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Chicago medical negligence lawyersBeing honest, transparent, and accountable for a medical mistake might be the ethical approach - in fact, this behavior is encouraged by the Code of Medical Ethics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unfortunately, not all physicians follow this ethical guideline. Even more concerning the data from a recent study, which revealed that more doctors are willing to cover up a mistake. Why is this becoming a trend, and what does it mean for some of the most vulnerable members of society? The following explains further, and provides some important information for victims of medical error.

Nearly One-Fourth of Doctors Willing to Cover Up a Mistake

More than 7,500 doctors from over 25 specialties were asked one simple question: is it ever okay to cover up a medical mistake. The majority of doctors said no (78 percent), which is a good thing, but seven percent said they would most definitely cover up an error. Another 14 percent said “it depends.” Their stance was often based on the level of harm that the patient had or could experience. This was across all specialties, which includes doctors who treat some of society’s most vulnerable members.

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Chicago medical malpractice lawyersIn a perfect world, patients would be guaranteed high quality medical care. They would not have to worry about receiving the wrong medication or being subjected to the wrong treatment. Conditions would be diagnosed as early as humanly possible, and it would be the correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, we do not live in this perfect world. Medical mistakes happen, and the very care that is supposed to heal a patient ends up killing them instead. Cancer and heart disease are missed, causing unnecessary death.

Thankfully, there are things that patients can do to protect themselves. They can be informed and aware of the problems that exist in healthcare industry. They can do research their doctors and care providers to ensure they are being treated by someone who is competent. They can empower themselves and actively participate in the care they receive. The following information can help you do just that.

Understand Your Risk

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Chicago medical malpractice lawyersDoctors may be mere humans, just like the rest of us but, by default, they are held to a higher standard. We expect them to be rational, honest, and moral human beings. This is not irrational or asking too much. We are entrusting them with our lives, our secrets, the parts of us that are vulnerable. Yet there are far too many who are not worthy of that trust. Worse yet, you – their patient – may never know, and that could put you at risk for a medical injury.

Fit to Practice?

Nearly a decade ago, a Missouri doctor was investigated for healthcare fraud. Found guilty and convicted of a felony, he allegedly charged Medicare insurance for one drug but then injected cheaper, still experimental drugs into the eyes of his patients. Sometimes, he reportedly split the single-dose vials between to separate patients and then billed each one for a full dose. In total, this happened at least 284 times, which amounted to about $600,000 in excess charges to the government.

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Chicago medical malpractice lawyersWhen it comes to strokes, research indicates that the outcome of a patient can improve by as much as 80 percent if they are given prompt and early treatment. Unfortunately, for anywhere between 15,000 and 165,000 Americans per year, such treatment is not received because they are misdiagnosed - often with a condition that is benign in nature. Women, minorities, and younger patients may be at an especially high risk for this potentially deadly medical mistake.

Risk of Misdiagnosis Higher for Certain Stroke Sufferers

Conducted by Johns Hopkins University, one study found that emergency room doctors are as much as 30 percent more likely to overlook the symptoms of a stroke in women and minorities. That risk jumps even higher for patients under the age of 45 who, though less likely to suffer from stroke, are far from immune (about 34 percent of strokes occur in those under age 65).

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Illinois medical malpractice attorneysMost studies on medical malpractice have been conducted on the treatment received at hospitals, but Americans are most often treated by their primary care doctors. How does the care that they receive here measure up? According to one study, not so great. In fact, as many as 16 percent of all malpractice claims in 2013 were made against general practitioners. The following information highlights what every American should know about their risk of a medical error with their PCP.

Missed Diagnoses and Your PCP

In an analysis of 34 different studies on medical malpractice claims, researchers at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School and Trinity College Dublin found that missed diagnoses of a serious (and often fatal) condition accounted for 26 to 63 percent of all malpractice claims against primary care providers. Heart attack, meningitis, and cancer were the most commonly missed conditions, but researchers also found cases in which primary care providers has missed fractures, ectopic pregnancies, and appendicitis in their patients. The most common consequence of diagnostic error was patient death (between 15 percent and 48 percent of all claims).

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Chicago medical malpractice lawyersMedical malpractice – medical treatment that is substandard to the point of causing harm, death, or injury to a patient – is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. What really constitutes malpractice, though, and do you tell if you have a case? While it is best to discuss your situation with an experienced legal professional, the following information may help you in determining whether or not you have a medical negligence case.

What Constitutes Medical Negligence?

