Tuesday, May 8, 2007

$3.1M for cancer mistake: Jury awards damages to woman who sued doctors after wrong diagnosis

A woman with incurable breast cancer has won a $3.1 million malpractice judgment against two doctors in Plymouth and Duxbury who failed to diagnose the cancer before it spread.

A Brockton jury found that Duxbury internist Ulrike Kohler and Plymouth radiologist Justino Fernandes should have done more after Carolyn Ladd of Bourne found a lump in her breast in August 2002.

Doctors did not find Ladd’s cancer until September 2003, when she was 59. By that time it had spread throughout her body and was incurable, her lawyers said.

Ladd will probably die from the disease within five years, her current doctor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute said in court documents.

The Plymouth Superior Court jury delivered its verdict Thursday after 14 days of trial. The jury awarded Ladd $2.5 million in damages plus $634,520 interest.

Ladd’s lawyers were not available yesterday. The doctors’ attorneys did not return telephone calls.

Ladd also sued former Plymouth radiologist Ira Malter, who allegedly missed early signs of cancer in a mammogram from 2001.

On March 30, two days before the trial began, both sides agreed to dismiss the case against Malta, usually a sign of a settlement. Malta’s lawyer did not return a call yesterday.

Malta did not renew his Massachusetts medical license this year and is now in Pottstown, Pa., according to the Board of Registration in Medicine Web site. Kohler and Fernandes are affiliated with Jordan Hospital in Plymouth. A hospital spokesman declined to comment.

Ladd went to Jordan Hospital to have her annual screening mammogram in August 2001, court papers said. Malta said the test was normal, but an expert for Ladd, radiologist Donald Taylor, said the mammogram showed early signs of cancer that should have prompted more tests.

A year later, after Ladd found a lump in her left breast, Fernandes found her mammogram normal, court documents said. Experts for Ladd said Fernandes not only missed abnormalities but should have ordered another scan because one view of her left breast was unclear.

Fernandes failed to order a biopsy and Kohler, as Ladd’s primary care doctor, also should have sought more tests, Ladd’s experts said. Mammograms alone aren’t enough to rule out cancer after a patient finds a lump, the plaintiff’s experts said.

After Ladd developed a rash under her arms and on other areas of her body a year later, Kohler suggested a biopsy, court documents said.

Kohler did not perform the test until five days later. A Jordan Hospital pathologist found that Ladd had late-stage cancer. Kohler did not notify Ladd for a week, Ladd’s lawyers said.

Ladd probably would have been cured with chemotherapy if doctors had diagnosed her cancer earlier, experts for Ladd said in court documents.

In 2005, when Ladd filed suit, she was ‘‘responding well’’ to two experimental breast cancer drugs at Dana-Farber, a court filing said. However, her doctor there estimated she would survive two to five years, and court officials put her suit on a fast track.

source : www.patriotledger.com

Abortion Ruling Causes Worries, Confusion for Angry City Docs

The Supreme Court decision last week banning so-called partial-birth abortions is causing confusion and apprehension in the city's hospitals. At Bellevue’s Reproductive Choice Unit, for example, unnerved residents circulated stories about the hospital's sordid past, when floors were once full of women who attempted termination on their own. “I don’t think many of us know what partial birth is — it’s not a medical term at all,” said Kiran Chawal, a third-year resident there. “We’ve all looked it up to figure out what they’re talking about. It’s difficult to understand or interpret.”
The legislation of medicine is what angers doctors most, regardless of their political leanings. “It’s not a pro-choice issue as much as it is a medical issue,” says Chawal. “You’re telling doctors how to perform a procedure. Are they going to tell me next week that I can’t use a speculum to do a Pap smear?” Jessica Salas, one of the chief OB residents at Bellevue, doesn't perform abortions because of her own moral concerns, but she is nevertheless opposed to the ban. “I don’t feel like a lawyer has the right to tell me how to practice medicine,” she said. “It’s a sad day for practitioners in general. They’re telling us how to do our jobs and to do something that’s not safe for the patient.”

Even worse, the legislation is, by medical standards, imprecise. The term “partial-birth abortion” is an evocative phrase used by pro-life advocates, and by the Supreme Court last week, but it isn’t used by doctors, who prefer “intact dilation and evacuation” to describe the procedure. And the ban doesn’t outlaw abortion itself, just this one particular method, so it makes for complicated decisions should emergencies arise. “You want to be thinking about what’s the safest thing for the patient, not taking your gloves off and calling the ACLU to figure out if you’re going to be breaking the law,” said one attending OB/GYN at a large city hospital. “It takes away tools from doctors. Now we have to worry about criminal prosecution while we watch a woman bleed.”

And it's unclear how the ban will be enforced. The doctors we spoke to said there are ways around the “partial-birth” procedure that still allow for second-term abortions, but they agreed that those other methods are widely considered riskier to a mother's health. Because of that greater risk, some said they wouldn't shy away from the banned procedure in certain circumstances. “I would still do it,” said one resident at a large New York hospital. “It’s safer for the patient.” But others worried some doctors might stop performing second-term abortions at all, to avoid the issue. “It’s not a civil suit like malpractice,” said the attending physician. “It’s a criminal prosecution. A conviction means you’d lose your license and you’d never be able to practice medicine again.” —Janelle Nanos

source : nymag.com

Mister Edwards' neighborhood

For the presidential campaign of John Edwards, message and method are at crossroads on the street where “two Americas” meet | Jamie Dean

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— John Edwards is heartbroken. That's what he told the congregation at Riverside Church in Harlem, N.Y., during a recent Sunday morning service: "We have to break the silence about the extraordinarily deep divisions between the haves and the have-nots."

Five hundred miles south, next to a modest auto shop off a short gravel driveway, Monty Johnson says the silence between him and Edwards is deafening. That's ironic because the Democratic presidential candidate lives just across the street.

Johnson, 55, a retired farmer with arthritic knees, has lived in a simple home on Old Greensboro Road in the rolling countryside near Chapel Hill, N.C., all his life. Edwards and his wife Elizabeth bought 102 acres across the street in 2005, and last summer moved into their custom-built 28,000-square-foot estate, valued at $6 million.

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The Edwards estate isn't visible from the street, but county tax records reveal details of a lavish home belonging to the candidate who during the 2004 presidential campaign complained of "two Americas" under President Bush—one "that does the work, another that reaps the reward." The main living section has five bedrooms, six-and-a-half baths, and a library. A heated, enclosed walkway valued at $192,664 connects the house to a second wing that includes a basketball court, a racquetball court, a pool, a lounge, and offices.

Johnson wouldn't know about the house. In fact, he's never met his neighbors. Only approved visitors to the estate enter the long, winding driveway flanked by "No Trespassing" signs nailed to trees. Johnson hasn't been invited up, and though he sees the Edwards family drive by, they've never stopped to say hello.

But the silence was broken in March when a reporter asked Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, about a handmade sign nailed to Johnson's fence near the road. The sign reads: "Go Rudy Giuliani 2008." Mrs. Edwards unleashed on Johnson, saying he is "a rabid, rabid Republican," and calling his property "slummy."

Johnson was confounded. "I thought they were supposed to be for the poor," he told WORLD.

Though Johnson isn't rich, he's not exactly poor, and his 42 acres aren't slummy. (An abandoned house where he grew up does still face the road, but Johnson says he hasn't had the heart or money to tear it down.) Johnson's grandfather bought the property nearly 100 years ago. His father built an auto shop next to the road in 1955 and opened a small general store that served the rural community for years.

Johnson helped his father farm the land and run a successful landscaping and grading business before retiring. "We're proud of what we built," he says, climbing into a giant, gold Ford F-350 truck with a brown cowboy hat on the dashboard.

Driving down a winding road on the property, Johnson points out newly mended fences and freshly cut grass. He just planted a row of Bradford pear trees, and the yard is full of dogwoods and flowers in full bloom. Johnson and his wife live in a double-wide trailer near a pond that his father stocked with catfish 40 years ago.

Johnson says Elizabeth Edwards' comments about his property were hurtful, and that kids at the local elementary school now tease his 9-year-old granddaughter. Neither Elizabeth nor John Edwards has offered further comment. "Sometimes when you get where they are," says Johnson, "I guess you forget where you come from."

It would be hard to forget where John Edwards came from. The former North Carolina senator made the story of his humble upbringing a major theme in his 2004 presidential campaign, constantly reminding audiences that he was "the son of a mill worker." That thread is re-emerging in his 2008 presidential bid, and Edwards says his modest background drives his major campaign theme: helping the poor.

For Edwards, helping the poor hinges on expanding government programs and raising taxes. But his own rags-to-riches story doesn't hinge on government intervention. Instead, like the story of Monty Johnson, it hinges on a strong family and hard work.

Edwards was born in Seneca, S.C., in 1953 to Wallace and Bobbie Edwards, who lived in a tiny, three-bedroom rental home in a housing project owned by the textile mill where his father worked. Eager to progress professionally, Wallace moved the family several times before settling in Robbins, N.C., when John Edwards was 12 years old.

Though he didn't have a college education, Wallace worked hard and eventually earned a management position at the Milliken textile mill, solidifying the family's middle-class status. (Edwards remembers his father watching math classes on public access television at 5:00 in the morning to gain more work skills.)

Edwards emulated his father's dogged work ethic, taking hard jobs in difficult conditions: cleaning out ducts at the mill and laying carpet in mobile homes. After graduating from high school, Edwards enrolled at Clemson University in South Carolina. When a football scholarship didn't materialize, he transferred to North Carolina State University, working the 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift unloading boxes at UPS to fund his education. (His mother refinished and sold antiques to help with college expenses as well.)

