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Portland Medical Malpractice Law Blog

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.

Late diagnosis, lack of treatment alleged in man's death

Delays by medical personnel in making a diagnosis can often spell ill consequences for the patient. In Oregon and elsewhere, unreasonable delays and failing to follow the indications of an examination can be grounds for liability. A late diagnosis that is negligent, and which is a substantial factor in causing the patient's death, is sufficient to constitute medical malpractice.

A recent complaint filed in a neighboring state asks for wrongful death damages against a physician and a medical center associated with a university campus. The complaint was filed by the decedent's daughter and alleges that his death was occasioned by a late diagnosis in 2005. Curiously, the press reports do not indicate any issue over the statute of limitations, which may be a likely issue in the litigation.

Dental negligence causing death can be medical malpractice

Dental surgery is a given source of medical negligence claims in Oregon and elsewhere. Incidents of dental negligence are well documented, and they often involve chronic painful conditions that are determined to be medical malpractice. Rarely, however, does a dental patient die from the negligence of an oral surgeon.

In another state, a high school student died during a standard wisdom tooth extraction in June 2015. Her parents sued the surgeon recently for medical malpractice and wrongful death damages. Whenever a standard procedure precedes the patient's death, an investigation for medical or, in this case, dental negligence is in order.

Doctors sued for late diagnosis regarding fatal brain tumor

When a group of doctors do not perform diagnostic tests that are clearly indicated by the symptoms, the patient's death from a missed diagnosis may be medical malpractice under the laws of Oregon and other jurisdictions. The determination of whether a late diagnosis could be responsible for the patient's death must generally be proved by medical expert testimony and evidence. In one state, a heartbreaking outcome may have been prevented if doctors had submitted a 13-year-old girl to the indicated tests.

The parents recently filed a complaint alleging rather shocking facts, including a series of omissions by medical personnel to perform a brain scan and other clearly indicated tests. The complaint alleges that the decedent first appeared at the defendant pediatrics practice at the end of Feb. 2016, with complaints of headaches. She was told to return if they reappeared. She returned in April with reports of three weeks of throbbing headaches, vomiting, impaired vision and nausea.

Judge okays $53 million verdict in medical malpractice case

Under any standards in Oregon and all other jurisdictions, $53 million is a large medical negligence verdict. It is not surprising that the recent verdict entered by a jury in another state deals with yet another mismanaged baby delivery case. In most of the cases, a child is born with severe brain damage after being deprived of oxygen to the brain through treatment determined to constitute medical malpractice.

In this recent case, a jury came in with a $53 million award to the parents of a boy who is now 12 years old, considered totally disabled and suffering with cerebral palsy. The defendant hospital filed a motion to the trial court to enter judgment in the favor of the hospital notwithstanding the jury's verdict. This week the trial court entered an order denying the post-trial motions of the hospital.

Surgical error may have caused child's death after tonsillectomy

In Oregon and elsewhere, when a death or serious injury occurs during a standard surgical procedure, the matter should be quickly investigated to determine the cause. There is a reasonable chance that unexpected results may have been caused by negligence. Surgical procedures always involve the possibility of surgical error, which may result in tragic consequences.

In one such recent case, a family in another state is questioning how and why their 9-year-old daughter died within hours of having a standard tonsillectomy. It is the third most common childhood procedure in the country, involving over a half-million operations each year. The child suffered cardiac arrest after undergoing the procedure in a children's hospital.

"Dead in Bed" cases signal new area of medical malpractice

There is a new category of medical malpractice cases in Oregon and in other states. It is called the "Dead in Bed" phenomenon, and it occurs when a patient has undergone successful surgery and is recovering in a low-risk hospital room. The patient dies suddenly and unexpectedly, without a warning or alarm. In many instances, further research reveals that this is a product of medical malpractice caused by improper medication and inadequate monitoring of the patient.

It is found that the patients are killed often by the administering of opioid painkillers, a widespread tool for pain suppression in surgical and post-surgical situations. These chemicals take the respiratory rate to critical lows where the patient stops receiving adequate oxygen supplies, which results in death or serious brain injury. Respected medical experts have begun studying the rise of the "dead in bed" phenomena.

Medical malpractice: Birth claim settles for $19.3 million

Obstetrical services are an area of medical malpractice in Oregon and other states where the claims seem to be unending. The birth of a baby under conditions of severe oxygen deprivation generally causes significant brain damage and incapacity of the child to function normally. Such medical malpractice claims are usually responsible for some of the biggest verdicts and settlements that occur each year.

A recent settlement for $19.3 million in another state illustrates an obstetrical claim that falls on the more severe end of the spectrum. A doctor and hospital have agreed to the settlement, but they did not get their wish to have the amount sealed and kept private. The judge supervising the case rejected the hospital's motion to seal the record. The judge gave the parties 30 days to appeal that narrow decision to an appellate court, but the deadline came and passed without an appeal being filed.

Surgical error by eye doctor leads to $5 million award

The scope of medical malpractice in Oregon and elsewhere includes dental and ophthalmological malpractice. The treatment of the eyes is a complicated area of medical practice. Moreover, eye surgery is a specialized practice that, like most other specialties, can result in surgical error and serious damage to the patient.

In a recent case in another jurisdiction, a jury awarded a 67-year-old female $5 million in a malpractice claim against an ophthalmologist. The doctor was treating the patient for a form of macular degeneration, which was not medically expected to result in blindness. Nonetheless, after years of treatments, the woman went largely blind in her left eye and lost her right eye.

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