ReSource ReCaps Wednesday November 16, 2011
Medical Professional Liability News
A weekly update of significant news articles from around the nation and the world relating to
medical professional liability insurance and reinsurance. This news recap is provided with our compliments
by ReSource, an Integro Company.
City Paid Out $135 Million in Medical Malpractice
Lawsuits at its Public Hospitals Inside this issue:
NYDailyNews.com, New York, New York The 38-year-old woman, who did not (NY) City Paid Out $135 Million in Medi- 1
November 14, 2011 want her name used, was seen by a den- cal Malpractice Lawsuits at its Public
tist who drained the abscess and sent
The city doled out $135 million this year
her home, court records show. Surgeons Pay Steep Emotional Price in 2
for medical blunders at its public hospi- Malpractice Suits
tals — up 5% from 2010, records show. He failed to request a culture of the in-
(TX) Texas Family Awarded $2.2 Million 2
fected tissue, a test that would have Against Houston Northwest Medical
For many patients, the screw-ups were Center for Wrongful Death
helped him realize she was suffering
catastrophic, and it’s city taxpayers who
from a dangerous but increasingly com- Physicians Struggle to Treat Pain Amid 2
are footing the bill. Opioid Overdose Crisis
mon infection called MRSA, Rosmarin
A Brooklyn man suffered a debilitat- said. Court Battle Insurer Over Down’s Child 3
ing stroke while waiting hours at Avoiding Medical Malpractice in Cos- 3
About 10 days later, she raced back to
Kings County Hospital to see a doc- metic Surgery
the hospital in extreme pain.
tor. (NY) More NY Courts to Focus on Medi- 3
It was too late. cal Malpractice
A 10-year-old girl was pumped with a (FL) Supreme Court Lets Stand $10.3 4
fatal dose of oxygen after an asthma The infection had spread to her neck and Million Award in Palm Beach County
spine. She was left paralyzed from the Medical Malpractice Case
neck down, Rosmarin said.
A Bronx woman was awarded $8
million — topping the list of the fiscal She was awarded $8 million just before
year’s malpractice payouts — after the case was set to go to trial.
she went to Lincoln Hospital for treat- It was one of 246 cases completed in
ment of a cheek infection and wound fiscal year 2011, resulting in payouts of
up paralyzed. $135 million, up from $128 million in
“Life for her is a daily battle,” said her 2010, records show.
lawyer, Sam Rosmarin. It took some families more than a…
“The tragedy here is that this could have http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/
been avoided. Her complete dependence city-paid-135-million-medical-malpractice
on others as a result of someone’s negli- -lawsuits-public-hospitals-article-
gence is a horribly unfair existence.”
Page 2 ReSource ReCaps
Surgeons Pay Steep Emotional Price in 1:30 p.m., Mr. Mazza was sent to an interventional radiolo-
Malpractice Suits gist who performed the thoracentesis. Just over one liter of
old blood was removed. Mr. Mazza returned to the telemetry
Outpatient Surgery, Malvern, PA unit at around 2:30 p.m., but was still not being provided ICU
November 16, 2011 care.
The considerable financial costs of malpractice lawsuits - the From 2:30 p.m. until approximately 4 p.m., Mr. Mazza re-
expensive, lengthy litigation and higher insurance premiums mained under the care of a nurse who was not qualified to
- are a constant concern for every surgical center. A new provide ICU care. The nurse failed to recognize the signs or
study finds the surgeons involved in such suits pay a steep symptoms of internal bleeding, which had begun shortly af-
emotional price as well, in the form of depression, emotional ter the thoracentesis. Just after 4 p.m., Mr. Mazza was fi-
exhaustion, increased stress and lower professional satis- nally transferred to ICU where he quickly went into cardiac
faction. arrest after bleeding internally for some two hours. He was
revived, but was without brain activity after a lack of oxygen
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of for nearly 15 minutes. Mr. Mazza's family made the difficult
Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, examined
decision to withdraw life support five days later.
personal and professional characteristics in surgeons, and
found malpractice lawsuits were strongly and independently http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/texas-family
linked to surgeon depression and career burnout. -awarded-22-million-against-houston-northwest-medical-
Of the 7,164 participating surgeons, 24.6% experienced a
malpractice action in the 24 months before the survey. The
stress caused by malpractice litigation was rated as equiva- Physicians Struggle to Treat Pain Amid
lent to that of financial worries, pressure to succeed in re- Opioid Overdose Crisis
search, work/home conflicts and coping with patients' suffer-
American Medical News, Chicago, IL
ing and death. Surgeons who experienced a recent malprac-
November 14, 2011
tice lawsuit also reported less career satisfaction, and were
less likely to recommend a surgical or medical career to their The patients Richard Blondell, MD, treated in detox 10 years
children or others. ago mostly were middle-aged heroin addicts with arms
http://www.outpatientsurgery.net/news/2011/11/21-Surgeons scarred by needle tracks. Today he sees patients in their
-Pay-Steep-Emotional-Price-in-Malpractice-Suits early 20s who are hooked on something they can get legally:
opioid pain medications.
