Posts Tagged ‘catastrophic injury’

Child Safety Tips: As mercury goes up, so do safety risks for kids!

June 2, 2010

By picpoke.com

Yes, it is really getting hot out there this week!!!  Coming from Florida to DC last year, I thought “OK, so it will not get nearly as hot up here, or at least not as early in the summer.”  Yes, I was wrong.  This thought brought me to thinking about some of the fun things to do in the summer, but also the dangers for our little ones during this time if we are not extra careful.  Lo and behold, I found this article today, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News and reprinted by the Kansas City Star:

Emergency-room professionals have their own name for the long, lovely, lazy days that kids look forward to in summer: trauma season. Because that’s when hospitals see a spike in drownings and heat-related accidents.

The article discusses several myths and related facts associated with those myths.  Here are a few samples from the article:

MYTH: Pool parties are safe as long as adults are around.

FACT: Many drownings happen when adults are close by. The problem is too much commotion. The key is to have a designated adult watching the water because that is where the danger is. The pool should be free of excess toys that can block the view of the water.

MYTH: Floaties keep little ones safe in the water.

FACT: Floaties are designed for fun, not safety. They give a false sense of security, can deflate and can slip off.

MYTH: The kids will be fine in the pool for the short time it takes to answer the phone or get a cold drink.

FACT: In a minute, a child can go under water. In two or three minutes, the child can lose consciousness. In four or five, the child could suffer irreversible brain damage or die. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death for children 1 to 14 years old, second only to car and transportation-related accidents.

The article states several other myths and facts, which include the hazards of leaving children unattended in cars and car seats, as well as sun exposure and dehydration.  We encourage you to read the article in its entirety.  Let’s all have a safe summer out there, please!!

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Florida’s doctor discipline system not tough enough, critics say

May 30, 2010

As a Florida-licensed attorney who spent 15 years working in consumer justice law firms in the ‘Sunshine State,’ I keep a watchful eye on trends and developments within various personal injury practice areas in Florida.  There is currently a real, legitimate concern regarding the system that is responsible for disciplining doctors who are licensed to practice medicine in Florida.  The Orlando Sentinel recently published an article how some believe there is much to be desired when it comes to how the  Florida Department of Health handles these matters.  

Consumer group Public Citizen last month ranked Florida the eighth most-lenient in the nation for disciplining doctors. The ranking stems from the number of serious actions per 1,000 doctors last year, when the state revoked the licenses of 94 and suspended 18 others. The toughest state disciplined doctors at rates three times as high. The trend has been true for a decade, the group said.

Critics contend the state does not act fast enough or toughly enough against the small share of practitioners accused of substandard care, negligence, crimes or improper behavior. Too often, they say, the state lets professionals such as Lan continue practicing while officials probe allegations of crimes or serious violations and injuries.

Regulators dismiss 90 percent of complaints that patients or others file against practitioners, more than 95 percent of those against doctors. When action is taken, the state rarely imposes serious punishments, such as revoking or suspending licenses.

There is ‘the other side’ of the story.  According to the article, some of the advocates for the way the system works take the following position:

State officials and some attorneys defend the system and say the criticisms are overstated. They say any system can be improved, but contend the state focuses on protecting the public from professionals who commit the most serious wrongs, and demands remedial training for professionals who make errors.

“I don’t see the evidence to support [the criticism]. We believe we are doing a good job,” said Lucy Gee, the health department’s director of medical quality assurance.

Gee said the process moves deliberately so it can be thorough. Cases remain secret because laws aim to keep baseless complaints from becoming public and unfairly tarnishing professionals, she said.

What about the doctors and individuals within the medical profession that repeatedly cause harm to patients or are charged with serious crimes (felonies) but are permitted to continue practicing medicine?  What about these same individuals within the profession, who do not receive ANY form of discipline whatsoever, or are allowed to continue practicing, while the investigation against them is pending. Here are just a few examples of such real world cases:

Dr. Stuart F. Tillman, a Tallahassee anesthesiologist arrested in July and charged with soliciting sex online from a police officer posing as a girl of 14.

Dr. Joseph M. Hernandez, formerly of Fort Lauderdale, who was arrested in Lake City in February and charged with trafficking narcotic pain pills and prescribing drugs for monetary gain. In 2006, records show the state banned him from doing surgery and temporarily suspended his license because his vision was severely impaired. In 2007, he was fined $5,000 for leaving part of an IV tube in a patient’s chest.

