Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Anapol Weiss attorney Stephen Pokiniewski obtained a $4 million verdict in Allentown, Pennsylvania on behalf of a mother and baby permanently injured when an obstetrician failed to perform a Caesarian section and ignored increased risks of shoulder dystocia, a condition in which the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped behind the mother’s pubic bone.

The young mother delivered her daughter vaginally despite a sonogram four days before the delivery that predicted a 10-pound baby, heavier than 99 percent of all fetuses. The 16-hour labor and delivery nearly killed the infant and left the mother with a severe vaginal tear that extended through her anal sphincter. The newborn suffered from hypoxia and wasn’t breathing or moving when she was born. The infant was resuscitated in the delivery room and was then transferred to Thomas Jefferson Hospital for emergency head cooling treatment.

“This case makes clear that a physician must listen to his patient’s concerns and not disregard the risk of injury to his patients when he is rendering treatment,” Pokiniewski said in a press release. “Patient safety has to come first.”

Parents face a long road ahead when they learn that their baby’s brachial plexus injuries that happened during birth might be permanent. They are suddenly bombarded with pediatric doctor visits, possible surgeries and physical therapy to make every attempt to give the child best use of an arm and shoulder that may never fully recover.

Brachial plexus palsy, also called Erb’s palsy, is a potentially permanent and disabling condition that happens when a newborn’s brachial plexus nerves are torn from the root during delivery. It’s a preventable mistake, and it changes families’ lives when it happens.

No one should have to navigate the uncertain future of brachial plexus palsy alone. For more than 30 years, Philadelphia Erb’s palsy lawyer Larry Cohan has been a successful advocate for families enduring birth injuries. He’s an award-winning attorney who treats every client with the compassion they deserve. Larry and his medical malpractice team at the Pennsylvania law firm of Anapol Weiss pursue every detail and win, so their clients can focus on recovery and their family’s well-being.

Shoulder dystocia occurs during delivery when a newborn’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. There are certain techniques hospital staff can use in these situations that allow an infant to safely deliver, but failure to act quickly or properly can result in potentially permanent injuries to the child.

When a baby suffers from shoulder dystocia, doctors can use the following delivery maneuvers:

  • McRoberts Maneuver: The doctor flexes the mother’s legs tightly to her abdomen to widen the pelvis and flatten the spine in the lower back.

A baby’s brachial plexus nerves can be severely torn if the baby’s head and neck are pulled too hard during a difficult delivery. Signs of brachial plexus palsy, also known as Erb’s palsy, often appear shortly after a newborn is delivered.

Brachial plexus palsy symptoms include:

  • Arm bent at elbow and held close to the body

An estimated 80,000 surgical “never events,” – events that should never happen during surgery according to universal professional agreement – occurred in American hospitals between 1990 and 2010, researchers at Johns Hopkins reported in the journal Surgery. They suggest that documenting the problem will help health care professionals take a step toward developing better systems to prevent surgical mistakes.

Researchers used a federal repository of medical malpractice claims to identify 9,744 claims and judgments that totaled $1.3 billion over 20 years. Using these published rates, the researchers estimate that more than 4,000 surgical never events occur in the United States each year.

The study estimates that a surgeon leaves a foreign object such as a towel inside a patient’s body after an operation 39 times a week, performs the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week and operates on the wrong body part 20 times a week. Sixty-two percent of the surgeons named were cited in more than one separate malpractice report.

A new study concludes that although misdiagnosis in the intensive care unit (ICU) may lead to as many annual deaths as breast cancer, this preventable problem does not receive enough attention. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality found that 28 percent of patients had at least one hospital misdiagnosis at time of death, and in eight percent of those patients, the diagnosis error may have either caused or contributed to death.

“Our study shows that misdiagnosis is alarmingly common in the acute care setting,” said Bradford Winters, M.D., Ph.D., lead author and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “To date, there’s been very little research to determine root causes or effective interventions.”

The study found that adult ICU patients are up to two times more likely to be the victim of fatal medical misdiagnosis than adult hospital patients overall. The most common diagnosis errors in the ICU involve heart attack, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and aspergillosis. Together, these four conditions accounted for about one-third of all illnesses that doctors misdiagnose in ICU patients.

Erb’s palsy involves the loss of movement or weakness of the arm when a bundle of nerves called the brachial plexus is injured during birth. Difficult delivery can lead to permanent problems, which may occur when an infant’s head and neck are pulled to the side as the shoulders pass, or a breech (feet-first) delivery puts pressure on the newborn’s raised arms. Sometimes, hospital staff will pull on the infant’s head during deliver, and this can easily injure the brachial plexus.

Erb’s palsy symptoms usually appear immediately and often involve abnormal movement or positioning of the arm, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The injured arm may flop when the infant is rolled.

Up to one percent of live births are affected by Erb’s palsy each year in the US, with a higher percentage in babies with high birth weights. While some infants recover from Erb’s palsy within a few months, those who do not recover will most likely have lifelong issues with the arm. Many cases of brachial plexus injuries are preventable, but hospital staff members sometimes fail to handle a difficult delivery properly. When these mistakes happen, they must take responsibility.

According to a recent report by the Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy organization, the number and the size of malpractice payments are on the decline. For instance, the peak year for medical malpractice payments was 2001 with 16,565 payments. In 2011, there were 9,758 payments.

Does the decline in medical malpractice cases and payments reflect better medical care?

No. What it does mean is that a smaller number of medical errors actually lead to litigation.

Was American Bandstand the original reality TV or a prelude to Dancing with the Stars?

The “stars” were everyday cool Philly kids who were good dancers and slick dressers. If you didn’t live in Philly, you wanted to go there; you wanted to be on the show; you wanted a glimpse of Dick Clark; and you wanted to rock and roll your heart out. You wanted to come from school and forget about doing chores or homework and just be left alone in your own little world to watch American Bandstand.

More than anything you wanted to be a “regular” on American Bandstand even though you lived nowhere near Philadelphia or Pennsylvania for that matter.

When a person visits the hospital, they trust they will receive quality care for their ailment or illness. Patients also expect they will receive such care from highly trained medical professionals who do not have a history of negligence. Unfortunately, however, that trust is often misplaced.

Recently, the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen analyzed years 1990 to 2009 of the National Practitioner Data Bank Public Use File, and determined that 10,672 physicians nationwide had one or more restrictions or revocations of their clinical privileges. Over half of these physicians, 5,887, did not have state licensing actions taken against them. The violations made by these physicians that resulted in clinical privileging actions include the following:

  • 1,119 physicians were disciplined due to incompetence, negligence, or malpractice;
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