A Dallas County jury delivered a $19.7 million verdict against Dr. Jennifer Burris and her employer, Acute Surgical Care Specialists, for the wrongful death of Ms. Katina Clark. Prior to her death, Ms. Clark lived in a permanent vegetative state for a year and a half following the brain damage she sustained as a patient.
A study found that families may be a source for improving hospital safety and avoiding mistakes, as parents often catch errors that doctors miss. The study involved two pediatric units at a hospital in Boston. Analysis of safety incidents found that approximately one in ten parents found mistakes that physicians did not.
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is considered one of the top hospitals in the nation. Researchers discovered about half of the surgeries performed at this institution have administered medications by error or with unintended side effects. These findings are even more likely to be found at other U.S. hospitals. In 2013-2014 researchers at MGH observed and discovered that 124 of the 227 procedures included at least one medication error or drug-related incident that harmed the patient. According to this study, the most frequent errors were due to mislabeling, incorrect dosages, and medications unnecessarily administered.
It is clear that hospitals are dangerous places. Sixteen years ago, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences published a study, "To Err is Human," and concluded that at least 44,000 patients were killed (and many more injured) in hospitals each year because of medical errors. This was a shocking number then. But the numbers got worse.
While texting and driving is almost universally agreed to be one of the most dangerous habits of this current generation, dangerous texting has begun to branch out into other areas of people's lives. Interviews have shown that the medical field has had an increasing rate of errors in the operating room related to the use of personal technology, such as checking social media. Celebrity Joan Rivers, who died of cardiac arrest after her oxygen was cut off, appeared in photos with her surgeon during surgery while under anesthesia. Another incident in Dallas was reported where an anesthesiologist was emailing and texting instead of watching the patient's vital screens. This lack of attention led to the death of the patient whose dropping oxygen levels went unnoticed for 20 minutes. From checking text messages to online shopping, cellphone distractions in the medical field are rising. The handheld computer is being cemented into daily routines at a growing rate, and business policies are struggling to catch up.
Coumadin, a blood thinner, can cause death if it is not properly administered and monitored. This drug must be carefully adjusted; if a patient is given too much, bleeding cannot be controlled. If enough is not given, clots can develop. According to government inspection reports from 2011 to 2014, more than 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died after dosing errors of Coumadin were made. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Medicine estimated that nursing home residents experience near 34,000 fatal, life-threatening, or serious events related to the blood thinner annually.
The family of Kristy Stingley filed a lawsuit against Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, an ER doctor, and a neurologist for medical malpractice. The plaintiffs allege that the hospital committed gross negligence after misdiagnosing Kristy Stingley's brain aneurysm. As a result of the misdiagnosis and subsequent discharge, Kristy passed away leaving a husband and two young children.
In February 2008, Naomi Pressey was scheduled for surgery. On the operating table, Naomi went into cardiac arrest. Doctors were unable to resuscitate her for 33 minutes. She suffered a brain injury, which caused cerebral palsy and other medical problems. Now seven, Naomi suffers from intellectual disability, cognitive impairment, and motor skill impairment. She requires around-the-clock medical care.
Despite a 2010 law created to crack down on illegal prescribing, many Texas doctors who violate prescription drug laws have little to fear from prosecutors, even if their patients die of an overdose. In the past three years, less than a third of the 83 doctors punished by the Texas Medical Board for drug law violations involving two or more patients were charged criminally.
The federal government utilizes a five-star rating program for nursing homes, a consumer tool that has been criticized for its reliance on self-reported, unverified data. Recently, the government announced it is implementing several changes to that program.