Not every harm or injury sustained while receiving medical treatment can be classified as medical negligence. Hospitals, physicians, and nurses are only considered liable when their actions (or inaction) have caused injury or harm. In other words, the provider needs to have deviated from the standard practice of care (the quality of treatment that a competent doctor would have provided in a similar situation), and it needs to have caused an injury or harm to their patient. For example, if a doctor prescribes the wrong medication to a patient and it results in a severe allergic reaction, the doctor may be considered liable.

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Chicago Illinois medical malpractice lawyersEarlier this year, the BMJ published a frightening and ground-breaking report – medical error, or medical mistakes made during the course of treatment, cause more deaths than traffic accidents, construction accidents, diabetes, and even obesity. In fact, the only cancer and heart disease kill more people each year. Of course, we knew that death caused by medical error was an issue; back in 1998, the Institute of Medicine revealed that as many as 98,000 people died from medical mistakes.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the first report did little to remedy the problem. Now found to be responsible for as many as 251,000 deaths per year – about 700 deaths per day, and around 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States – it would seem that the death toll has been steadily rising by about 15,000 extra deaths each and every year. That should be enough to scare anyone.

Hospitals Talk About Change

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Chicago medical malpractice attorneysSavvy patients might know they need to research their doctor’s history. They may even know where to look. But what they may not realize is that the information provided on bad doctoring practices and the disciplinary actions taken against poor-performing physicians can vary greatly from one state to the next. Consumer Reports and the Informed Patient Institute – both nonprofit organizations dedicated to safety and advocacy – recently examined each state’s medical board website to determine just how complete the information was on the doctors they oversee. Each site was also graded on its ease of use. The results might surprise you. 

Best and Worst State Medical Board Websites 

A good state medical board website will provide patients with clear information regarding whether or not a physician has a complaint pending against them. Other information – such as the nature of that complaint, information indicating a history of drug abuse, and action taken against the physician – should also be included. The site should also be easy to navigate, regardless of whether a patient is looking to file a complaint or simply searching for information about a physician’s disciplinary history. 

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Chicago medical malpractice attorneysThere is a growing problem inside of hospitals, one that most people do not know about and hospitals do not like talking about. It kills more individuals than car accidents, strokes, respiratory disease, diabetes, and suicide. In fact, the only two causes of deaths that trump this issue are cancer and heart disease. This killer is known as the preventable medical error.

Killer Doctors, Nurses, and Hospitals

Most people go to the hospital to get better, but each year, 251,000 U.S. citizens die at the hands of the doctors, nurses, and hospitals that are meant to heal them. It is not because their injuries are too severe to treat, or because they are simply too far gone. In fact, a large majority of these patients walk in with relatively minor problems, but because of substandard care, as many as 700 patients per day will never walk out again.  

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laproscopic surgery risk for women, FDA morcellator recallA hysterectomy ranks second behind a cesarean section ("C-section") as the most frequently performed medical procedure women undergo. In fact, the National Women’s Health Network lists statistics reporting an estimated 600,000 hysterectomies performed every year.  It is common for laparoscopic power morcellators to be used during this type of surgery as well as for myomectomies (removal of uterine fibroids). Unfortunately, nearly 1 in 350 women who undergo one of these two surgeries has unsuspected uterine cancerous tissue.

The use of laparoscopic power morcellators during either of these procedures puts women at risk of having previously undetected cancerous cells spread throughout the abdomen and pelvis. The FDA recently updated its safety alert regarding these medical devices and warns against their use during a hysterectomy or myomectomy in the majority of women. The administration emphasizes that laparoscopic power morcellators should not be used in women with suspected or known uterine cancer.

The FDA has also issued a guidance document with a manufacturer recommendation to update product labeling to include specific safety information through a boxed warning. The boxed warning advises that laparoscopic power morcellators should not be used:

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America medical errors, Chicago medical malpractice lawyerThe risk of medical errors is a concern for a majority of patients in the United States. According to a Wolters Kluwer Health survey conducted in 2012, 73 percent of patients expressed concern about potential medical errors. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed reported either they or a family member had been a victim of a medical mistake.

Common causes of negligent medical care include:

  • Miscommunication among hospital staff;
  • Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel being in a hurry;
  • Staff fatigue; and
  • Staffing shortages at hospital.

People seeking medical care should feel confidence in doctors and hospitals and their capabilities to provide care in the patient’s best interest. This occurrence of medical misconduct is not acceptable and it is causing Americans to delay necessary medical procedures.  The survey lists almost one in five people rescheduling a procedure to avoid the weekend or end of the week, so that the doctor may be better rested.

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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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