Dr. John N. Mubang, an internist in the Tampa suburb of Seffner who was arrested and charged in July 2008 with drug trafficking and prescribing controlled substances for monetary gain.

All three have pleaded not guilty, with trials pending. Hernandez and Mubang are practicing, according to their offices. Hernandez declined to comment. Mubang and Tillman could not be reached for comment, despite calls or messages left at their offices.

What does this say about the system that disciplines doctors in Florida?  Sure, there are many great doctors in Florida, but for the ones who put their patients’ lives at risk (through negligent treatment or otherwise) or are charged with serious crimes that may have an impact on their practice/medical license, the question remains: Would YOU want to have a surgical procedure performed by a doctor that has a criminal investigation pending against him or her that may land them in jail? I suspect you would prefer your doctor to be completely focused on your surgical procedure and not thinking about other ‘outside distractions.’  Shouldn’t there be additional aggressive safeguards in place that will IMMEDIATELY prevent the medical provider from committing more harm?

We leave you with this: Yes, emergency suspensions were put into effect 248 times in 2009.  However, compare that with the approximate 24,000 complaints that were filed against doctors and other members of the medical profession the same year, by both individuals and other agencies.  Are we really to believe that only 248 of those 24,000 cases required emergency suspension of one’s practice…??

IV infiltration leads to $1.5 million verdict when patient loses thumb.

May 29, 2010

Recent news from Georgia (where the state’s cap on non-economic damages was recently overturned): A patient, Johnnie Jackson, age 47, was awarded $1.5 million for pain and suffering in addition to recovery of his medical expenses, for injuries he sustained when delay in treating an infiltration of his IV ultimately led to the loss  of his thumb.

Mr Jackson presented to Coffee Regional Medical Center for complications resulting from a pancreatic condition on April 30, 2005. Mr. Jackson had a known history of diabetes and chronic pancreatitis.

Upon presentation, a nurse administered Phenergan and Demerol through an IV, which had been inserted into Mr. Jackson’s right wrist. At approximately 3:00 a.mm on the morning of May1, Mr. Jackson complained of swelling and pain at the site of the IV causing it to be removed 45 minutes later.

After nine hours of complaints, Mr. Jackson was examined by his physician, who found that the medications had leaked into the surrounding tissues. Mr. Jackson’s physician elevated the arm in a failed attempt to reduce the swelling. On the afternoon of May 2, Mr. Jackson was transported to the South Georgia Medical Center for advanced treatment.

A pretrial order revealed that Mr. Jackson was transported to  the medical center for the treatment of a blood clot that was found near his thumb.  During Mr. Jackson’s 24 day admission at the medical center, he underwent a multiple surgeries by an orthopedic surgeon, who was unable to salvage Mr. Jackson’s thumb.

Mr. Jackson’s attorney, Laura Shamp, filed suit against Coffee Regional and five treating nurses in 2007 alleging that Mr. Jackson was unable to work due to frequent hospitalizations caused by diabetes and pancreatitis, but that:

…the hospital gave him a ‘job’ of living without his thumb for the rest of his life, so he should be paid for it.

“Their defense was that the IV did not infiltrate and that even if it did, that was not what caused the loss of his thumb,” said Shamp. “They said it was simply that strange things happen and this was a coincidental blood clot that ended up contributing clotting at the same time.”

With the plaintiff’s permission, the named nurses were dismissed with the hospital remaining as the sole defendant. The Coffee County jury awarded Mr. Jackson $53,026 for medical expenses and $1.5 million for pain and suffering.

Actor Dennis Quaid sues drug maker

May 27, 2010

Last month, we reported in a blog through our website, how actor Dennis Quaid is involved as a patient advocate, after his newborn twins nearly lost their lives back in 2007, from a medical error that could have very easily been prevented.  Put simply, the precious twins were given two doses of Heparin instead of Hep-lock (an anti-coagulant medication widely used for children).  Why is this significant?  Heparin is a drug one thousand times stronger than what the twins were supposed to have received.

Earlier this week, it was reported in the Contra Costa Times, that Mr. Quaid has filed a lawsuit on behalf of his children.  As far as the extent of his children’s injuries, the article states “The children suffered internal injuries and shock, but the extent of what happened to them will probably not be known for years, according to the suit.”  The lawsuit alleges that vials of the 10,000 unit Heparin should have been recalled previous to what happened to his children, because other infants had already died from similar medication errors.  The suit also claims that the company responsible for making the drug, Baxter Healthcare, “was obligated to warn healthcare providers of the previous medication mistakes.”

