In recent weeks, 2 celebrity medical malpractice cases have brought medical negligence to public attention. Unfortunately, usually the only thing that the public hears about medical malpractice is the constant harping on so-called “frivolous lawsuits.” However, these recent cases highlight the fact that most medical malpractice case filed by experienced malpractice attorneys, win or lose, are not “frivolous” cases.
Actor Dennis Quaid’s wife gave birth to twins recently. Shortly after birth, the children nearly died when staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills gave the twins adult doses of a blood thinner, Heparin. Rather than give a pediatric formulation, they were given an adult formulation of heparin. As Dennis Quaid has described, “it basically turned their blood to the consistency of water” and it could not clot. What makes the mistake even worse, the hospital did not notify their parents of the mistake. An interview with Dennis Quaid will be featured on 60 Minutes to air on Sunday.For those of us who prosecute medical malpractice cases, the allegations Dennis Quaid makes in a lawsuit filed on his behalf fit a consistent pattern we see over and over. Medication mistakes are common. We routinely see either doctors prescribing the wrong medication or nurses administering the wrong medication or in the wrong dosage. And the “cover up” is seen again and again. We often even see cases where the negligent doctors aren’t even told of the complication, because the patient’s care has been transferred to another doctor.
In another case that has been in the news recently, actor John Ritter’s widow filed suit against physicians who allegedly failed to diagnose an aneurysm. Ritter died when an aortic aneurysm ruptured. An aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement of a vein or artery, in this case the aorta, a large artery in your abdomen. News reports last week emphasized that a jury found in favor of the physicians in Ritter’s widow’s suit, however, lost in the details was the fact that eight other doctors and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Los Angeles paid $14 million dollars in settlements before trial. In effect, only the most difficult liability aspect of the case remained. And even then, the jury split 9-3.Abdominal aortic aneurysms are absolute medical emergencies. Failure to timely diagnose and treat this condition can be negligence. Only a thorough review of the facts and medical records will determine whether or not medical negligence has occurred.Source: Reuters.com, March 16, 2008, and CNN.com, March 14, 2008.