Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

The 9 Most Common and Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

(and how to avoid these shocking medical malpractice mistakes from happening to you!)

#1 Treating the wrong patient | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

The most common type of medical malpractice mistake is when the identity of patients are confused at a hospital.  This is what happened with Kerry Higuera.  Kerry Higuera began bleeding three months into her pregnancy, and was immediately rushed to the hospital. Higuera was worried that she was miscarrying.  A nurse led Higuera to a room and she was instructed to wait for a doctor. However, just a few minutes later, another nurse poked her head into the room and told Higuera that the doctor wanted her to undergo a CT scan of her abdomen. Higuera questioned the nurse, but followed along anyway.  After the CT scan, the nurse led Higuera back into a waiting room. Soon, the emergency room physician, two radiologists, and a representative from the hospital’s human resources came to speak with her. She was positive that it was the bad news that she had miscarried. She was stunned when she heard the reason for all the people.  According to the group of doctors, there were two women with the first name “Kerry” in the hospital that night.  Higuera was one Kerry and as you can guess, a different woman named Kerry needed the CT scan. Immediately, the hospital staffers offered to purchase Higuera flowers and offered her coupons for free meals in the hospital cafeteria.  No large studies have been done on the effects of CT scans on fetuses. However, experts say that a fetus exposed to radiation can, in some cases, develop physical and mental growth problems. Kerry is being represented by legal counsel in the matter and appears to be moving toward litigation against the hospital.  To prevent this shocking medical malpractice mistake, before every procedure, medication that you are given to take, etc. you should be sure that the staff checks your entire name, DOB, and bar code on your wrist.

#2 Surgical equipment is left behind | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

Believe it or not, surgical staff can either miscount of fail to count equipment used during an operation which makes surgical tools being left behind #2 on our shocking medical malpractice mistakes list.  Florida County Judge Nelson Bailey was in severe pain after a foot-long surgical sponge was left inside him during a routine operation.  After the surgery Judge Bailey noticed the pain in his stomach was worse.  He went to his primary doctors and complained, and was sent for repeated CT scans. Unbelievably, the sponge was not identified because the metal marker in the sponge was misidentified as something else.  For five months, the 12-inch by 12-inch sponge festered near his intestines.  It was not until March that they discovered the sponge was left behind.  Judge Bailey said he was shocked by the size of what had been left inside of him.  Judge Bailey stated “I was expecting something like a kitchen sponge. I was shocked.”  His body had apparently built a protective barrier around the sponge, which trapped the infection from spreading.  Part of his intestine was rotted away, which later had to be removed. The Judge actually suffered two shocking medical malpractice mistakes. Another medical malpractice mistake occurred when an incorrectly dispensed medicine from the hospital’s pharmacy nearly gave him a heart attack.  He’s also advocating for changes to the malpractice system so that patients can receive higher damages if they are a victim of negligence.  Judge Bailey also wants hospitals to install equipment that will unfailingly spot sponges or equipment left behind after surgery.  After surgery, if you have pain, swelling or a fever, be sure to follow up and ask if having a surgical instrument inside of you is a possibility.

# 3 Patients that go missing | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

#3 on our most shocking medical malpractice mistakes list deals with missing patients.  And we aren’t talking about Doc’s with short tempers!  Patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s can at times wander away unnoticed by hospital staff.  Mary Cole was a 66 year old Alzheimer’s patient.  She disappeared for four days was found in a storage room of the nursing home where she lived. Unfortunately Mary Cole later died at a hospital from dehydration.  When they first found her, she was dehydrated but had a heart beat and pulse.  But she died soon after she arrived at Presbyterian Hospital.  A major issue is why the storage room that Mary Cole was ultimately found in was not searched during the six searches that took place.  A police investigation will focus on why the storage room wasn’t locked and why Cole wasn’t found after six searches.  Mistakes do happen, and it very difficult for hospital staff to keep an eye on someone at risk of wandering every day, all day.  A GPS tracking bracelet is a good solution if you fear this may happen to a loved one that you know.