Edwards graduated with a textile technology degree summa cum laude in three years, and enrolled in law school at the University of North Carolina, where he met his future wife. The couple married in 1977, allowing Elizabeth's mother to pay for a one-night honeymoon in Williamsburg, Va., since Edwards was low on cash and didn't believe in credit cards.

Edwards quickly became a successful trial lawyer and formed his own firm with a friend in 1993. He specialized in medical malpractice suits, winning massive judgments against hospitals and doctors, and becoming a multimillionaire in the process. (As a U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 1999-2005, Edwards resisted malpractice reform legislation.)

Though Edwards doesn't talk much about his father's work-driven rise to middle-class status—or his own work-driven rise to wealthy status—he does talk about something else he says motivates his emphasis on "eliminating poverty": his faith.

Edwards declined several interview requests from WORLD, but in a recent interview with beliefnet.com, the candidate said Jesus would be "appalled" about the 37 million people living in poverty in America, noting the New Testament's instruction to care for the poor: "And I think I as a Christian, and we as a nation, have a moral responsibility to do something about it."

In an interview on his website with Jim Wallis, Edwards called poverty-fighting "the Lord's work," adding, "our place is to lift up these people who God and Christ would have lifted up."

But if poverty-fighting is the Lord's work, the government is the tool to accomplish it, according to Edwards. To that end, the candidate has unveiled a detailed plan that includes: raising the minimum wage, raising taxes to implement a universal health-care system that could cost $120 billion a year, and encouraging legislation to strengthen unions.

Instead of awarding school vouchers to allow families with children to choose schools for themselves, including private ones, Edwards proposes creating 1 million new housing vouchers to pay for families to move to neighborhoods with the public schools of their choice.

All the while, Edwards seems to acknowledge that private groups are better at fighting poverty than the government. He's touted the work of teen pregnancy centers, private charities, youth baseball coaches, and one-on-one mentors.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Edwards praised the work of private groups and churches in responding to the disaster effectively. "The government was a mess responding to the hurricane," he said. "But the country wasn't."

Edwards has also acknowledged the indispensable role of churches in helping the needy. "There are a lot of places in America, that without faith-based groups there is no support for the poor," he told beliefnet.com. "And [the poor] would not survive without the existence of good, effective faith-based organizations."

Edwards calls his vision of government programs for the poor the out-working of his faith, but the candidate is less clear about the inner workings of his faith. Edwards grew up in a church-going, Southern Baptist home, but drifted away from the church in college. He says his faith came "roaring back" after the tragic death of his 16-year-old son, Wade, in 1996. He also credits faith in coping with his wife's cancer, which has recently recurred.

But while Edwards often talks about his Southern Baptist upbringing, he talks little about his current church involvement. He has attended United Methodist churches in the past, but a spokeswoman for Edwards said she doesn't know what church he currently attends.

After Edwards' defeat in his bid for the vice presidency in 2004, ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted that Edwards said he wished he had been able to talk more about his faith during the campaign. So he asked Edwards: "What do you want people to know about your relationship with God?" Edwards replied: "My faith is an enormous part of my life, and this is part of who I am. But I don't believe the answer for us going forward is to invoke the Lord's name 55 times in a speech."

Edwards' religious views came under scrutiny in February when he refused to fire from his campaign two bloggers with a history of viciously offensive writings about Christians. Among other things, Amanda Marcotte had used foul, explicit language to ask what would have happened if the Virgin Mary had used so-called emergency contraceptives. Campaign co-worker Melissa McEwan called President Bush's conservative Christian supporters his "wingnut Christofascist base."

Though the bloggers eventually resigned on their own, Edwards defended his decision not to fire them. He said he was "personally offended" by the bloggers' comments, but believed they didn't mean to denigrate a particular religion.

Less than a month later, when conservative Ann Coulter foolishly alluded to Edwards as a "faggot" during a speech, the candidate's response was different: "The kind of hateful language she used has no place in political debate or our society at large. I believe it is our moral responsibility to speak out against that kind of bigotry and prejudice every time we encounter it."

Edwards' campaign website prominently displayed the video of Coulter's speech, with the headline: "Shame on you, Ann Coulter." The web page asked visitors to "help us raise $100,000 in Coulter Cash" to "fight back against the politics of bigotry."

(Edwards has said he doesn't believe homosexuality is a sin, and he favors "civil unions" for same-sex couples. He also says he would repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays. Prominent leaders of the homosexual community have endorsed his candidacy.)

The next nine months will be a race for Edwards to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the fight for the Democratic nomination. He'll be relying on his universal health-care proposal and his strident opposition to the war, seeking to go further left and out-do other candidates in these hot-button areas. (He's proposed bringing 40,000 troops home now and withdrawing all troops in the next 12 to 18 months.)

In the meantime, back in Chapel Hill, Monty Johnson will be tending to his garden and supporting Rudy Giuliani, a candidate he says "lowers taxes and crime." Johnson says he's still willing to meet the elusive Edwards, who recently told a crowd in nearby Greensboro that politicians "need to get out here in the real world and find out how it really is."

source : www.worldmag.com

Protest against doctor swells

22 more women claim surgeon harmed them
Apr 14, 2007 02:30 AM
Robert Cribb
Tanya Talaga
Staff reporters

For the past 17 years, Frances Borrow has lived with a plastic bag constantly strapped to her stomach that collects her urine, the legacy of a 1990 hysterectomy during which her bladder was accidentally sliced.

Borrow is one of more than three dozen women who now say they suffered lasting physical and emotional injuries after surgery by Dr. Richard Austin, a Scarborough obstetrician and gynecologist.

They all wonder if they could have avoided years of hardship had they known about Austin's surgical complication rate, a string of malpractice suits against him and a pattern of patient complaints.

Three weeks ago, the Star published the stories of 15 women who had filed lawsuits and formal complaints against Austin for injuries such as punctured organs and incontinence.

Since then, another 22 women have come forward.

Most of them are considering legal action against the doctor.

We don't know if their cases were more complicated than usual, or if conditions in the operating room were less than ideal at the time of their surgeries.

Austin and his lawyer did not return requests for an interview.

In a move to combat the problem of medical secrecy, which has been the subject of an investigative series by the Star, the provincial government announced this week it will require hospitals to report unexpected death rates and infection rates alongside the wait times posted on a government website for procedures in five key areas.

Those figures should appear on www.ontariowaittimes.ca by April 1, 2008.

The government will also require each hospital board in Ontario to set up a quality committee that reports directly to it.

But the new provincial disclosure rules stop short of compelling doctors or hospitals to make the complication rates of individual surgeons public.

While data is collected on patient care, hospitals don't make the information public.

And public complaints about doctors are tightly guarded secrets of the medical profession's self-regulating College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Only 1 per cent of the complaints investigated trigger a college disciplinary hearing that is public.

The college received at least seven formal complaints against Austin between 1999 and 2006, the Star has learned.

To date, none has triggered a public disciplinary hearing, and Austin has an unblemished record on the college's website.

College officials say privacy legislation forbids them from commenting about individual doctors' complaint records.

Court documents provide the only public information to date about Austin's track record in the operating room.

The documents, filed as part of a $500,000 lawsuit by one former patient in 2003, show Austin had complication rates for total abdominal hysterectomies (the surgical removal of the uterus by an incision in the abdominal wall rather than the vagina) of 30 per cent in 2000, 30 per cent in 2001, 9 per cent in 2002 and 10 per cent in 2003.

A 1992 Ohio study of 160,000 hysterectomies found a complication rate of 9.1 per cent was the average for that operation.

Dr. Steven Jackson, chief of medical staff at Scarborough Hospital where Austin has privileges, said he could not say anything about Austin's record.

Dr. Hugh Scott, CEO and president of the hospital, also refused to comment.

"It is quite inappropriate for me to speculate on anything. But I want to re-emphasize on a go-forward position this hospital is very committed to safety and to quality," Scott said.

Concerns about secrecy and lax oversight of physicians in Ontario aren't new, but when Frances Borrow read the Star story on Austin, she was stunned.

Borrow claims an operation by Austin nearly two decades ago left her incontinent and in pain, shuffling from one medical appointment to the next in search of a way to repair a hole in her bladder.

She says several subsequent surgeries and procedures failed to correct the problem.

She hasn't been able to work or even leave the house for any length of time because she needs to be near a bathroom at all times."I'd be out in a mall or someplace and I'd see the pee on the floor and people would be looking at me. I just stopped socializing.

"I've been robbed since I was 49 years old. From then on, it's been a nightmare. I was a very outgoing, happy person. It was like my whole world turned around.

"Nobody should have to live that way."

In 1982, Christine Beer checked into Scarborough General for a tubal coagulation, a routine procedure to block her fallopian tubes.

Ten days later, the mother of two died of septic shock.

One medical expert who testified at a coroner's inquest in January 1983 described her as a "bloated green mess."

The coroner's jury ruled Beer died of natural causes, but the family didn't agree.

The family sued Austin in civil court.

After five years, they settled out of court for a significant sum of money, according to Beer's sister, Allison Shearing, who wouldn't disclose the sum.

When Shearing saw Austin's name in the Star article, it took her breath away.

"To see the other women. You get so angry. Some of it is the hurt from your own loss," said Shearing, an operating room nurse living in the Orangeville area.

In 2005, Austin operated on Joan Lang to remove scar tissue near her ovaries. Austin performed bladder surgery on her in 2003.

