Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A radiology technician who worked at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville has pled guilty to spreading Hepatitis C. The technician, who has hepatitis C, admitted in court that he stole syringes of Fentanyl – a powerful narcotic pain medication – injected himself, then refilled the syringes with saline and reused them on patients.

The tampering occurred between 2006-2008 at the Mayo Clinic’s interventional radiology unit. As a result of the tampering, at least three Mayo patients contracted Hepatitis C. One patient was a liver transplant patient who battled the disease for nearly four years before he died as a result of complications.

The technician was arrested in August of 2010 in connection with the tampering after a 31/2-year investigation into a mysterious outbreak of Hepatitis C at Mayo revealed him as the source. Thousands of patients were warned of possible exposure. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in November of 2010 by the widow of the man who died as a result of the infection.
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It was 1999 and 18-year-old Nicholas Evans had his whole life ahead of him. He had just scored a 1450 on his SAT and he was planning to major in meteorology at Florida State University. The only thing holding him back was the severe migraine headaches he suffered which sometimes affected his studies.

After going to a neurologist, it was discovered that he had an arachnoid cyst on his brain. The neurologist thought that removing the cyst would eliminate the migraines, so surgery was scheduled and he was operated on.

That’s when things went horribly wrong. According to Nicholas’ 52-year-old mother, “They messed up the surgery and caused a brain lesion. Nick hemorrhaged and had a massive stroke.”

Due to the brain injury, he was paralyzed on one side, he couldn’t walk, and his memory “was pretty much wiped out,” his mother said.
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The son of an 81-year-old woman who died less than 24 hours after being admitted to Metropolitan Hospital of Miami in March wants to know why his mother died of gastrointestinal bleeding when a simple injection of Vitamin K could have saved her life.

According to the son, the problem wasn’t that the physicians hadn’t ordered the potentially life-saving vitamin K injection for his mother; the problem was that there was none to be found in the hospital.

“It is mind boggling that something as simple as a vitamin wasn’t available in the whole hospital,” he told NBC6 Miami.

The elderly woman had been taking Coumadin (warfarin is the generic) which is a blood thinner taken to prevent blood clots. The use of the anticoagulant has to be carefully monitored because severe internal bleeding can be a complication of the drug.
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The U.S. Food and Drug and Drug Administration (FDA) is teaming up with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) to develop collaborative efforts to reduce preventable harm from medicines and to educate the public on how to take medicines safely.

The FDA points out that medication errors are preventable mistakes that happen in labeling, prescribing, packaging, dispensing, and communication when the medication is ordered. Causes or medication errors include:

  • confusing drug labeling;
  • miscommunication between physicians and pharmacists (i.e. bad handwriting on prescriptions);
  • health care professionals who don’t have complete patient information;
  • similar or identical packaging for different dosages; and
  • name confusion of drugs that have similar names.

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In the last 15 months, two Broward County women have died as the result of a cosmetic surgery procedure known as “fat transfer” – where fat is liposucted from one part of a patient’s body, then infused into another part of the body.

Lately, this procedure has been used more and more for “butt lifts” where fat is infused into a patient’s bottom to make it appear plumper. Apparently this has really caught on in the South Florida area, where the procedure has been done in large numbers.

The two women who died during their “butt lift” surgeries suffered from complications when the infused fat blocked the bloodstream, causing heart emergencies.

Fat transfer is not new to cosmetic surgery, but it is usually done in much smaller increments to enhance the face or hands. Butt lifts are still a fairly new procedure in which much larger quantities of fat – up to half a gallon – are infused into the bottom.
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Surgical instruments meant to be tools for healing in the hands of skilled surgeons are increasingly becoming instruments of sickness and even death in our nation’s hospitals. According to NBC News, hospitals nationwide have revealed that the use of dirty surgical instruments have led to outbreaks of potentially lethal infections.

NBC cited an incident at a Houston, Texas hospital in 2009 where operating rooms were closed for two weeks while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated a rash of six potentially fatal post-operation infections that happened within a small time frame. The culprit? Arthroscopic shavers and drainage tubes that weren’t completely sterilized of bacteria, blood, and organic matter.

According to Joe Eaton, an investigative reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, the reasons for the growing problem are varied. He states that some of the polymers used in newer high-tech devices will melt if heat-sterilized in the traditional way that glass and metal instruments are and must be cleaned by hand. They then are sent to a hospital basement and cleaned in some cases by, “poorly paid and poorly trained technicians whose last job might have been at Burger King.”
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Florida Medical Malpractice InjuryAccording to a study by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), only 14% of incidents where patients are harmed by medical care ever get logged into hospital incident reporting systems. Sixty-two percent of the events didn’t make it into the systems because staff did not think they needed to be reported.

Federal regulations require that as a condition of participation in the Medicare program, hospitals must, “track medical errors and adverse patient events, analyze their causes, and implement preventative measures and mechanisms that include feedback and learning throughout the hospital.”

Apparently, none of the three organizations that accredit hospitals in the U.S. have a standardized list of reportable events and medical errors that hospitals can reference, nor did any of the 189 hospitals covered in the study have a definitive list of events that required reporting.
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Florida Surgery Fire InjuryIn December of 2011, a Florida woman went into surgery to have cysts removed from her head. What began as a routine surgery in Crestview, Florida ended with her being flown to a burn unit in Alabama after a flash fire during surgery torched her face and neck.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while fires during surgery are relatively rare, there are still 550 to 650 surgical fires every year in the United States. Some cases have led to second and third degree burns to patients. And, although deaths are less common, they have been reported to the FDA and usually occur when a patient’s airway is burned in a fire.

Surgical fires occur in oxygen-rich surgery environments where an Electrical Surgical Unit, a laser or a device with an optical light source, is used. These two elements, when combined with fuel sources such as surgical drapes or alcohol-based skin preparation agents, can lead to an increased risk of a fire with the potential for serious injury, disfigurement, and even death.
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In May 2007, a Clay County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant who wanted to lose some weight opted to have laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery at a Jacksonville hospital. The day after his surgery, he collapsed and was in critical condition with respiratory failure. The man is now in a wheelchair, unable to walk, and suffering the effects of brain damage, but he understood enough to comprehend that on January 23, a Jacksonville jury awarded him and his family $178 million in damages for the negligence shown by the hospital.

The hospital was found to have erred when the patient suffered complications from fluid leaking into the abdomen, but it took eight days before the leak was fixed by follow-up surgery. During that time, he suffered a stroke due to low blood pressure. When his brain was deprived of oxygen and blood, he went into a coma for more than two weeks.
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AARP Magazine tells the tale of a 68-year-old woman who went to the hospital with neck and shoulder pain. Described as about an eight on a 10 point scale for pain, the woman was given three pain medications, then later that day a 50-microgram Duragesic fentanyl patch, followed the next day with a higher 75-microgram patch, then the next day with a 100-microgram fentanyl patch as well as Neurontin. She stopped breathing on the third day and died a few days later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 1999 to 2007, opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone, methadone, the fentanyl patch, and oxycodone caused fatalities to triple, leading to more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine. In this patient’s case, the first and second patch’s narcotic had not yet broken down in the 72-hour window it takes to do so when she was given the third patch. The article points out that increasingly, the goal for hospitals is to keep patients pain-free, which has led to overprescribing.
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