We wish the best for the Quaid family, and hope that the discovery in this case shines a light on not only finding out exactly what happened in this case, but also makes information available that may be able to save the lives of other children from future similar medical errors.  We will continue to monitor the course of this case.

Allergic to Dairy? Read Before Eating Those Sunflower Seeds!

May 19, 2010

Ryt-Way Industries, LLC, a food packaging company, is immediately recalling some of the sunflower seed products that they have packaged, as they contain undeclared dairy ingredients.  The recall, which includes products that have been distributed nationwide, is a voluntary recall, and is being done in conjunction with the FDA:

Ryt-way Industries LLC of Lakeville, MN is voluntarily recalling select BIGS ® Original Salted & Roasted Sunflower Seeds because they may contain dairy ingredients that were not declared on the packaging.  The product is packaged in 5.35oz plastic bags with BEST BY Dates of 30MAY2011 and 31MAY2011 with an individual bag UPC code 896887002196.  People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to dairy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

It was discovered that the sunflower seed packages at issue, as manufactured by BiGS, do not disclose the presence of dairy within them.  Ryt-Way goes on in their announcement to instruct consumers that are allergic to dairy how to handle this situation, should they be in possession of these recalled items:

Consumers who are allergic to dairy and who have purchased the recalled products are advised not to consume the product and are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.  Consumers with questions may contact 1-877-722-7556

So, if you are allergic to dairy and/or have a sensitivity to dairy products, and love those sunflower seeds, please check your home for these recalled products.  As the weather gets warmer and we try to snack on “healthier” items to get that “younger figure back for summer”, don’t let this recall pass you by!

Semi-Paralyzed from a Steroid Injection earns FL Woman $36 Million

May 14, 2010

Kathleen Ramey presented to Dr. Andrew Weiss, a pain management specialist, for a steroid injection in September of 2000 after having been in a motor vehicle collision. Believing she would leave pain free and on the road to recovery, Ms. Ramey got anything but that result.

The injection left Ms. Ramey with a four inch hole in her spinal cord, which according to the report of The Palm Beach Post, left Ms. Ramey suffering constant pain and with a disfigured right arm. A Palm Beach County jury awarded Ms. Ramey $23.6 million; her husband was awarded an additional $13 million in damages.

Apparently, Dr. Weiss did not put up a very strong defense. In fact, he was not even at the trial. Moreover, he did not have any legal representation on his behalf in the courtroom.

Why in the world would that be, and where was he? The Palm Beach Post advises, “He is in the midst of serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2006 to four counts of illegally distributing oxycodone. His state medical license has been revoked.”

I’ve heard of ‘paper judgments’ before, but this story is truly tragic on so many levels. One of those is not the incarceration of Dr. Weiss. Though Ms. Ramey won her case, it could be a long time (if ever) before she sees any compensation for her horrible injuries.

Infant Safety – drop-down crib hazard; CPSC issues recall

May 11, 2010

In February of this year, we reported on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) commitment to crack-down on the defective crib issues that have resulted in multiple deaths of infants on our blog site.  A report just released by the CPSC, which involves a comprehensive review of crib-related fatalities since January 2000 revealed the tragic statistics:  32 deaths since January 2000 and hundreds of related instances related to drop-side detachments in cribs:

In addition to the 32 deaths the CPSC staff associated with the drop-side detachments, CPSC has received an additional 14 reports of infant fatalities due to entrapment in cribs that could be related to a drop side. The information obtained was insufficient for staff to conclusively determine whether or not the drop side was involved. Of the 32 deaths that were analyzed, some occurred in cribs where the drop side detached without caregivers noticing the detachment, while some other deaths occurred after a consumer tried to repair the detached drop side, but the repair ultimately failed.

As a result, the CSPC is issuing a voluntary recall of ALL drop-side cribs, effective June 1, 2010. There will be new improved mandatory standards for cribs as well.  The CPSC announcement also provides cautions regarding older cribs and reminds parents to not use cribs with broken, missing of loose parts.

Let’s hope these new standards save infants from injuries and death!

Another Child Dies. Will DC EMS Improve Now?

May 8, 2010

We reported back in mid-March on our blog site on the issues surrounding an investigation of the District of Columbia’s Emergency Medical Services. Since then, DC EMS has represented that they have made positive changes to their department.  In a headline article posted on MSNBC.com at the end of this past week, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief, Dennis L. Rubin, represented positive changes are being made:

Rubin said he is working to drive home a key point: providers never decline transport.