During the 2005 operation, Lang's bowel was perforated, filling her insides with waste material. Hours after the procedure, she was sent home.

That night she became violently ill and had emergency surgery the next day.

Her husband Norm remembers clearly the warning from her doctor: "There's a very good chance she isn't going to make it."

Joan Lang spent more than two weeks recovering in hospital.

"I can't lift, I can't run, I can't play with my grandson," she says. "I lost my hair, lost weight from stress. I'm still 100 pounds. I can't get up to where I was."

She is still in pain.

The college sent her a letter in February that said an investigation into her claim is proceeding.

Toronto lawyer Amani Oakley, of Stein, Oakley and Oakley, is acting for 19 of Austin's former patients.

"All of them are calling because they want to help other women," she said. "They want to support the others who want to make a claim."

Carole Fallon is one of them. She says her bowel was ruptured during a 1999 hysterectomy and she has been in excruciating pain ever since.

She asked both the hospital and the college about Austin and received glowing reports.

"I was told he'd never had any complaints. I just can't believe we aren't told about this. Now I read in the paper that there were lawsuits dating back to 1991. Why couldn't I know that? If you're told, you can make your own choice and decision."
source : www.thestar.com

Judge: Unseal records in Karoly case

But decision means contested wills remain sealed for now.
By Joe McDonald Of The Morning Call
Lawyer John P. Karoly Jr. on Friday lost a bid to keep all records sealed in a pending legal fight over the wills of his brother and his wife, killed in a February plane crash.

In a split decision, Northampton County Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden ruled the disputed wills are not public for now but denied Karoly's attempt to keep all related court papers secret.
Karoly has argued they should not be made public because they contain ''absolutely false and wholly fabricated allegations'' that could hurt his and other people's reputations.

The Morning Call, represented by lawyer Robert Clothier of Philadelphia, argues the documents should be public.

McFadden agreed in part, ruling the disputed wills will not be released for now while lawyers and experts examine them. The process could last months.

In explaining her decision, McFadden said they must be ''preserved for expert review and investigation.'' The reports from the experts are due by Aug. 15.

Peter Karoly, 53, a leading medical malpractice attorney and businessman, and his wife, dentist Lauren Angstadt, 54, were killed Feb. 2 in a small plane crash in Massachusetts. Two wills, dated 1985 and 2006, have been filed.

The battle over the wills is playing out in Northampton County Court because the couple lived in Bethlehem.

Two of Karoly's sisters, Kim Luciano of Kissimmee, Fla., and Joanne Billman of Moncks Corner, S.C., have filed objections, called caveats, but what they are contesting has not been made public.

McFadden's court order, obtained by the newspaper after the courthouse closed Friday, states they are public documents.

Karoly, who has said he is a beneficiary in the 2006 wills of his brother and his wife, said his sisters' objections are for financial gain and ''out of personal animus with the intent to embarrass, humiliate and harm'' him ''and his professional standing in the community and his professional practice.''

In rejecting Karoly's argument, McFadden said Karoly failed to ''connect the embarrassment he sought to prevent to any specific injury.''

''Additionally, there is no basis for concluding that an attorney is entitled to greater protection of his reputation,'' the judge wrote.

A lawyer familiar with the wills, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, earlier told The Morning Call that Peter Karoly's 1985 will liquidates his law practice and evenly divides the couple's estate among members of both families. A second will dated 2006, the lawyer said, gives John Karoly his brother's law firm while dividing the rest of the estate among nieces and nephews.

Last month, a Karoly half-brother, Michael Karoly, 21, of South Carolina, filed a complaint with Bethlehem police claiming the second will was fraudulent. The Northampton County district attorney's office declined to take action, saying it was a civil matter.

Neither John Karoly nor any of the other nearly dozen lawyers in the case was available for comment Friday evening.
source : www.mcall.com

Karoly blasts documents in will fight

Court papers filed over brother's estate have false claims, he says, and should be kept secret.
By Tyra Braden Of The Morning Call
Lawyer John P. Karoly Jr. says documents contesting what he claims is his brother's only valid will should remain secret because they contain ''absolutely false and wholly fabricated allegations'' that could hurt his and other people's reputations.

Joining Karoly in his motion filed in Northampton County Court were several others who say they are beneficiaries of lawyer Peter J. Karoly's estate, which includes his Allentown law firm.
On Wednesday, Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden held a hearing to determine whether all documents should remain sealed. She and the eight lawyers present, including Karoly, agreed no information contained in the court papers would be disclosed during arguments. Several of the lawyers cited case law to support their positions.

The Morning Call believes the documents should be made public and was represented at the hearing by lawyer Robert Clothier of Philadelphia. He told McFadden he was ''hamstrung'' because he had been unable to review legal briefs filed by the other lawyers.

Still, Clothier said, blanket orders sealing court files ''are considered very suspect.'' The newspaper, he said, has a right under the First Amendment and common law to have access to judicial records.

McFadden will rule later on whether to lift the veil over assets left when Peter Karoly, a leading medical malpractice lawyer who owned the now-defunct Allentown Ambassadors baseball team, and his wife, dentist Lauren Angstadt, died Feb. 2 in a plane crash in Massachusetts. Two wills, dated 1985 and 2006, have been filed.

Two of Karoly's sisters, Kim Luciano of Kissimmee, Fla., and Joanne Billman of Monks Corner, S.C., filed a caveat. Because it is sealed, what they are contesting cannot be determined.

But John Karoly's motion says he is a beneficiary in the June 2, 2006, wills and testaments of Peter Karoly and Angstadt.

Besides making false allegations, his sisters filed the caveat for financial gain and ''out of personal animus with the intent to embarrass, humiliate and harm'' John Karoly ''and his professional standing in the community and his professional practice,'' the motion says.

Further, according to the motion, making the documents public would ''adversely and irreversibly affect the privacy and reputations'' of the people involved.

Many of the allegations in the caveat, the motion says, could involve attorney-client privileged information, ''which is barred from public disclosure in any event.'' The motion also says pretrial and discovery matters are not judicial records and therefore not open to the public and should be sealed.

Before the hearing, The Morning Call received copies of the motions filed by John Karoly, six other people who have identified themselves as beneficiaries and Dr. John J. Shane, who says he is not involved in the dispute but claims the caveat contains an ''untrue reference'' to him that embarrasses and defames him.

One of the lawyers, who has asked not to be identified, said last month that Peter Karoly's 1985 will liquidates his law practice and evenly divides the couple's estate among members of both families. A second will dated 2006, the lawyer said, gives John Karoly his brother's law firm while dividing the rest of the estate among nieces and nephews.

A Karoly half-brother, 21-year-old Michael Karoly of South Carolina, filed a criminal complaint with Bethlehem police last month, alleging the second will was fraudulent. The district attorney's office reviewed the complaint and declined to take action, saying a probate judge should determine which will is valid.

Besides Shane, joining John Karoly in his motion to keep the documents sealed are Jason Azar and Joseph J. Karoly, as guardian for Alexa Karoly, a minor, all represented by lawyer Philip D. Lauer of Easton; lawyer John P. Karoly III, Joshua Karoly and Gregory Azar Jr., all represented by lawyer Gary S. Figore of Easton. Shane is represented by lawyer Richard J. Shiroff of Easton.

Lawyer Christopher Reid of Easton, who represents Billman and Luciano, noted at the hearing it would be illogical to keep the documents secret because there are 28 ''potential beneficiaries'' of Peter Karoly's will.

John Karoly Jr., of South Whitehall Township, cited numerous legal cases and repeatedly said there was no ''public interest'' in the matter. He also noted, as is disclosed in the motion The Morning Call received, that numerous people would be embarrassed if the newspaper gained access to the sealed filings.

As they were leaving the hearing, the lawyers declined to comment.

Peter Karoly, Angstadt and Michael Milot of Heidelberg Township died when Karoly's private plane crashed on approach to New Bedford Regional Airport, 60 miles south of Boston. Karoly and Angstadt lived in Bethlehem.
source : www.mcall.com



Every individual shall have access to competent health care and treatment regardless of age, sex, ethnic origin, religion, political affiliation, economic status or social class.

Health care services shall be available on the basis of clinical need regardless of the ability to pay and it shall be the responsibility of the Government to ensure that every person has access to essential health services.

Every patient shall be treated with care, consideration, respect and dignity without discrimination of any kind.

All drugs dispensed shall be of acceptable standards in terms of quality, efficacy and safety as determined by the Drug Control Authority of Malaysia.

Every individual shall have the right to prompt emergency first aid treatment from the nearest government or private medical and health facility.

Patients shall be interviewed and examined in surroundings designed to ensure reasonable privacy and shall have the right to be chaperoned during any physical examination or treatment, except in cases of emergency where such conditions may not be possible.

A child admitted to hospital shall, whenever possible, have the right to the company of a parent or guardian.


A patient have the right to a second opinion at any time.

A patient shall have the right to know the investigations conducted, the results of these investigations and a copy of the medical reports and have them explained. The patient shall also have the right to authorise in writing another health professional to obtain a copy of the same and inform him or her of what they contain.

A patient shall, whenever possible, have the right to be treated at a hospital of choice and to be referred to a consultant of choice.

A patient who has received adequate information about his or her condition during consultation shall have the right to accept or to refuse treatment.

If a patient's health professional refuses to allow another health professional to be called in, or breaches any other provisions of this charter, the patient shall have the right to discharge that health professional and seek the services of another.


