure in other states.

According to a Bloomberg report, a general practitioner surrendered his license in Missouri “in lieu of discipline” for violation of several drug laws as part of a settlement agreement in 2009, but secured a license to practice in Illinois as he was being investigated.

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medical malpractice cases rise, Chicago malpractice attorneyThe Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) study “To Err is Human” was published over a decade ago with medical malpractice statistics showing that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients are killed in hospitals every year as a result of medical errors, leading up to $29 billion in costs every year.

The study reported errors at different points of care, including the following examples:

  • Error or delay in diagnosis;
  • Error to act on results of testing or monitoring;
  • Error in administering treatment; and
  • Error during operation or procedure.

Fast forward 15 years and patient safety issues are still a rising concern in hospitals across the country. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article summarizing that, “on any given day, approximately one in 25 U.S. patients has at least one infection contracted during the course of their hospital care.”

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