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Portland Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Medical malpractice will be an issue in the age of 3D printers

An emerging technology appearing nationwide and in Oregon raises questions of what medical liability standards are to be applied to physicians who will be using that technology. It is called 3D printing, and it involves using a uniquely designed mechanical device that has been programmed to construct a three-dimensional product by adding together various substances and materials in a specified manner. In the medical field, the 3D printer may produce surgical instruments, hearing aids, prosthetics and even organs for implant, but its misuse may be the basis for a whole new area of medical malpractice claims.

The law must now determine the framework of liability that will apply to find medical malpractice in those cases where the physician fails to provide a recognized modicum of care to the patient in the application of the product. In general, it appears that for now the basic standard of negligence will continue to apply. The matter gets somewhat complicated because some experts believe that strict liability for product liability should apply due to it being a product that is being applied on the patient-consumer.

Failure to read warning label equals medical malpractice

How many times have Oregon residents been administered medications without them even wondering whether the doctors read the warning labels? When they hear about the following medical malpractice case, they might begin to ask questions. Something as simple as reading a warning label on a medication could have prevented an out-of-state woman from spending the rest of her life as a paraplegic.

The then 57-year-old woman went to a surgery center in her area in 2013 that was known for providing same-day surgical care. She was given a steroid injection via epidural, which means that the shot was administered into her back near her spinal column. Within a short time after receiving the epidural, it became evident that something was terribly wrong because she had no feeling from her waist down. 

Late diagnosis of woman's tumor results in pain, anguish

For some doctors, health problems may be just their job, but for the Oregon patients they see, proper and timely treatment and diagnosis of health problems may have far-reaching effects for not only their well-being but their very lives. In another state, a patient recently filed a complaint alleging that the treatment she received failed to meet a standard of care for timely treatment and diagnosis. The defendants' alleged failure to correctly address the woman's condition led to such a late diagnosis of her spinal tumor that now, she says, she is in anguish.

The woman, a former patient of Integrated Medical Group Inc., filed a complaint on March 20 against both the practice and the doctor there who treated her. She alleges that she began complaining of neck pain back in Sept. 2006, but the health care professionals there failed to properly address her issue. Eventually, on April 22, 2015, she was diagnosed with a tenosynovial giant cell tumor on her spine.

Oregon medical malpractice case focuses on misdiagnosis

When an Oregon resident requires emergency medical care, a great deal of trust is placed into the hands of the professionals who provide that care. Unlike most other financial transactions, urgent medical needs leave no time for comparison shopping or background checks. Most people have to simply seek out services and then hope for the best. When things go wrong or a misdiagnosis leads to additional problems, a medical malpractice suit is a common result.

An example is found in a case in which a man is suing Columbia Memorial Hospital. During a hospital visit, the man presented slurred speech and a noticeable facial droop. Despite these obvious signs of stroke, the radiologist was unable to find any abnormalities in the man's MRI. As a result, he was transferred to a different hospital.

Medical malpractice claims go to jury in stent implant cases

Another large group of patients have been reportedly exposed to improper surgical procedures. Although the incidents did not occur in Oregon, the matter demonstrates the need for hospital authorities and health care personnel nationwide to be on guard for practices by surgeons that may involve repetitive, unnecessary procedures performed for economic gain. The first of 71 plaintiffs who have filed medical malpractice cases in the state court is currently facing jury deliberations in his case.

The plaintiff claims that the surgeon performed several unnecessary stent implants solely for financial gain in 2008. The complaint also accuses the hospital, Excela Health, of failing to protect patients from the improper treatments. Stent implants involve inserting a catheter inside an artery that runs to the heart, and implanting a device that will hold open the artery for the free flow of blood to the heart. This is designed to lessen the symptoms of those patients suffering from coronary artery disease.

Late diagnosis supports judge's award of $2.5 million to veteran

Oregon like most other states has a network of Veterans' Affairs facilities that care for veterans' medical needs. Several years ago, a shocking scandal revealed less than optimum management and services at many Veterans Hospitals across the country. In one state that was prominently featured, the first malpractice award has reportedly been decided by a judge in a non-jury trial. The award of $2.5 million to the veteran was based on a late diagnosis that did not identify his prostate cancer in time for proper treatment.

It is commonly known that prostate cancer can be treated if found early enough. In this case, the veteran sued on allegations that the VA hospital did not diagnose it soon enough to allow him a chance for life-saving treatment. Reportedly, a nurse did find abnormalities in the man's prostate in 2011 but did not take the necessary further steps to diagnose the problem more deeply.

Medical malpractice: $14 million awarded to amputee

Oregon medical providers are familiar with the infectious disease referred to as sepsis. It is a massive infection that invades the body and can often bring on death. Doctors must be familiar with identifying the symptoms and engaging the patient in emergency treatment without delay, lest they face the possibility of a later claim for medical malpractice.

An example of a case where sepsis was not recognized soon enough resulted in a recent jury verdict for $14 million. The award was made to a 54-year-old woman who became a triple amputee after being treated at the defendants' regional hospital in another state. She lost both legs, her left arm and fingers from the right hand, the lawsuit says.

Overdosing of medication can be medical malpractice

The incorrect administration of medication to a patient is a common cause of injury and death in Oregon and throughout the country. This may be due to incorrect statements in the patient's medical records, inaccurate test results or other errors leading to the wrong dosage, or in some cases, to the wrong medication altogether. The incorrect administering of medication leading to injury or death can be a basis for a medical malpractice claim.

An example of this problem occurred in a case from another state that recently resulted in the filing of a medical malpractice suit against several doctors and a medical center. The wrongful death complaint was filed by a widower in behalf of his deceased wife who died under the care of the defendants in Aug. 2016. The suit alleges that the patient appeared at the medical center with complaints of lightheadedness, general aches and fever.

Medical malpractice claims still being made despite apologies

Some form of apology law has been passed in many states, including Oregon. The idea is to allow doctors and others speaking for medical personnel to apologize and/or discuss settlement negotiations without being held accountable to any such statements in court. These laws are intended to reduce the number of medical malpractice suits by either having patients be reluctant to make claims or by settling claims more informally without a determination of medical malpractice.

Such laws have now been around long enough that studies are being published regarding their effectiveness. A recent university study concluded that the apology-type laws enacted in 32 of the states increased the number of medical malpractice suits against non-surgeons. Otherwise, the suits in general have not reduced the number of suits or reduced the amount of the settlements paid out.

Medical malpractice suits pile up over unnecessary heart surgery

One of the most difficult problems for the medical profession to confront, both in Oregon and other jurisdictions, is the case where a physician engages in a long and voluminous history of conducting defective or incorrect medical procedures. The result in that scenario usually means a great many victimized patients over the years. That is precisely the problem being faced by the medical profession in another state with respect to the medical malpractice of cardiologist surgeon.

The doctor, his medical center and the hospital where he performed the challenged heart procedures are the defendants in about 300 malpractice claims currently pending in the state court. Generally, the claims all assert that the physician implanted cardiac devices that were not medically necessary, and that he did it strictly for profit. The first of many trials clogging the civil court list are being juggled by the courts, and have been put off until Feb. 2018.

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