Before any treatment or investigation, a patient shall have the right to a clear, concise explanation in lay terms of the proposed procedure and of any available alternative procedure. Where applicable the explanation shall incorporate information on significant risks, side-effects, or after- effects, problems relating to recuperation, likelihood of success, risks thereof, and whether the proposed procedure is to be administered by or in the presence of students. A patient may refuse any treatment or investigation.

A Patient shall have the right to know the identity and professional status of the individuals providing service to the patient and to know which health professional is primarily responsible for the patient's care.

A patient shall have the right to information regarding all aspects of medication, including :

The right to adequate and understandable information on prescribed and purchased medicines.
The right to the most effective and safe medicines. Safety must be ensured by the manufacturers and by legislative control.
The right to convenient access to medicines.
The right to choose among competitive products.

All medicines shall be labelled, and shall include the international non-proprietary name (INN) of the medicine, the dosage and how often the medicine has to be taken. In addition, the patient shall be informed about medication, including the following :-

The purpose of the medicine
The possible side effects
The avoidance of any food, alcoholic beverages or other drugs
The duration necessary for any medication prescribed
The measures to be taken if a dose is forgotten or if an overdose is taken.

A patient shall have the right to an itemized account after any treatment or consultation and to have this explained.

If a patient is in hospital or any health care facility, the patient shall,unless unconscious be consulted about any decision to discharge or transfer the patient to another facility.

Where it is appropriate to a patient's condition or treatment, the patient shall be given advice about self-care, drugs administration, special precautions, which may be necessary or desirable, and the existance of special associations, facilities, aids or appliances which may be of assistance.

A patient's consent shall be required before any procedure is carried out and in the case of a minor the consent shall first be obtained from the parent or guardian. If a patient is unconscious and delay would be dangerous, a doctor is entitled to carry out any necessary treatment or operation.

A patient's consent shall be required for the inclusion of a patient in any research. The patient shall be adequately informed of the aims, methods, anticipated benefits and potential hazards of the study and the discomfort it may entail. The patient shall be informed that he or she is at liberty to abstain from participation in the study and that he or she is free to withdraw his or her consent to participation at any time. To ensure that the informed consent is not obtained under duress or from a patient in a dependent relationship to the health professional, the informed consent shall be obtained by a health professional who is not engaged in the investigation and who is completely independent of the official relationship between the patient and the health professional. In the case of a child the informed consent shall be obtained from the parent or guardian.

A patient shall have the right to have the details of the patient's condition, treatment, prognosis and all communication and other records relating to the patient's care to be treated as confidential, unless :

authorised in writing by the patient
it is undesirable on medical grounds to seek a patient's consent but it is in the patient's own interest that confidentiality should be broken.
the information is required by due legal process.

A patient shall have access to appropriate grievance redressal mechanisms.

A patient shall have the right to seek legal advice as regards any alleged malpractice by the hospital, the hospital staff or by a doctor or other health professional.

A patient shall have the right to recover damages for injury or illness incurred or aggravated as a result of the failure of the health professional to exercise the duty and standard of care required of him or her while treating the patient.


A patient shall have the right to participate in decision-making affecting the patient's health :

with the health professionals and personnel involved in direct healthcare:
through consumer and community representation in planning and evaluating the system of health services, the types and qualities of service and the conditions under which health services are or were delivered.

Every individual shall have the right to seek and obtain advice with regards to promotive, preventive and curative medicine, and rehabilitation to maintain or regain good health and a healthy lifestyle.

Every individual shall have the right to an environment that is conducive to good health. This includes and extends to a healthy and safe work environment, a healthy and safe home environment, and a healthy and safe environment at the place where he gets his medical care and treatment

source : www.mma.org.my

Patients Rights and Responsibilities


Riverview Regional Medical Center endeavors to respect the rights of each patient, to recognize that each patient is an individual with unique healthcare needs, and to provide considerate, respectful care focused upon the patient's individual needs. The following reflects your rights and responsibilities as we join in a partnership with you to provide your care.

As A Patient Here You Have The Right To:

Reasonable access to care; treatment or service is respected and supported.

Care that is considerate and respectful of personal values and beliefs.

Express your spiritual beliefs and cultural practices, as long as these do not harm others or interfere with treatment.

Pastoral counseling.

Be informed about and participate in all decisions regarding care that includes, but are not limited to:

Consent for or refusal of treatment to the extent permitted by law, after a clear explanation of risks, benefits and alternative treatments have been provided;

Advance directives;
Withholding of resuscitative services;
Forgoing or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment;
Care at the end of life;
Pain management and personal comfort;
Research projects or clinical trials;
Continuity of care;
Restriction of visitors, mail, telephone calls, or other forms of communication;

Security, personal privacy and confidentiality of information;

Exercise your patient rights through a legally authorized person;

Family participation in care decisions;

Access the hospital's method of educating staff about patient rights and their role in supporting those rights;

Access to protective services;

Request a case review by the ethics committee regarding ethical issues involved in your case;

Seek a second opinion or consult a specialist at your own request and expense;

Translation services and audiovisual aids when indicated;

The identity of those providing care to you;

Review your hospital charges;

Review your medical records;

Information on hospital affiliation with other providers or interests;

Freedom from the use of seclusion or restraint of any form unless clinically necessary;

Clearly presented and understood medical information regarding your condition and treatment;

Voice concerns to hospital or medical staff without fear of reprisal or discrimination.

As Our Patient, It Is Your Responsibility To:

Provide (past & current) complete, accurate and timely medical and insurance information.

Take responsibility for your health care.

Ask questions and accept consequences for not following instructions.

Participate effectively in decision-making as it relates to health care.

Communicate changes in your health and/or condition to your caregivers.

Follow your caregiver's instruction or discuss with them any obstacles you may have in complying with your prescribed treatment plan.

Show consideration for others patients and health care providers.

Respect and follow all hospital rules affecting patient conduct and care.

Pay your medical bills promptly.

Keep follow-up appointments after hospital discharge.

Conflict Resolution
Patients may have questions related to ethical issues of health care delivery. When such issues arise, the individual may voice their concern to their caregiver.
Caregiver will direct these concerns to a key manager who will review the situation and seek assistance of the Ethics Committee as needed. The committee's primary function is to provide education and guidance on how to think about issues that have no clear consensus. The committee is not authorized body but advisory in capacity. The committee is able to influence the decision of the provider, patient or family only through recommended solutions.

Advance Directives
Deciding about your healthcare- (Advance Directives)
If you are 19 or older, the law says you have to decide about your medical care.

If you are sick or badly hurt, you may not be able to say what medical care you want.

If you have an advance directive, your doctor and family will know what medical care you want if your are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions.

What is an advance Directive?
An Advance Directive is used to tell your doctor and family what kind of medical care you want if your are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions. If you do not have one, certain members of your family will have to decide on your care.

You must be at least 19 years of age to set up an advance directive. You must be able to think clearly and make decisions for yourself when you set it up. You do not need a lawyer to set one up, but you may want to talk with a lawyer before you take this important step. Whether or not you have an advance directive, you may have the same right
to get the care you need.

Hospital Statement of Policy:
The hospital supports a patient's right to actively participate in the healthcare decision making process. Through education and inquiry about existence of an advance directive, the hospital will support patients as they communicate their wishes. These decisions by patients will enable healthcare providers, family and friends to know
what the patient's wishes are and what they would be if they were to become incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate those wishes. If you would like additional information regarding Advance Directives, please talk with your caregiver.
source : www.riverviewregional.com

ProAssurance says CEO will retire

Medical malpractice insurer ProAssurance Corp. said today that lawyer Stancil Starnes will replace company co-founder Dr. Derrill Crowe as chief executive.

Dr. Crowe, 70, has decided to retire as CEO, though he will remain chairman of the Birmingham company's board.

Starnes had been managing partner of the Starnes & Atchison firm in Birmingham until late 2006, when he became president of corporate planning and administration at Brasfield & Gorrie, the big construction firm. He will become CEO of ProAssurance, the state's No. 1 malpractice insurer, on July 1.

Crowe said Starnes, 58, has been a confidante for three decades.

"I have come to believe that I should step aside as CEO in favor of someone who knows the organization, but can see it with a fresh set of eyes," Crowe said. "Stan Starnes will bring a new vision to ProAssurance while retaining the core values that have made us what we are today."

ProAssurance is the nation's fourth largest provider of medical professional liability coverage.

source : blog.al.com

Patient's Rights - New York State Department of Health

As a patient in a New York State hospital, you have certain rights and protections guaranteed by state and federal laws and regulations. These laws and regulations help to ensure the quality and safety of your hospital care. To help you understand your rights, the New York State Department of Health developed this booklet.

Keep this booklet for reference. Review it carefully and share the information with family and friends involved in your care.

You have the right to participate in decisions about your health care and to understand what you are being told about your care and treatment. For example, you are entitled to a clear explanation of tests, treatments and drugs prescribed for you. Don't hesitate to ask questions of your doctor, nurse or hospital staff members. You have a right to know what's going on.

Every patient is unique, every hospital stay is different. It is important to know what specific rights apply to you and what to do if you feel you need help. Some rights and protections, such as those that govern when you leave the hospital, depend on receiving correct written notices and knowing when and where to call or write for help.

If you have a problem or if you don't understand something, speak to your nurse, doctor, social worker or patient representative.

They can:

help you get answers;
arrange special help;
make contacts with your family;
get foreign language and sign language interpreters; and
generally make your hospital stay easier.
About Your Special Needs

Each hospital must make available staff to explain or answer questions about your rights and to provide information on how you can protect those rights.

