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Miami Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Tainted heparin leads to double amputation

On Dec. 12, a Florida appellate court upheld a negligence lawsuit against Holmes Regional Medical Center for failing to remove contaminated heparin from use after a drug company recall, which led to a patient's double amputation. The negligence suit was filed by the injured man and his wife.

The case involves a patient who underwent bypass surgery. As part of the surgical procedure, he was administered the blood thinner heparin. However, the drug was part of a manufacturer's recall several months before the patient received it because it had been contaminated. The patient developed a bacterial infection that resulted in the loss of his right foot and left leg.

Woman killed by medication error

Patients in Florida may be interested in learning more about a fatal hospital error reported in early December. A 65-year-old woman suffered cardiac arrest and irreversible brain damage after she was administered the wrong medication. She was taken off life support a few days later. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, during 2013, approximately 210,000 to 400,000 people died due to some type of preventable hospital error.

Researchers are still uncertain how many of these deaths may be attributed to medication errors similar to this particular case. The incident occurred at a hospital located in Bend, Oregon. The woman came to the ER two days earlier with questions concerning her medication dosage for brain surgery she recently underwent. According to the chief clinical officer with St. Charles Health System, the woman stopped breathing after an employee accidentally administered a paralyzing agent used in surgeries instead of the seizure medication she needed.

The risks and causes of stillbirth

The National Stillbirth Society reports that stillbirth happens in about one of every 160 pregnancies. A stillbirth is the death of a fetus within the uterus followed by the delivery of the infant after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women in Florida might be shocked to learn that most stillbirths occur before labor, so it is important that they understand the risks and causes of stillbirth.

Women who are most at risk of experiencing stillbirths are those who are at least 35, have not had adequate prenatal care, are malnourished, smoke, or abuse drugs and alcohol. African-American women are also at a higher risk having a stillbirth, along with women who suffer placental abruption or preeclampsia. Some common causes of stillbirth are insufficient nutrients and oxygen to the fetus, growth restriction and birth defects. Fetuses that do not grow appropriately or are small are at a higher risk of dying from asphyxia. Birth defects occur in 15 to 20 percent of stillbirths and could result from environmental, genetic or unknown factors.

ER staff may misdiagnose young stroke patients

According to one study, adults between the ages of 16 and 50 evincing signs consistent with a stroke are sometimes misdiagnosed by emergency room doctors. For this reason alone, Florida patients might find this study, titled Misdiagnosis of Acute Stroke in the Young During Initial Presentation in the Emergency Room, noteworthy.

Among the findings of the study, 14 percent of the young patients reviewed were misdiagnosed with alcohol intoxication, vertigo, migraine, seizure and an inner ear disorder, where 'young patients" refers to individuals between the ages of 16 and 50. It was not until after these patients were released from the emergency room that they were diagnosed with having suffered a stroke. The failure to diagnose meant that the young adults missed the opportunity to receive time-sensitive treatment, which can be vital for stroke victims.

How is Erb's palsy treated?

As symptoms of Erb's palsy are observed in a newborn baby, a parent may worry about the long-term implications for their child. It is helpful for Florida parents to understand that most newborns diagnosed with this condition recover without much special treatment. Frequent examination by a doctor is important to evaluate recovery of the nerves. This process can be slow due to the rate at which nerves typically grow.

The most common treatment used for Erb's palsy patients is daily physical therapy. An affected arm may be difficult for a baby to move, making it important for parents to help in keeping muscles and joints functioning and fit. Instruction in proper exercises is provided so that a parent can continue to work with their child multiple times per day to maintain the range of motion in the affected limb.

Cancer diagnosis and concerns

A Florida resident dealing with a belated diagnosis of cancer may wonder why such an issue might be missed in early stages. An understanding of cancer diagnostics may be helpful. Expert insight is typically needed as cell samples or tissues are examined for clues. Microscopic examination is common, but lab tests may also be helpful in identifying cancer.

DNA and RNA provide clues to health care providers as they evaluate whether cancer is an issue. In addition to identifying the presence of cancer, these cell proteins can help in determining appropriate options for treating a patient's cancer. Cell testing may also identify additional diseases in patients. The detection of a lump alone does not mean that an individual has cancer. It is through these lab tests and microscopic studies that cancer is typically confirmed. It is also through such tests that cancer may be eliminated as a consideration due to discovery of an infection or issue that might cause a cancer-like growth.

The parties who can be held liable for birth injuries

When parents consider filing medical malpractice claims for a birth injury suffered by their child, they might not realize that doctors are not the only ones who could be held responsible. In Florida, the anesthesiologists, nurses, medical facilities and pharmaceutical firms may also be held liable. When they are named as defendants in a medical malpractice lawsuit, they could be held liable for the negligent actions that caused those birth injuries.

However, the medical facilities in which the health care professionals practice could be held vicariously liable for the employees' negligent actions. Under the respondeat superior legal doctrine, employers might be held accountable for workers' negligent actions if the workers were performing within the bounds of their employment at the time of the incidents. This doctrine does not apply, however, when the medical professionals are regard as independent contractors instead of employees.

What is Erb's palsy?

Erb's palsy is a type of brachial plexus palsy most frequently caused by a baby's neck being strained too far in one direction during birth. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves located at the base of a child's skull near the neck. Children in Florida who suffer from Erb's palsy will have chronic weakness in their arm, hand and shoulder and may suffer loss of movement, as the brachial plexus controls nerves going to the upper limbs.

Erb's palsy occurs in one or two of every 1,000 births on average. The condition can range from more mild forms from which the child is likely to recover through physical therapy to severe forms which occur when the nerve is torn from the spine. In especially severe cases, partial or total paralysis of the affected arm may result.

Types of surgical errors and rate of occurrence

Some of the scariest types of medical errors occur during surgery for Florida patients. These are wrong-procedure, wrong-site and wrong-patient errors. These occurrences, while rare, are an indication of serious safety issues in a medical facility and are often referred to as "never" events because the errors should never happen.

A wrong-procedure error occurs when a patient goes in for surgery but the procedure that the surgeon completes is not the one that is planned. With a wrong-site error, a surgeon operates on the wrong area of a patient;, with a surgeon operating on the wrong part of the spine being one example. A wrong-patient error happens when a surgeon completes a procedure on a patient for whom the procedure was not intended, possibly because the patients have similar names.

Health care facility liability in Florida

Florida residents may benefit from understanding more about the provisions concerning the liability of health care facilities, as described by the state's 2014 statutes. Florida law states that all of these facilities, including ambulatory surgical centers and hospitals, are liable for failing to exercise due care in fulfilling their duty to maintain a competent medical staff and ensure comprehensive risk management. The process for hiring medical personnel is to consist of a judicious selection after conducting a thorough review.

Some of the duties health care facilities are responsible for upholding include implementing a protocol in writing that governs the process for selecting new medical personnel. These facilities are also required to conduct periodic reviews of the treatment and medical care that each staff member provided to their patients. In addition, facilities are required to have a comprehensive risk management program in place that complies with the appropriate requirements corresponding with its scope of services, location, architecture, size and other relevant characteristics.