Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Many comedy skits have focused on the relationship between senior citizens and their medications. Over the past few decades there has been an explosion of medications available help patients deal with a wide range of medical health issues. Because the body is prone to more ailments as one ages, it is not uncommon for seniors to have various issues at the same time, requiring use of many different medications at once.

While these drugs are critical in minimizing symptoms, prolonging life, and otherwise making life easier to live, they are not without their risks. For one thing, because seniors so often are on different medications at once, it is incumbent upon caregivers to understand whether any combinations pose too high risks. Also, it is essentially that individual drugs be properly vetted to ensure their side-effects and potential serious harms are mitigated. Sadly, we still have a long way to go before all preventable medication errors are actually avoided, and many dangerous drugs continue to be produced and provided to unsuspecting patients.

Dangerous Drug Liability

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Besides facing basic day-to-day life challenges as a result of various age-related medical conditions, senior residents face increased long-term consequences from medical issues that affect people of all ages. There is a reason that seniors are the first ones urged to get flu shots then they become available–because contracting the flu can have more serious long-term consequences on seniors than other community members. Their bodies are often less able to fight back against the condition.

It is for that reason that local seniors and their family members should take notice of a new national health crisis that is making news across the country this week–a meningitis outbreak. According to a story on the issue from Reuters today, health officials are scrambling to get a handle of the situation which ultimately may affect thousands of people across the country.

Thus far, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that at least 105 cases have been identified in the last few days–every day seems to bring a few more cases. Sadly, at least eight people have died already as a result of the situation.

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The pain injections associated with the fungal meningitis outbreak have only been recalled for a little more than a month. However, hundreds have already been infected as a result and two dozen have died–including many seniors. All other products made around the same time by the involved company–the New England Compounding Center–have also been recalled. The facility itself has been completely shut down.

Also, the first lawsuit connected to the matter will likely be filed soon. That does not mean that all cases will proceed shortly afterward, and it does not even mean that all those affected by the incident have already sought out legal counsel. Because of the long incubation period for this rare type of meningitis, it may be awhile before some of those harmed know the full extent of their injuries. More information will undoubtedly also come to light in upcoming months that shed details on exactly what happened and what should have been done to prevent the harm.

However, considering the first legal actions will likely hit the court soon, some are already asking questions about some of the legal details of the cases and how the general framework might play out. At a basic level, questions are being asked about whether the medical caregivers who administered the drug (or the clinic where they worked) will face any liability for the harm caused by the contaminated products.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may increase the number of events they refuse to reimburse nursing homes and negligent hospitals for carrying out. Currently nursing home residents who develop pressure ulcers and urinary tract infections are not able to have Medicare and Medicaid cover their treatment costs. This is an effort to require adequate nursing home care and to prevent nursing home abuse on elder patients. Currently, CMS is discussing the addition of hospital errors and surgical errors to the list of events that are not redeemable via insurance. If this passes nursing home residents may be impacted since many undergo pressure sore debridement in hospitals relating to the poor elder care they receive in nursing homes. To read more about the possible changes to be implemented by CMS, click here.

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Medicare has put 10 “reasonably preventable” conditions on its initial list of reasons why it will stop paying hospitals for the added cost of treating patients who are injured in their care. Medicare has stated it will not pay when patients receive incompatible blood transfusions, develop infections after certain surgeries or undergo a second operation to retrieve a sponge left behind from the first. Serious bed sores, injuries from falls and urinary tract infections caused by catheters are also on the list. The policy will prevent hospitals from billing patients directly for costs generated by medical errors. Other insurance agencies, both private and public are set to adopt similar criteria. The plan will now grant bonuses to doctors and hospitals that report quality measures. This plan will have a drastic effect on the elderly who rely on Medicare for their sole insurance and any problems that they may incur at the hands of nursing home negligence. To read the full story, click here.

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Eli Lilly & Co reportedly trained sales people to downplay the risks associated with the drug Zyprexa and to promote its use beyond the approved treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The drug, which is linked to weight gain and diabetes, was pushed to primary-care and nursing home doctors with no regard to the risks. Read more here.

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As a result of the notoriously substandard care provided by nursing homes throughout the country, elderly individuals in need of assistance are turning to home-care providers to the extent that the home-care industry constitutes two of the top three fastest growing occupations in the U.S. However, partly because of this staggering growth, regulation of home-care workers has been inadequate. Recently, home-care workers were convicted of theft, abuse, and even manslaughter.

One of the principal reasons for this trend is the lack of regulation of the home-healthcare industry. A majority of states do not require criminal background checks for wannabe providers leading to situations where felons convicted of burglary are able to easily access elderly patients’ homes. Illinois is among the few states that requires home-care providers be licensed and screen their employees. However, until other states follow the trend, elder abuse will continue to move from nursing homes into our own homes.

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A new survey has revealed that nurses working at nursing homes feel that there are fewer staff members than needed. Nearly three-quarters of nurses surveyed declared that at the nursing homes and hospitals they worked for, the staff numbers were inadequate. A lack of staff members can lead to neglect, and even abuse, as recognized by those surveyed, half of whom reported feeling that quality of care is on the decline. The problem of inadequate numbers compounds itself as more nurses leave their positions because of concerns about sub-par care resulting from the low numbers of staff. Most shockingly, little more than half of the nurses felt comfortable about the idea of one of their loved ones being treated at their respective facilities. This announcement by nurses shows that there is a rising danger of hospital injuries and nursing home injuries, especially medication errors, wrongful death, and other nursing errors as existing staff members are unable to keep up with high demands which can lead to medical mistakes.

Read more here.

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A recent study shows that elderly people with dementia who are prescribed antipsychotic medications like Haldol (haloperidol), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and Risperdal (risperidone), even for a short time, faced increased risks of ending up in the hospital and dying. Though there are limited alternatives to antipsychotics for the treatment of some behaviors associated with dementia and impaired cognitive functions, there is a clear indication that treatment with antipsychotics may lead to an increased risk of antipsychotic medication injury, nursing home wrongful death, and nursing home medical malpractice or medication injury. Elderly patients who were put on antipsychotics were 3.2 times more likely than individuals who had received no antipsychotics to be hospitalized or to die during the 30 days for follow-up.

Read more here.

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A civil claim was filed against a nursing home charging that one of its nurses negligently contributed to the death of a resident. The resident died about two days after he was given the wrong medication by a nurse at the facility. The nurse acknowledged her error, once she realized that she had given the wrong medication to the wrong patient. However, the facility would not comment on whether the nurse continues to be employed or whether any other legal actions alleging harm to its residents.

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