If you are hearing or vision impaired, or if English is not your first language, skilled interpreters must be provided to assist you. Translations and/or transcriptions of important hospital forms, instructions and information must be provided to you if you feel you need them.
But you must speak up and ask questions.

You can contact a patient representative before you enter the hospital to be sure your special arrangements are made when you get there.

If you have a question about any of the information in this booklet or feel that your needs have not been adequately met, ask the patient representative or other hospital staff person for further explanation or contact the New York State Department of Health.
source : www.health.state.ny.us

U.S. states are making it easier for doctors to say, 'I'm sorry' when something goes wrong

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: The problem was obvious to anyone who looked at the middle-aged woman: After surgery to correct a drooping eyelid, her eyelid was too high. After a second operation, it was too low.

Dr. Michael Migliori had the delicate task of telling the woman she needed a third operation. He began with two words that could make a defense attorney's head explode: I'm sorry.

"In this state," Migliori said in a recent interview, "that can be used essentially as an admission of guilt" if a patient files a malpractice suit.

Lawmakers in Rhode Island and eight other states are now considering bills that would allow physicians to apologize when things go wrong without having to fear that their words will be used against them in court.

At least 27 other states have already passed similar laws, nearly all of them in the past four years, according to the American Medical Association.

The wave of "I'm sorry" laws is part of a movement in the medical industry to encourage doctors to promptly and fully inform patients of errors and, when warranted, to apologize.

Some hospitals say apologies help defuse patient anger and stave off the lawsuits that have helped drive up doctors' malpractice insurance rates. In turn, say medical and insurance officials, doctors pass on those fees to patients, further raising the already high cost of health care in the United States.

At the same time, many doctors are trained or warned never to admit errors in case a patient sues.

Migliori, an ophthalmic plastic surgeon and lobbyist for the Rhode Island Medical Society, said his patient's drooping eyelid was fixed in the third operation and he wasn't sued. He said that surgical complications sometimes occur and that he doesn't believe he did anything wrong.

The surgeon said that he realizes an apology could come back to haunt him but that he considers saying "I'm sorry" essential to preserving the bond of trust between doctor and patient.

Otherwise, "patients think I'm hiding something, I must have done something wrong," he said.

Apology laws vary by state. In Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine and 11 other states, doctors can safely apologize to or commiserate with patients or their families about an undesirable or unexpected outcome, according to the AMA.

A law in Vermont exempts only oral statements of regret or apology, not written ones. Illinois gives doctors a 72-hour window to safely apologize after they learn about the cause of a medical mishap.

Providence lawyer Steven Minicucci, who handles malpractice suits, said displays of compassion are rarely useful in building such cases. But an apology and an admission of error could be key evidence. He opposes the Rhode Island legislation.

"I like to call it the 'I'm-sorry-I-killed-your-mother'" bill, Minicucci said. "If a doctor comes out and says something like that, he shouldn't be able to immunize himself against statements like that by couching it in an apology."

Trial lawyers also call Rhode Island's bill unfair and overly broad because it could bar some internal hospital reports on medical errors from becoming evidence.

Boston-based ProMutual Group, which insures 18,000 doctors, dentists and health care facilities in the Northeast, warns its clients against apologies that admit guilt — even in states that have laws protecting doctors who say they are sorry.

It distributes a tip sheet cautioning doctors against uttering the words "error," "mistake," "fault" or "negligence."

"We encourage physicians to apologize about the outcome, not necessarily for any error that may have occurred," ProMutual spokeswoman Nina Akerley said. "Apology is not about confession."

source : www.iht.com

An interview with Paxil Lawyer Karen Barth Menzies

Los Angeles, CA: Karen Barth Menzies is a partner of the Los Angeles based law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei, Goldman & Menzies and heads the firm's Pharmaceutical Antidepressant Litigation Department. An activist and consumer advocate, she has been involved with SSRI-induced suicide/violence litigation involving Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft for 15 years and she is now a leading legal authority on Paxil and birth defects. The first birth defects cases were filed in the spring of 2006.
Ms. Menzies, along with other drug product liability lawyers at Baum Hedlund, has seen first-hand the harm caused by defective drugs and the lives destroyed. She has testified four times before the government regarding the increased risk of child suicide with antidepressants, as well as adolescents and adults. "Put me out of business for the right reasons — warn [the public] about these drugs," said Ms. Menzies during her February 2004 testimony before the Food and Drug Administration's Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee. Ms. Menzies had no idea she would be this busy; as a consequence, she has gotten to know the drug companies very well indeed.

Why have you specialized in SSRI litigation?
KBM: I didn't mean to spend so much time and energy on the SSRIs--five years ago I thought that by now the drug companies would have been more forthcoming and forced to warn the public about the risks associated with their drugs; the FDA would have done its job; and that patients and parents would be informed about the real risks related to SSRIs.

It seems that every time I turn around, there is another side effect caused by SSRIs; people have not been warned about all of the dangerous and often lethal side effects of these anti-depressants, and most distressing is that they are harming kids, including babies. Only now, after the drugs have been on the market for over 15 years, is the public learning about the risk of birth defects. That is just unacceptable.

Who are possible clients/plaintiffs and how do they find you?
KBM: Unfortunately we have to turn away some potential clients. We can't help some people the way we want simply because there are so many people who have been harmed. For example, we can't help children who were on multiple drugs. We try our best to disseminate the information we have and try to raise public awareness: there is a huge portion of the population that has no idea of the risks involved with SSRIs. The drug companies have not been forthcoming to the public or the health care providers about all of the risks of their drugs.

Why not?
KBM: They are protecting their market share. They are generating profits and treating the medical profession like a money-making venture, at all costs so you have both patients and physicians desperately seeking information. They find our law firm on the Internet and they want to hear both sides of the story. Remarkably, I have been contacted by numerous doctors, trying to find out accurate information about the side effects of these drugs. I never thought a doctor would contact a plaintiff lawyer, asking advice regarding his patient! They are clearly not getting information they need from the drug companies.

Where is litigation now?
KBM: Each of the different side effects is in different stages. Litigation is winding down on withdrawal claims for Paxil: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) began warning the public about withdrawal symptoms in Dec 2001; therefore the many statutes on those cases have mainly expired, except for certain states.

As for suicides, the black box warning was issued in January 2005 and we are beginning to see, for the majority of cases, the two-year statute expiring, even though there is still new litigation. But from here on out, attorneys will have to consider including a medical malpractice claim against the physician, along with the failure to adequately warn from the drug maker.

Birth defects cases are in the early stages. The litigation itself has been going on for about a year. We have many cases on file and the numbers are growing.

Where is it heading?
KBM: Discovery will probably take a year or so. We need to establish what GSK knew and when. So far, the biggest problem is having them turn over documents in a timely fashion; they have many delay tactics.

Why can't the court order them to turn over documents?
KBM: We often do seek the court's help. We had to go to court again this week to help put pressure on the drug company to stop the delay. Their lawyers try to stall for as long as they can.

What is the point if they have to give you the documents eventually?
KBM: Perhaps GSK just wants to wear plaintiffs' attorneys down. Maybe they are hoping the plaintiff lawyers won't spend the time and money necessary to dig. But we've already dug trenches for the long haul - we have dug deep for many years now. They know we aren't going away.

We intend to expose what GSK knew and when it knew. And we will use whatever means we can, by the court and otherwise, to have them turn over the documents and witnesses.

How do you work with other lawyers?
KBM: The number of lawyers taking on birth defect cases is also growing. We try to coordinate our efforts and it helps when you are taking on such a huge company such as GSK -- to take on Goliath, the more help you have in a cohesive manner makes it more likely that we will succeed. If there are more plaintiff lawyers it makes for a more even playing field, there are more David's to help in the fight.

What can a SSRI victim do to get involved with litigation?
KBM: Do research and find an attorney who is actually litigating the case against GSK. Ask the people you are contacting the following:
Who is going to be my lawyer?
Are you litigating against GSK?
Have you actively filed any cases or are you sending them to other firms?

We don't accept every case. We carefully consider the facts of each case to see if it is viable for litigation purposes. The drug may have caused the problem but there are many variables that can preclude the claim. Medically it could be legitimate, but maybe not for litigation. However, we will let a caller know that there are other firms out there accepting cases.

What are you up against?
KBM: It is not so much from a litigation standpoint, but a public health and safety standpoint -- my biggest concern right now is that physician "opinion leaders" with industry ties are actively trying to convince doctors and patients that a pregnant woman is at greater risk of depression during her pregnancy and should take antidepressants despite the risk to her unborn child. It's unconscionable and disgusting to me. Women of childbearing years are big business for antidepressant manufacturers and women who are pregnant may be especially vulnerable given the emotional ups and downs that can be caused by shifting hormones. Thus, they are an enticing market. Look at any woman's magazine and you can see this is an important market for them. There appears to be a carefully orchestrated and concerted effort to counteract the concerns that have been raised by the studies showing a real risk. Drug industry apologists are trying to deflect attention off of the potentially catastrophic risks of cardiac birth defects and trying to shift attention to "the dangers of untreated depression." But there are alternatives and given the risk, most women would never risk their unborn babies' lives.

In 2004 Ms. Menzies was named Lawyer of the Year by Lawyer's Weekly, California Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer magazine and in 2005, one of The National Law Journal's Top 40 Under 40 for her "extraordinary achievements" and "impressive track record" for "stepping up her fight in the past few years, advocating that pharmaceutical companies should warn about the alleged risks of antidepressant drugs." In 2006 she was a Finalist for the 2006 Consumer Attorney of the Year Award re: Paxil Products Liability Litigation "In Recognition and Appreciation of How Consumer Attorneys Use Skill and Determination to Create a More Just Society for California Consumers."