# 4 Unlicensed or fake doctors | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

Believe it or not, there are many cases were con artists pretend to be doctors (and manage to get away with it!)  Hundreds of Northeast Philadelphia patients assumed the psychiatrist their HMO referred them to was a real doctor, and they sought him for help.  As it was later discovered, David E. Tremoglie was a fake, and ultimately served time in federal prison as punishment for treating people without a valid medical license.  Six years ago, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas certified the class of mental health patients who sued Tremoglie, along with his insurer, the mental health services provider that hired him and the HMO that referred the patients to him.  The lawsuit contended that the defendants had misrepresented Tremoglie as a licensed practitioner and that they failed to notify Tremoglie’s patients when they learned he had lied about his credentials and experience.  Judge Stephen E. Levin said the class could attempt to recover economic, nominal and punitive damages for invasion of privacy, breach of confidentiality, fraud and breach of contract. Tremoglie “practiced” as a psychiatrist at a treatment center on Bustleton Avenue for about eight months in 1996. Patients were referred to him through Keystone Health Plan East Inc., a health maintenance organization and subsidiary of Independence Blue Cross, which subcontracted the care and treatment of their clients needing psychiatric and substance abuse treatment to GreenSpring Health Services Inc., a mental health care provider, according to court documents.  Tremoglie eventually admitted that his medical license, as well as his license to write prescriptions, were fraudulent, and GreenSpring fired him.  Despite being fired, GreenSpring didn’t notify Tremoglie’s patients that their psychiatrist hadn’t been a real psychiatrist until nine months later — a week a class action lawsuit was filed. So, how to you prevent this from happening?  Confirm online that your physician is licensed.

# 5 Waiting too long in the ER | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

You can spend hours in the Emergency Room if the hospital is overcrowded or understaffed.  The family of a California toddler whose feet, left hand and part of her right hand were amputated because of a lengthy emergency room delay has agreed to a $10 million malpractice settlement.  Malyia Jeffers was two years old when her parents took her to Sacramento’s Methodist Hospital last November with a fever, skin discoloration and weakness.  According to court documents, the family was told to wait.  By the time they took her back, Doctors found that Streptococcus A bacteria had invaded her blood and organs, and amputation was needed.  A great tip is too call your primary physician to tell him or her that you are going to the emergency.  Doctors have a tendency to listen to other doctors.  If your primary physician talks to the Emergency Room, there’s a chance your wait may be shortened.

# 6 Body-part mix-up  | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

Sometimes a doctor or surgeon can cut into the wrong side, area or part of a patient’s body.  Jesse Matlock, a young boy, was taken to a doctor to find out if he suffered any permanent damage when a surgeon performed corrective surgery on the wrong eye. Then, without consulting the boy’s parents, the doctor quickly operated on the correct eye.  The boy had been seeing the doctor every six months since his parents had discovered he had a wandering right eye. A few days before his fourth birthday, he went into the operating room at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Ore.  The doctor said that the surgery was to weaken the muscle at the bottom of Jesse’s right eye, since the strength of that muscle was causing his eye to wander. It wasn’t until she completed the procedure that she realized she had operated on the left eye.  Since the operation, Jesse’s left eye seems to be wandering, while the right still does not seem fixed in the view of Jesse’s mother. Fortunately, Jesse seems to have normal eyesight, but he is forced to put in eye drops three times a day, and must wear dark sunglasses to protect his eyes.  Pennsylvania is at the forefront of reporting wrong-site surgeries, so be sure to reaffirm with the nurse and the surgeon the correct body part and side of your operation.  Among area hospitals, Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown said it has had no wrong-site surgeries.  St. Luke’s and Easton hospitals declined to discuss how often wrong-site events occurred at those facilities.