Texas Family Awarded $2.2 Million "I don't see those hard-core drug addicts" much anymore,
Against Houston Northwest Medical said Dr. Blondell, a family physician in Buffalo, N.Y., who
Center for Wrongful Death specializes in addiction medicine. "It's all prescription pain
24-7 Press Release, North Vancouver, BC
Addiction to pain medicine is occurring at alarming rates in
November 14, 2011
communities across the country, and overdose deaths have
The family of 54-year-old Phillip Mazza prevailed in a wrong- more than tripled in a decade, according to a study by the
ful death medical malpractice lawsuit against Houston North- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
west Medical Center on November 8, 2011, after a Harris In 2008, opioid prescription painkillers were involved in
County jury found the hospital negligent for not properly car- 14,800 drug overdose deaths in the United States, accord-
ing for Mr. Mazza following heart surgery in 2006. ing to a CDC study published in the Nov. 4 Morbidity and
In September of 2006, Mr. Mazza underwent cardiac bypass Mortality Weekly Report. That was up from 4,000 such
surgery. Three days later, a pulmonologist assessed Mr. deaths in 1999.
Mazza at noon and determined he needed a thoracentesis The increase comes as national sales of opioid pain...
for internal bleeding and a transfer to the Intensive Care Unit
(ICU). No ICU beds were available at the time, which left Mr.
Mazza under the care of a telemetry nurse. At approximately
Page 3 ReSource ReCaps
Couple Battle Insurer Over Down’s trous results. A USA Today report indicates that more doc-
Child tors trained in other specialties, such as vision, podiatry or
obstetrics, are turning to cosmetic surgery to take advantage
Times Live, Rosebank, Johannesburg of lucrative opportunities. However, many have little training
November 13, 2011 in plastic surgery, with some operating on patients only after
one weekend shadowing other doctors. As such, stories
A South African couple now living in Australia is suing the abound involving doctors with little training committing surgi-
company over its refusal to honour a medical malpractice
cal errors, botching procedures, and sometimes killing pa-
policy of a gynaecologist who failed to pick up that their baby
had Down's syndrome.
With more cosmetic surgery centers appearing in strip malls
After winning their initial case for damages against Dr and offering low prices, it is important for consumers to be
Lourens Kriel, Tammy Souster, 33, and her husband, Mi- educated about the physicians who will treat them, as well
chael Savage, have now gone to the High Court in Johan- as the risks involved in their procedure.
nesburg to fight Santam for damages that could amount to
Last year Judge Phillip Coppin found Kriel liable for dam-
ages and concluded that his negligence had occurred while More NY Courts to Focus on Medical
he had insurance cover. Malpractice
Kriel had failed to inform Souster that it was advisable to
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY
undergo an amniocentesis test at the 16th week of her preg- November 11, 2011
nancy in 2007 to test for chromosomal abnormalities.
The gynaecologist, who paid an annual premium of R49656 New York courts specializing in the state's 4,000 medical
for medical malpractice cover, was shocked when Santam malpractice cases filed each year have begun expanding
withdrew its support in the court case two weeks before the following the success of a Bronx judge in settling cases
Santam said his negligent actions took place weeks before The approach, shown to cut court backlogs and save
the policy became active. Its contention is that on July 17 money, has been extended to Brooklyn, Queens and Man-
2007, two weeks before the policy took effect, Kriel used an hattan, with some Erie County judges getting trained.
ultrasound machine that may not have accurately measured "It was proving to be a cost savings to hospitals and directly
the nuchal translucency of Souster's foetus. impacting the indemnity insurance of doctors," New York
http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2011/11/13/couple-battle- Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau said.
insurer-over-down-s-child Starting Dec. 1, Pfau will become coordinating judge of the
court system's medical malpractice segment. The pilot pro-
gram is using a $3 million federal grant to train more judges
Avoiding Medical Malpractice in Cos-
in medical issues. Pfau herself will take cases in Brooklyn,
where she is an acting state Supreme Court justice in the
Digital Journal.com, Toronto, Ontario commercial division. She said it would be good to make the
November 12, 2011 program citywide and makes sense to extend it to Long Is-
Many Americans are enticed by the potential benefits of
Bronx Justice Douglas McKeon, who began focusing on
plastic surgery. Why wouldn't they be? After all, people are
malpractice cases 15 years ago, said he has helped settle
inundated with images of celebrities maintaining good looks
more than 1,000 since, with 12 to 15 cases now on the cal-
and taut bodies by having procedures that seem simple
endar monthly for intense discussions. Once the city's
Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs 11 public…
With more people seeking cosmetic procedures, more un-
trained physicians are entering the market, often with disas-
Supreme Court Lets Stand $10.3 Million Award in Palm Beach
County Medical Malpractice Case
The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, FL when it once again struck down the legislature's decision to
November 9, 2011 make a law apply retroactively.
Since her husband's heart was irrevocably damaged in One of the main issues in Raphael's case was whether the
2003 when he wasn't given critical medicine at Palms West caps on damages awarded for pain and suffering applied to
Hospital, former Wellington resident Nadine Raphael has Harvey Raphael's death by medical mistake. Attorneys rep-
been waiting for justice. resenting emergency room physician Dr. James Schecter
She got it this week when the Florida Supreme Court let argued they did because the lawsuit was filed two years
stand a $10.3 million verdict despite arguments that it after the Legislature in 2003 imposed the caps, claiming
should be reduced to less than $1 million because of caps they would rein in skyrocketing medical malpractice insur-
the Florida Legislature placed on jury awards in medical ance rates.
malpractice cases. Malove countered that the key wasn't when the lawsuit was
"She's ecstatic," attorney Stephen Malove said of Raph- filed but when Harvey Raphael was injured. Schecter failed
ael's reaction to the long-awaited decision. to give him the anti-clotting drug Retavase to reduce the...
The high court didn't specifically rule on Raphael's case. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/supreme-court-lets-
Instead, it referred to an unrelated decision it made in July stand-10-3-million-award-1959529.html
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