Baum Hedlund has been representing victims of harmful drugs since the late 1980s. The firm started taking on SSRI-antidepressant cases 17 years ago and has been handling these types of cases continually ever since, longer than any other law firm in the country. The firm represented the widow of 1960's rock star Del Shannon and the family of comedian Phil Hartman in their antidepressant related death cases. Against great odds, attorneys at Baum Hedlund have prevailed in representing thousands of people harmed by antidepressants. Baum Hedlund lawyers fight vigorously for the rights of their clients.
source : www.lawyersandsettlements.com

Juries More Likely To Favor Defendants In Malpractice Lawsuits, Study Finds

Juries are more likely to favor defendants in medical malpractice lawsuits, in part because they have more resources than plaintiffs and in part because of the "social standing of physicians and social norms against 'profiting' by injury," according to a recent study, the Chicago Tribune reports. For the study, which will appear in the May issue of the Michigan Law Review, Philip Peters, a University of Missouri-Columbia law professor, examined 17 years of malpractice lawsuits. The study found that juries are more likely to provide defendants with the "benefit of the doubt" when evidence of negligence is in conflict, Peters said. According to study, plaintiffs win few malpractice lawsuits in which evidence of negligence is weak, and defendants win about half of cases that legal experts expect plaintiffs to win. Peters said that he conducted the study because Congress has begun to consider legislation that would shift malpractice lawsuits from civil juries to administrative health courts (Deardorff, Chicago Tribune, 4/17).

Medical Justice Celebrates Five Years Of Protecting Good Doctors Against Bad Lawyers

Although P.A.P.A. has made great strides in keeping the medical liability reform debate alive on both the state and national level, there is still much to be done before Pennsylvania and New Jersey tort reform becomes a reality.

Fortunately, Medical Justice, a P.A.P.A. strategic partner, has been effective in keeping thousands of physicians of all specialties from becoming victims of frivolous lawsuits. In some states such as Florida and Ohio, Medical Justice has sharply reduced the amount of targets upon which personal injury lawyers can prey.

This month, entrepreneur and board certified neurosurgeon Jeffery Segal, MD, FACS, and founder of Medical Justice Services, celebrates five years of relentlessly and successfully defending physicians against frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits-a defense that often includes taking the first punch.

With Segal's help, many physicians have begun to heal their ailing professions by taking off their surgical gloves and striking back against personal injury lawyers, unreasonable plaintiffs, and unethical expert witnesses who file frivolous medical liability lawsuits.

"The rise of medical malpractice cases has forced many doctors out of the operating room and into the courtroom," said Segal. "Win or lose, doctors who are sued for medical malpractice lose hundreds of hours to depositions, preparation, and time in court. In addition they pay a price in terms of their reputation and ultimately income. The impact goes far beyond dollars and cents as frivolous cases invariably cause a great deal of stress, anxiety, and depression. The ripple effects reach deeply into physicians' personal lives as their families are also caught up in the quagmire."

This is more than just theory to Segal. He endured the effects of just such a lawsuit, giving him an understanding of what many physicians in the country had already experienced. That frivolous lawsuit became the driving force that gave him an idea that, over the past five years, has kept thousands of physicians and their families from experiencing the same.

source : www.medicalnewstoday.com

If I think medical malpractice might have happened, but I don't really know, what should I do?

First, be aware of the statute of limitations. You may have a valid claim, but if you wait too long, the claim is lost even if it is valid. The general rule is that the claim must be filed within two years after the malpractice, or two years after you reasonably should have known there was malpractice. However, there are a number of tricky exceptions, so do not give up just because two years may have passed already. As a general rule, delay helps the other side more than it helps you.

Second, you can generally forget about evaluating the claim yourself, or trying to "work it out" with the doctor or clinic or hospital. Usually, the "real" decision-maker is the doctor's insurance carrier (if your doctor is even insured, some are not), and the doctor's attorney. These people are not paid to help you, or to be candid with you. They are paid to defeat your claim. You need an experienced professional to help you evaluate your claim. Without an attorney, the doctor's attorney and insurance company usually will not take you seriously.

Contact us, or any other law firm experienced in medical malpractice cases. There is no charge for an initial evaluation of your case. These cases are very different from other kinds of personal injury cases such as car accidents. Special rules and laws apply, and special tactics and strategies are important. If your case has any merit at all, an experienced attorney should be willing to sit down with you and explain all your options, without charge. Then you can make a full and informed decision about whether or not you want to go forward.
source : consumerlaw.com

Malpractice Mess

There's much more at stake in New York's never-ending battle for tort reform than the bank balances of bad doctors or greedy lawyers.

Doctors say multimillion dollar judgments in negligence lawsuits are pushing malpractice insurance premiums so high that some physicians are cutting the services they offer or are leaving the state. They want to restrict what patients can collect.

Trial lawyers don't want any limits on damages patients can be awarded. Such restrictions, they say, would be unfair to victims of medical negligence, some of whom might face a lifetime of lost wages and expensive medical bills because of their doctors' carelessness.

Both sides have valid points. But they and their allies in the state Legislature have been arguing back and forth for years, with little prospect for resolution.

Lawmakers would be wise to seriously consider legislation modeled after laws that, overall, appear to have worked well in California and about three-dozen other states. Such legislation would place caps on non-economic damages, like for pain and suffering, but still allow high awards to compensate patients for lost wages and the like due to negligence.

Indeed, a Government Accountability Office study found that obstetricians, internists and surgeons in states with such caps saw their malpractice premiums rise only a third as much as those in other states.

source : insurancenewsnet.com

Saugatuck lawyer named circuit judge

Tuesday, May 01, 2007The Grand Rapids Press
ALLEGAN -- A Saugatuck attorney with 20 years of practice in insurance defense, medical malpractice and other civil law has been appointed to the Allegan County Circuit Court bench.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Monday appointed William Baillargeon, who most recently served as a magistrate for the state's Workers' Compensation Board of Magistrates, to fill the post of retired Judge Harry Beach.

Beach stepped down at the end of 2006, leaving a term that expires in January 2009.

Baillargeon, who also previously worked as a senior trial specialist with the law offices of Paula J. Martin/CAN Insurance Co. in Farmington Hills, unsuccessfully sought the district judge appointment that went to Joseph Skocelas in April 2006.
source : www.mlive.com

Lawyer Becomes 'Go-To-Guy' After Helicopter Crashes

Wednesday, May 02, 2007 / ROBB & ROBB LLC

The family of a Louisiana man killed in a helicopter crash earlier this year recently retained aviation lawyer Gary Robb of the ROBB & ROBB LLC law firm in Kansas City, Missouri.

David Thibodeaux, 33, died when the helicopter he was riding in crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Feb. 12. The pilot, John Lancaster, 46, also died. The two were on their way to an offshore oil platform about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Thibodeaux's family hired Robb at the advice of their lawyer, Harry P. Fontenot Jr., of Sulphur, LA. "I did my homework," Fontenot said. "By his experience and by results, Gary Robb is the go-to-guy for helicopter crash cases in the United States."

Thibodeaux was a production operator for Wood Group Production Services and made $59,000 per year, according to Robb, who added that Thibodeaux was recently engaged to be married.

For his job, Thibodeaux would fly out to the platform, where he would stay for a week or two at a time before returning home.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the aviation crash and the findings are expected later this year. A lawsuit is likely and would be filed in Louisiana, Robb said.

The Eurocopter EC120 helicopter was equipped with a Turbomeca engine. Robb is familiar with the French manufacturer.

In 1995, the aviation accident attorney won two verdicts in Jackson County totaling $420 million for the deaths of two people following a May 1993 life flight helicopter crash near Cameron in DeKalb County northwest of Kansas City (Letz v. Turbomecca, 975 S.W.2d 155 (Mo. App. 1997); Barnett v. Turbomecca, 963 S.W. 2d 639(Mo. App. 1997)). A defective part in the Turbomeca engine caused the crash, according to the NTSB investigation. The awards were $82 million after appeals, according to Robb's Web site.

The family of the pilot operating that helicopter originally received $350 million, which was one of the largest aviation-related verdicts ever awarded in the country (Barnett v. Turbomecca, Circuit Court of Jackson County, Case No. CV93-24644). Another jury awarded $70 million to the family of a passenger killed in the crash (Letz v.Turbomecca,Circuit Court of Jackson County, Case No. CV93-19156).

Most recently, Robb recorded a $38 million settlement in late 2005 for the sole survivor of a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon (Daskal v. Aerospeciale, Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, Case No. A471961). Six people died in the crash.

Robb said it is too early to know whether similar results could be possible in the Thibodeaux case. "When a helicopter engine or critical system or component fails, it goes one way quickly - straight down," he said. "Helicopters don't glide, which is why many in the industry describe a helicopter flight as a bucket of bolts flying in formation."

