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Bergen County Medical Malpractice Law Blog

How your doctor-patient relationship can reduce the risk of errors

In our last post, we discussed the idea that the majority of medical errors that harm patients are caused by miscommunication. Listening is a vitally important skill, yet one that doctors often fail to utilize.

So what can you do to protect yourself from medical negligence if you feel that you haven’t been heard and understood by hospital staff? According to a recent study from Consumer Reports, patients need to demand a certain level of respect from their doctors and set the expectation that they are partners in their own medical care.

Improving communication to prevent serious medical errors

Whether we realize it or not, most of our meaningful interactions with others center on relationships. Work is more enjoyable and usually more productive if you like your colleagues. You are more likely to keep hiring an auto mechanic who has proven himself to be honest and reliable.

Relationships used to be at the heart of health care, but that no longer seems to be the case. Doctors and hospitals often regard medical appointments and diagnoses as a service to be delivered as quickly as possible. Building trust and rapport between doctor and patient is a secondary priority at best. Unfortunately, poor or inadequate communication between doctors and patients can lead to dangerous and costly medical errors.

Failure to diagnose cancer quickly enough

When it comes to cancer, time is often of the essence, as it is a disease that spreads—slowly, in some cases, but very quickly in others—from one part of the body to the next. For example, cancer could start in the lymph nodes of the neck, but, if untreated, it could then move through the network of lymph nodes in the body. This ability to spread is what makes lymphoma—the type of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes—so dangerous.

However, the danger of cancer spreading to different organs is by no means limited to just lymphoma. It can also happen with skin cancer, lung cancer and many other varieties.

Physician drug addiction and the threat of medical negligence

Drug and alcohol addiction is a significant problem in the United States. Nearly anyone with a family history of addiction knows just how destructive alcohol and drugs can be. They also understand how difficult it is for the addicted person to seek help, to accept help and to recover.

Alcoholism and drug addiction nearly always create problems at work for the addicted person. But those problems and their consequences are exponentially higher when the addicted person is a physician. Untreated addiction is a significant cause of medical negligence, and the outcomes for patients can be devastating.

I may need to pursue a medical malpractice suit. How do I begin?

If you or a loved one suffered harm due to what you believe was negligent medical care, you may have no idea what the next steps are or what legal options are available to you. Most patients are initially unprepared to even consider a medical malpractice lawsuit because they never thought something like this would happen to them.

All of these reactions are normal, particularly when the medical outcome included serious injury or a loved one’s death. In these cases, you should first tend to whatever is immediately urgent, which could include follow-up medical care, taking time to heal or making arrangements for time off of work. When things have settled down a bit, you can then turn your attention to your legal matters.

Hurt on a cruise ship? Court delivers important med-mal ruling

When most of us think of medical care, we only think of the hospitals and clinics near our home. But what happens when you need medical care while on vacation? How about on a cruise ship out on the open sea?

Cruise ships generally have at least one medical staff member on board, and it is typically understood that treatment resources outside of a hospital setting might be limited. Nonetheless, patients who suffer illness or injury on a cruise ship have a right to expect that they will receive quality medical care or that they will be transported in a timely fashion to a hospital on land.

Daughter of Joan Rivers seeks answers with wrongful death lawsuit

When a patient dies or suffers a negative medical outcome, their families often find that physicians and hospitals are less than forthcoming about the details. In many cases, this is because they want to shield themselves from liability in case the patient or her family decides to pursue a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.

The irony with this approach, however, is that a lack of answers may be why such a lawsuit is pursued in the first place. If doctors and hospitals won’t disclose details on their own, a lawsuit becomes necessary. This appears to be among the reasons why the daughter of comedienne Joan Rivers is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians and clinic that treated her mother just before she died.

'Tort reform' laws have not lowered health care costs for patients

Since the early 2000s, most states in the U.S. have enacted laws broadly referred to as “tort reform.” Such laws have especially impacted medical malpractice lawsuits by making it harder for plaintiffs to prove medical negligence and/or by putting caps on the amount of money juries can award plaintiffs for non-economic damages.

The fact that these laws were called “reforms” implies that the old system was somehow broken and that new laws would result in better health care at lower costs. According to a recent study, health care costs may be going down, but not for patients.

New Jersey Supreme Court delivers important med mal ruling

In any profession, understanding and learning from past mistakes is crucial to preventing future errors. Health care is no exception. For this and other reasons, the New Jersey legislature passed a law called the Patient Safety Act in 2004.

The goal of the act was to give doctors and hospitals the opportunity to conduct their own thorough, internal investigations into errors without worrying that the results of their investigations could be used against them in a later medical malpractice lawsuit. While this is beneficial for health care providers and perhaps for future patients, it may be detrimental to patients who were the victims of the errors being investigated.

Medical malpractice lawsuit shows medicine errors can be fatal

Prescription and hospital-administered medicine errors are a significant problem in the United States. Because prescriptions and doctors’ instructions get passed down to nurses, pharmacists and others, there are opportunities for errors to be made nearly anywhere along the chain of command.

That being said, some medicine errors are as simple as a nurse administering a drug based on the assumption that a patient should have it. A mistake like this proved fatal at a Pennsylvania hospital in 2007. And last month, the victim’s widow was awarded approximately $1.5 million by a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

$7.4 Billion Medicaid Recovery

Breslin and Breslin, PA, Donald A. Caminiti, Esq., was one of six law firms selected by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey to act as special counsel to represent it in its lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recover Medicaid and other health related costs incurred by the state resulting from tobacco related illnesses.