His staff is developing a “patient’s bill of rights” to be posted in every ambulance and producing a new  training video underscoring that message. In addition, the policy has been expanded to cover instances in which a patient refuses to be transported, including the requirement that responders get an OK from a supervisor and have a witness, such as a police officer, confirm the patient’s decision.

We certainly hope this is the case.  Our prior post cited a troubling report from April 2009, wherein it was found that there were serious training and performance issues relating to DC EMS.  The article posted at the end of  this past week also details another tragic event that unfolded after the report in April 2009:

Stephanie Stephens died after paramedics refused to take her to the hospital Feb. 10 in the first of two visits to her home after she experienced breathing problems. Her death has prompted a rare criminal investigation and raised questions about ambulance policies in Washington and emergency care for children nationwide.

After the paramedics recommended she be taken into a bathroom to inhale steam from a running shower, Stephanie’s family called back hours later and an EMS crew took her to a hospital. The child died from pneumonia the next day.

Anyone have issue with this?  How many tragedies must we endure before there is ZERO TOLERANCE for such costly delays?!  The citizens and guests of DC are dependent upon DC EMS to provide assistance immediately; not to give bad medical advice, try to play doctor, or decide that they will just simply not transport someone.  Read the report from last year cited above, along with the relevant articles.  Then, you decide.  I wonder what Stephanie’s family thinks…

Facts You May Not Know, but Should!- Hidden Dangers of Trampolines

April 30, 2010

Well, it looks like it will be 80 plus degrees and sunny outside for the first weekend of May here in the Nation’s Capital.  This means lots of outdoor activities; pool parties, lawn games, playing in the park…some will even have trampolines on their property, with the neighborhood kids coming over to use them.  CBS News reports on some of the hidden dangers of trampolines, as posted in an article today:        

Last year alone, an estimated 98,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for trampoline related injuries. 82 percent of them were children under the age of 15.

Trampoline safety expert Marc Rabinoff, of Metropolitan State College of Denver, Colo., calls trampolines “quad machines” because they can turn you into a quadriplegic in four seconds.”

Warnings on trampolines say no flips, no jumpers younger than 6 and only one jumper at a time, but those warnings are often ignored. Koeppen pointed out videos from YouTube that show children jumping and falling from trampolines.

Rabinoff says people don’t realize trampolines are a danger in their backyard. Rabinoff demonstrated to Koeppen how jumping with more than one person can throw you off.

The article goes on to state that ‘safety nets’ placed around the trampoline can reduce accidents by up to 50%.  However, they are not required by law.  In addition, and take note – insurance companies may not necessarily cover trampoline accidents on their policies.  Coming from Florida last year, where I practiced plaintiff personal injury law, I can tell you that I was contacted on more than one occasion by families who had a loved one injured as a result of a trampoline accident.  Each time I would check the homeowner’s policy of the responsible homeowner, (if they even had homeowner’s insurance; some didn’t) there was the EXCLUSION for such accidents!  No coverage!

The article also suggests that trampoline owners should erect fences around their property, to prevent others from wandering on the property and injuring themselves on or around the trampoline.  I, for one, will not be allowing my first-born son on any trampoline anytime soon.  In this line of work, you really do get to see the worst of what can happen, when a chain of events causes something to go terribly wrong.  Why ask for trouble?

Parental Pre-Injury Releases: A Victory for the Children of Florida!

April 29, 2010

Two years ago, when I was practicing law in Florida, the Florida Supreme Court decided the case of Kirton v. Fields.  As a consumer justice attorney, I was proud to be able to stand behind such a law and give it my support.  In Kirton, the Court held that public policy concerns negated the enforcement of pre-injury releases executed by parents on behalf of their minor children regarding participation in commercial activities.  Last week, the Florida House unanimously passed a Bill that supports the Florida High Court’s decision and limits the type of activities that may be included in such a release.  Senate Bill 2440 is the Bill that will help protect Florida’s children in this regard.

The Bill language relates to releasing parties of liability as it relates to “inherent risks” ONLY.  This risk is defined as:
[T]he dangers or conditions that are characteristic of, intrinsic to, or an integral part of the activity; the failure of the activity provider to warn of the inherent risks; and the risk that the minor child or another participant may act negligently or intentionally and contribute to the injury of the minor child.
Yesterday, the governor of Florida, Governor Crist, signed this pro-consumer piece of legislation into law.  KUDOS to the Florida Justice Association for their hard work and effort in helping to make sure this Bill got to the governor’s desk.