About Robb & Robb LLC: Robb & Robb LLC was founded in 1984 by Gary C. Robb and Anita Porte Robb. Over the last 23 years, the firm has handled many precedent-setting, important, high-profile, and complex cases in the fields of aviation law, hazardous product liability, personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, premises liability, and trucking and transportation liability, including catastrophic automobile and bus accidents.

source : www.verticalmag.com

No-malpractice contracts test boundaries of medicine

If you want to see Ridgewood gynecologist Ruth J. Schulze, you'll have to sign a contract promising never to sue her for malpractice.
The veteran physician and a dozen other gynecologists in New Jersey require the contracts as a condition of treatment
Schulze sees it as the only way to control the rising malpractice premiums that have put some of her brethren out of business. But patient advocates and legal experts are troubled by the idea of asking patients to sacrifice their legal rights -- and they worry that the practice could spread.
By signing the contract, patients forfeit their right to a jury trial and agree to limits on pain and suffering awards and punitive damages. The contract blames patient lawsuits for "ever-escalating" malpractice insurance rates.
Schulze said most of her patients haven't balked at signing the contract.
"About 80 to 90 percent sign up and don't have a problem with it," said Schulze, a former president of the Bergen County Medical Society.
"Some people ask a few questions to understand what it is," she said. "Other people say: 'God, I hear what you're going through; let me sign.' Some people ask to take it home."
Patient advocates, however, say these contracts have no place in a doctor-patient relationship.
"They're asking patients to sign away their rights preemptively before they've even delivered medical services," said Laura MacCleery of Public Citizen Health Research Group, a Washington, D.C., patient-advocacy organization. "This is outrageous."
Gary Saperstein, a Teaneck lawyer and president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey, doesn't think the contracts will hold up in court.
"People are under duress when they're seeking medical care," he said. "I think it's unconscionable that they're trying to conduct business in this form and fashion."
Doctors pay less
The president of the company that insures Schulze insists the contracts are legally binding. Eugene A. Rosov said they are modeled after conflict resolution programs used in a variety of businesses.
In fact, California's largest health insurer, Kaiser Permanente, requires patients to agree to binding arbitration rather than a jury or court trial.
For physicians who have struggled as malpractice premiums skyrocketed in recent years, these new policies are significantly less expensive. OB-GYNs practicing in New Jersey paid $87,081 to $171,199 last year for regular malpractice coverage -- more than double the base rates four years ago that ranged from $41,391 to $77,983, according to Medical Liability Monitor, which tracks rates nationally.
Schulze's new policy costs her half of what she had paid. She refused to disclose the actual cost.
She is one of more than a dozen New Jersey doctors who have joined Obstetricians & Gynecologists Risk Retention Group of America Inc. (OGRRGA).
"This is a choice for physicians and patients," Schulze said. "It keeps premiums under control."
Two other physicians in her busy group, Sybil E. Duchin and Gail M. Sobel are also insured by the company -- and also require patients to sign a contract. They declined to comment.
Old Bridge gynecologist Robert Schaeger, another OGRRGA member, also declined to talk about the policy.
Schulze insists that switching to OGRRGA isn't just about saving money. The company requires extensive risk management -- independent review of medical charts, for instance -- which she said will lead to better medicine.
"We're going to tell them when their charting is bad, when they're not properly doing informed consent," Rosov said. "We're going to criticize record keeping. It's designed to make them question themselves all the time and challenge themselves to make them better doctors."
Outspoken leader
In North Jersey, Ruth Schulze has been the very public face of what doctors dubbed the "malpractice crisis." A respected practitioner who has tended to 2,900 births, Schulze has a clean record -- she was sued twice and won both cases. Yet her premiums continued to climb.
In 2003, Schulze was an eloquent leader in the campaign to curtail rising liability costs. She urged her colleagues to strike and march on Trenton to demand limits on malpractice awards.
The effort failed.
In 2005, she stopped delivering babies, a move that lowered her insurance costs but left Schulze and some of her patients tearful. She now practices gynecology part-time.
Schulze sees the contract she asks patients to sign as a way to "level the playing field between patient and doctor." If a patient she has treated for years declines to sign, she said she would consider still providing care.
By signing, patients agree to forgo their right to a jury trial and agree to binding arbitration. Pain-and-suffering awards are capped at $250,000. Punitive damages are limited.
In the event of a claim, the physician and patient each select an arbitrator, then jointly agree on a third. Experts in gynecology and obstetrics decide the case, not a jury. There are no appeals.
Arbitration's benefits
Arbitration eliminates the need for lengthy and expensive trials, Rosov said. Defending a physician costs up to $200,000, even when the verdict is in their favor -- the case in the vast majority of malpractice trials, he said.
If patients win an award in arbitration, attorneys aren't taking one-third or more of the money, as they often do in trial awards, Schulze pointed out. In arbitration, claims are resolved much more quickly.
But limiting a patient's legal rights raises many questions for patient advocates.
Robert Hunter, an insurance expert with Consumer Federation of America, considers arbitration "nowhere near as consumer friendly as a court and jury. It's very one-sided."
Lee Goldsmith, an Englewood Cliffs medical malpractice attorney, said an "angry" patient recently provided him with a copy of one of the contracts.
The 61-year-old Paramus woman's gynecologist had asked her to sign it.
She refused and found another doctor, he said.
"What disturbs me is that the physician seems more concerned with litigation than quality of care," Goldsmith said.
"Doctors are trying to intimidate patients."
Malpractice 'hoax'
Others question the very premise of the contracts -- that excessive payouts to litigious patients are driving up malpractice premiums. In a recent national study of malpractice payouts, Public Citizen found that payouts declined 15.4 percent between 1991 and 2005. In New Jersey, data show a 21 percent decline in medical malpractice payouts from 2001 to 2003.
"We call it 'the great medical malpractice hoax,' " MacCleery said.
At the Medical Society of New Jersey, the chief executive officer said he's not sure the contracts will hold up in court. But Michael Kornett said it's up to patients to decide if they want to sign.
"They do know that by signing the document what the rules of the game are," he said.
He is, however, worried these policies put physicians at risk. They are what is known as self-insurance pools or risk-retention groups. They are not licensed by New Jersey and not covered by the state guarantee fund, which will pay a claim on a doctor's behalf if an insurer becomes insolvent.
Without the protection, doctors are on the hook. And patients have no recourse if their physician can't pay.
"I applaud doctors for trying to stay in business, but they're taking on too much risk," Kornett said.
The state Department of Banking and Insurance is also warning physicians these plans limit their rights and protections.
In a letter to OGRRGA acknowledging its registration with the state, the department said the company hasn't met minimal capital requirements it requires of traditional insurers. The company doesn't have to -- it's headquartered in Montana, Rosov says, where the company has met its capital requirement of $750,000 -- a fraction of the $4.2 million required by New Jersey.
"The laws that apply to risk retention groups are much more limited," said Marshall McKnight, a banking department spokesman.
Risk-retention groups have grown rapidly across the nation in the last few years -- in New Jersey alone, three dozen have registered to insure physicians and health-care providers, state banking officials said. Owned by policyholders rather than investors, they emphasize profits less, Rosov said.
Not all require patients to sign contracts forfeiting their rights to a jury trial.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is concerned about the rise in these plans. In a 2005 report, it warned about "the potential for future solvency risks."
Schulze, convinced that the new policies will lead to fewer lawsuits and better medicine, is willing to take the chance.
Two years ago, she estimated that between one-quarter and one-third of OB-GYNs in North Jersey had either quit practicing or stopped delivering babies. Lower malpractice rates will keep doctors in business and attract younger physicians who currently find liability costs prohibitive, she said.
"When all is said and done, the analysis will come down to this: It's fair to all parties concerned and it is where American medicine should go," Schulze said.
source : www.northjersey.com

Big Isle doctors continue efforts for malpractice reform

WAIMEA, Hawai'i — Big Island doctors pleaded with lawmakers on Saturday to take action on medical malpractice reform after legislation on the issue failed to get approval this session.

Doctors told Rep. Cindy Evans, D-7th (N. Kona, S. Kohala), and others at an open panel that tort reform is needed to allow doctors to practice without the fear of lawsuits.

"Doctors are not saying tort reform will solve all the problems," said orthopedic surgeon Barry Blum, the Kona Community Hospital medical director. "We're asking that you allow doctors to practice without a big fat target on them."

Patients must have the right to recoup their losses and attorney fees, but Blum said doctors will continue leaving rural areas of the state and hospitals will struggle to recruit new ones without some protection against future lawsuits.

Kona orthopedic surgeon John Bellatti said tort reform will make a difference, but disagreed that medical professionals need to take the first steps, which was suggested by Evans.

"You are saying why don't the doctors get together for coffee and talk about it. Duh. We have talked about it," he said. "No, we want you to discuss it in public."

Evans said she voted against the tort reform bill in the Judiciary Committee because it was too simplistic and needed strengthening.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Tommy Waters, a trial lawyer, was also reluctant to spend time on it this session, Evans said.

She said a test case scenario needs to be added for instances of negligence or catastrophic injury.

"We have to define that test," she said. "I'm not about not trying to solve these things."

Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-10th (Lahaina, Ka'anapali, Kapalua), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, said he would have preferred the bill, even though flawed, be discussed at committee level. He said the legislation needs improvements.

"We want a bill that will actually do some good," he said. "We have to. People are dying."

Doug Hiller, an orthopedic surgeon with offices in Waimea and Hilo, said the lack of access to medical care is making the neighbor islands unsafe for residents and visitors.

"It's the responsibility of the state to create a safe environment," he said.

Currently there are no quick, reliable ways to get patients to O'ahu's medical centers, he said.

Those doctors on-call must be within 20 minutes of the hospital or face a $50,000 fine while often leaving their families and must carry the liability.

"And you do all that for free," Hiller said. "What kind of a moron would sign up for a deal like that?"