# 7 Infection can spread from hospital workers | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

Unfortunately, when doctors, nurses and hospital staff forget to watch their hands, the consequences can be deadly.  Antimicrobial resistance is one of the scariest prospects patients and their families can face.  27-year-old son Josh Nahum died of a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection in October 2006.  Nahum was a healthy, active skydiving instructor, attending college with the dream of one day becoming a child psychologist.  During Labor Day weekend in 2006, Josh was enjoying the holiday doing what he loved best: jumping out of airplanes.  But during a jump that weekend, he landed wrong, hitting the ground at around 55 miles an hour. The impact jackknifed his body, breaking his left femur and fracturing his skull. Amazingly, he survived the terrible injuries he sustaine during the skydiving jump.  During his almost six-week stay in the ICU that followed, Josh developed a hospital-associated infection, methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA), which the doctors were able to treat with antibiotics. Eventually, he was doing well enough to be transferred to a nearby rehabilitation facility to continue his progress.  As Josh was recuperating and on a hopeful path to a good recovery, he began to run a fever of 103 degrees. An infection caused by Enterobacter aerogenes, a gram-negative bacteria, was discovered in his cerebral spinal fluid. From there, despite doctors’ efforts to treat the infection, it spread quickly, causing pressure around his brain. The pressure eventually pushed part of his brain into his spinal column, paralyzing him, making him a permanent quadriplegic dependent on a ventilator to breathe.  Josh died two weeks later. He was just 27.  Josh Nahum’s family has devoted their lives to bringing attention to the serious problem of health-care acquired infections and the need for better practices, education, and solutions.  Although it may be awkward to ask, make sure doctos and nurses wash their hands before they touch you.

#8 Tube Troubles | Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

Tubes can look a lot alike and as a result they can get mixed up.  This is what happened in the case of Alicia Coleman.  Human error led to the accidental death of 19-month-old girl, Alicia Coleman.  Alicia Coleman had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest after medication was improperly routed into her system. It happened at a respite care facility for children with complex medical needs that is run by the hospital.   Born twelve weeks premature, Alicia battled a gastrointestinal disorder known as NEC, but had been improving.  “I knew I had a fragile child, but she fought through 15 surgeries, and almost a year in the hospital, and infections and sickness and pneumonia and liver disease and everything and she’s come back from it all,” Dominique said.  Dominique says a nurse mistakenly gave Alicia a drug, designed to slow the absorption of food, via a central line to her heart rather than through Alicia’s feeding tube.  Dominique says she knows her daughter’s death wasn’t intentional, but for the sake of other kids and their families, she says she can’t move on until she knows that protocol at the facility will always be followed.  “I do know that someone has to take responsibility for this, and that something will change there so that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

# 9 Anesthesia under-dose| Shocking Medical Malpractice Mistakes

The last example on our list of shocking medical malpractice mistakes is the worst night-mirror of many people.  An under-dose of anesthesia can cause the brain to stay awake while the muscles stay frozen.  Erin Cook underwent surgery to remove an ovarian tumor.  On March 15th, she underwent the procedure.  She needed anesthesia for the surgery.   Cook did fall asleep initially when given the anesthesia.  Her consciousness was suddenly jolted awake mid surgery by intense, searing pain.  She could feel every cut moving through her flesh.  She wanted to writhe violently form the intense pain to let the doctors know that something was terribly wrong.  Unfortunately for Erin, a paralyzing chemical accompanies the anesthesia to stop any and all motion.  No part of her body would respond, no matter how hard she tried.  She felt every cut, every work spoken.  Her surgery lasted three hours.  It was later discovered that the gas vaporizer had leaked surgery, and the doctors had failed to notice it in time.  Erin had received only 5% of the anesthesia needed for the operation.  Although this is very rare, there are preventative measures you could take to avoid this from happening to you.  When you schedule surgery, ask your surgeon if you need to be put asleep or if local anesthetic will work as well.

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