Correction: Orthopedic surgeon Doug Hiller has offices in Waimea and Hilo. He also said that there were no orthopedic surgeons on call at the time of a recent hearing on the Big Island. An previous version of this story contained different information.

source : the.honoluluadvertiser.com

"I'm Sorry" Laws Nationwide Protect Medical Professionals

Controversial Laws Exclude Doc's Apology as Proof of Liability in Malpractice Suits

f a doctor treating you or your loved one makes a medical mistake and tells you "I'm sorry," would you forgive and forget? Would "I'm sorry" help you heal from a tragic ending caused by a medical error? Some people believe just hearing an apology from a doctor can make a huge difference to the patient or loved one. Steven Minicucci, a Rhode Island malpractice lawyer calls it the "I'm sorry I killed your mother" law. A proposed law in Massachusetts would give doctors more freedom to apologize for medical errors without it being used against them in court.

You may have your own story about a medical error. There are certainly many stories in the media that shock us and make us wonder how these mistakes could happen by licensed medical professionals. A few years ago, my brother had back surgery. Six weeks later, he was deathly ill from a surgical device accidentally left in his abdomen that caused infection. He was rushed into a second surgery to remove the device.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported in 1999, that as many as 98,000 deaths in the United States occur each year from medical errors. According to the IOM study, 90% of the deaths resulted from failed systems and procedures, not the negligence of doctors. These findings helped prompt Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama to hit the pavement in search of making patient safety the centerpiece of medical liability reform. Their perspective was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on May 25, 2006. According to their report, studies show that negligence is not the most important factor in people's decision to file a lawsuit, but rather, ineffective communication between patients and providers.

This national shift in the health care system is in response to rising malpractice costs and the growing patient right-to-know movement. The old risk-management strategy where medical professionals deny-and-defend seems to encourage medical malpractice suits by making people angry. Now, at least 29 states have passed the so-called "I'm sorry" law, where doctors can apologize or express sympathy for medical mistakes without having to worry about the expressions being used against them in court. Saying, "I'm sorry" in many states will no longer be viewed as an admission of guilt in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

source : www.associatedcontent.com

Lawyer Sanctioned After Blowing Up at Process Server

Henry Gottlieb
New Jersey Law Journal
May 4, 2007
When a lawyer is served with a malpractice suit, throwing the complaint on the floor, ejecting the process server for trespassing and yelling "call 911" are possible responses.

But they're wrong, a Mercer County, N.J., judge says in a $403 sanction order against Robert Conroy, one of the state's leading health care lawyers.

Conroy was in his Bridgewater office on March 20, when Guaranteed Subpoena Service Inc. sent a representative to serve a malpractice suit by a doctor Conroy had represented in a complicated transaction.

But Guaranteed reported back to the plaintiff's lawyer: "Not served! Entity was evading service. Threw service at server, stating he was trespassing and would be arrested if he didn't leave."

Conroy says that's not what happened. He says the firm accepted service at the reception desk but the server barged his way into private areas of the office, like a dangerous intruder.

Even so, Superior Court Judge Paul Koenig Jr. found Conroy at fault and called the conduct, "ill-advised, unlawyerlike, and in my opinion, even outrageous."

"He chose to intimidate the process server, someone who works, you know, in close connection with the attorneys to serve court process and court papers," the judge said in an April 11 ruling. "Any attorney should not take such a position, however unhappy he is with the circumstances."

"He's a licensed attorney," the judge continued. "He has an obligation to act professionally. Throwing documents -- throwing court documents doesn't sound professional."

Conroy, of Kern, Augustine, Conroy & Schoppmann, is a founder of the state Bar's Health and Hospital Law Section and was counsel to the New Jersey Medical Society before the society took its work in house a year ago. For many doctors, his firm is the one to call for litigation and transactions.

Conroy has a reputation as a dogged litigator and he's showing why in this case. He says it's about an overzealous process server, not a lawyer acting badly. His lawyer, Meredith Stoma of Morgan Melhuish Abrutyn in Livingston, moved for reconsideration.

It all started when Princeton solo Glenn Bergenfield hired Guaranteed Subpoena to serve the complaint in Farmer v. Conroy, Mer-L-554-07. The suit alleges Conroy and his firm gave bad advice on a business deal, costing Princeton ear, nose and throat doctor Howard Farmer $310,000.

Stoma has filed an answer denying the allegations.

Conroy's receptionist accepted service of the complaint against the partnership on March 19, but Bergenfield requested personal service on Conroy, so the server returned the next day.

Guaranteed Subpoena President Philip Geron says in an interview that the server, whom he did not identify, sought out Conroy in the firm. When the papers were handed over, Conroy threw them back and threatened to call the police, and the server left, Geron says.

Conroy's firm is also one of Guaranteed Subpoena's customers. "We would do no less for Mr. Bergenfield than we would do for Mr. Conroy, and if the tables were reversed, we would have served Mr. Bergenfield the same way," Geron says.

"He threw the papers back at my guy, who was told to leave or he would be charged with trespassing, and he left," Geron says. "I talked to the server and he says, 'that's the way it went down,' but everyone is going to have a different story."

Indeed they do. Conroy says in a certification that there was no reason for the server to even be there because the firm had accepted service the day before. Even so, the receptionist accepted service again, and that should have been the end of it, he says.

Instead, the server, dressed like a security guard, strode down a hallway into private realms, barged into the lunch room, and went into the file room, receptionist Donna Ehrenberg says in a certification that reads like a narrative for the TV show "Rescue 911."

"I ran to get help while shouting that there was an intruder loose in the office," Ehrenberg says. "Fortunately, Mr. Conroy and several other male employees came to my aid. Mr. Conroy confronted the man and asked him to leave. The man refused and Mr. Conroy called out to me to call 911 and tell the police that an intruder was in our offices."

"Needless to say, we were all quite shaken by having some strange man running loose in the inner hallways of the firm's office," she continued. "A stranger should not be allowed to invade a private office even if he is dressed up like a security guard, especially in this day and age with the shootings and workplace violence that is going on."

Conroy says the process server threw the documents at him, not the other way around, and that the incident was caused by the server's "illegal trespass and inappropriate behavior."

He adds that the firm is very careful to prevent intrusion because its files contain health care documents whose security is required under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The service brouhaha came before Koenig because Bergenfield moved for a declaration that service had been effected, plus sanctions. Koenig granted both motions. He added Bergenfield's counsel fee of $350, the motion filing fee of $30 and copying and delivery costs of $23 to arrive at $403.

In a moment of self-effacement in his previous opinion, Koenig mused that he has made wrong decisions in the past, "and I may even be wrong about my opinion in this case as to whether Mr. Conroy acted appropriately. But I don't think I would recommend that anyone act that way."

source : www.law.com

Medical Malpractice - Huge Mistakes and Quiet Victims

Medical malpractice kills an estimated 80,000 people, and injures thousands more, each year, but only two percent of malpractice victims seek compensation. Learn about medical malpractice and what you can do if you might be a victim.

Clearly, more victims of malpractice should take action, if not for their own benefit, then to deter future negligence and wrongdoing on the part of healthcare professionals. Yet, a bad medical outcome is not always due to malpractice. How can you tell the difference?

Medical malpractice is medical treatment by a healthcare professional that is below the standard of care expected in that community and results in harm to the patient. Medical malpractice can include negligent conduct that causes harm as well as the failure to take necessary action. More specifically, there are three elements which must be present in order to legally establish medical malpractice:

· A professional relationship must have existed between you and the healthcare provider

· The healthcare provider must have acted below the standard of care of similar healthcare providers in the same community

· The substandard care must have caused harm to you

The first element (existence of a professional relationship) is pretty basic and is rarely an issue. Casual contact with someone who happens to be a healthcare provider, outside of a medical setting, does not constitute a professional relationship. In the same vein, picking a doctor’s name out of the phone book, calling and asking a question, does not establish a professional relationship.

The second element (breach of the duty of care) can be much more difficult to establish. In extreme cases, substandard care is obvious. Two examples of substandard care are amputating the wrong limb or leaving a sponge inside the patient after surgery. Other types of malpractice, such as a misdiagnosis, may not be so obvious. Some rare health conditions can be overlooked or misdiagnosed, and yet not be considered malpractice. Other health conditions should be obvious when healthcare providers follow basic protocol.

The first step in determining whether or not a medical professional has breached his duty of care to you is to see another doctor. If you suspect medical malpractice, you are advised to talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney because the attorney may be able to identify a qualified doctor to render a second opinion.

Much like proving medical care fell below the expected standard, determining whether or not the substandard care caused harm can be complicated. It may seem obvious that it has, and in some cases it is, but you will, again, need an expert medical opinion. In some cases, the negative outcome would have occurred with or without the substandard care.

You also need to establish how much harm was caused by the breach of the duty of care. For instance, failure to diagnose breast cancer will likely result in progression of the cancer, the need for more aggressive treatment, and a reduced likelihood for recovery. Some cancers caught early enough can be easily eradicated, with little or no future impact, but if left to progress can require extensive treatment. Some medication errors may be completely harmless; however, others can be life-threatening. Medication error can cause brain injury, allergic reactions, worsening of a condition, and even death.

Medical malpractice will not only result in physical harm to the patient but can cause a great financial burden to the patient. Lengthy hospital stays, unnecessary tests, incorrect prescriptions, etc. are just some of the contributing factors to medical bills that your insurance may not cover. Add on lost wages, and the financial impact can be overwhelming.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been injured or died due to medical malpractice, your should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today. In Washington and Oregon, the medical malpractice attorneys at Fuller & Fuller, have the experience to determine if you have a valid medical malpractice claim and help you through this difficult situation.

source : www.newswire.com