Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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“Stroke is the number three cause of death in the United States,” said NY medical malpractice attorney Michael A. Bottar, of Bottar Law, PLLC, a Syracuse-based law firm prosecuting New York stroke misdiagnosis lawsuits.

On top of the ‘usual’ stroke risk is the increased risk of a cerebral vein thrombosis (CVT) during pregnancy. A CVT is the occlusion, or blockage, of a venous sinus which may extend to veins draining into the sinus. It can lead to regional ischemia and infarction in the cerebral cortex.

In a recent report titled Diagnosis and Management of Cerebral Vein Thrombosis: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals from the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association, the AHA articulated a number of evidence-based standards for the timely diagnosis of a CVT and recommendations for treatment during pregnancy and the post-partum period.

Unlike a conventional arterial stroke, the signs and symptoms of a CVT are more variable and typically take weeks to develop. This increases the risk of CVT misdiagnosis. Most patients suffer from a headache, paresis, seizure (generalized or focal) and mental status disorders.

Research behind the AHA study revealed that women a highest risk for a CVT are those who are pregnant, or taking oral contraceptives, and people under age 45. 73% of CVTs strike during the post-partum period (the +/- 4 weeks after giving birth). Recommendations for clinical diagnosis include: a comprehensive history for risk factors, blood testing, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Treatment modalities include anticoagulant medications and, in some cases, endovascular treatment or surgery.
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According to a 2010 study, more than 225,000 Americans die every year due to medical mistakes. “Medical malpractice is not a myth,” said Syracuse medical mistake lawyer Michael A. Bottar, Esq., of Bottar Law, PLLC. “That being said, most medical negligence is confined to a very small number of physicians. The majority of physicians will practice for 20-30 years without being the subject of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Of course, they won’t say that publicly because it does not help advance tort reform to prevent negligence lawsuits altogether.”

Following the NPR series titled “Doctors Behaving Badly,” our team of medical negligence attorneys formulated the following list of ways that New York could better protect patients seeking medical care in this State:

Number One: Before licensing a physician in New York, the State should communicate with the licensing bodies of other states. There is no reason for New York not to know why a physician lost his or her license in Florida. It should not be up to physicians seeking licensure in New York to interpret and self-report the actions of another state’s administrative agency.

Number Two: Search the National Practitioner Data Bank to determine whether a doctor seeking licensure in New York has a disciplinary history and, if so, the details of the history. According to reports, states seldom query the registry. Why not?

Number Three: Interact with local and state agencies to be in a position to learn about publicly available information, such as when a physician is arrested. It should not be up to physicians to self-report their indiscretions.

Number Four: While much of medicine is an art not a science, there are aspects of medicine that have absolute standards of care. Why not codify the standards and force physicians to follow them or face civil liability?

Number Five: Create a process whereby the worst physicians cannot continue to practice, similar to three-strikes-and-you’re-out. After a specific number of mistakes, or perhaps after a single egregious error, a physician’s license to practice medicine should be in jeopardy. Many successful physicians are not concerned about medical malpractice lawsuits because they can afford to pay insurance premiums and, beyond that, it is almost impossible for them to lose their license.

Number Six: Doctors in need of help, such as rehabilitation or therapy, should have access to necessary services. Inpatient and outpatient treatment should be readily available to ensure that good doctors sidelined by personal issues are not exiled and can return to the field quickly once rehabilitated.

Number Seven: Physician disciplinary histories should be word-searchable and easy to find. It should be easy for patients and boards to find out about a doctor by way of a Google search.

Number Eight: A doctor’s track record should be publicly available forever so that a board and/or potential patient can decide if a transgression in the doctor’s past is something to be concerned with. There is no reason for disciplinary records to be purged after, e.g., 5 or 7 years. A mistake 8 or 9 years ago may be relevant to someone’s decision making process.

Number Nine: If there is too much information to mine and process, then help should be recruited.

Number Ten: Patients should be provided a centralized venue to share their views about a doctor, subject to review by a moderator to prevent abuse. Often, patients have the best information about whether a doctor is a great healthcare provider or otherwise. All doctors to reply to patient comments. The dialogue should make its way into board decision-making.
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Doctors and nurses are trained, and paid, to provide the public with reasonable and appropriate medical care, but they are not expected to be perfect. That is, the law does not hold doctors and nurses accountable for “poor” medical care. Rather, a doctor or nurse is only liable for medical negligence if his or her acts of omission and/or commission depart or deviate from good and accepted standards of care.

Has my doctor or nurse deviated or departed from the standard of care? Good question. The short answer is that no ethical attorney can answer this question for your without first obtaining all of the relevant medical records and having them reviewed by a physician. With the input of the physician, a competent New York medical malpractice attorney, such as a member of the Bottar Law, PLLC legal team, can assess whether there is a reasonable basis for filing a lawsuit. The input of the physician is critical because no two patients are the same and, in turn, conduct that may have met standard of care in one case may fall below the standard of care in another case. For example, good and accepted standards of obstetrical care require that a a cesarean section be strongly considered if a fetus weighs more than 5000 grams; however, if the pregnant mother has gestational diabetes, a cesarean section is indicated at 4500 grams.

Every Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer should offer you a free consultation in his/her office, during which you can explain your condition and complaints and seek legal guidance about how to proceed.
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Syracuse University Hospital mistakes were the focus of a 68 page report generated by the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”). The DOH is an agency charged with oversight of medical care in the State of New York, including events that may give rise to claims for medical malpractice, failure to diagnose, birth injury, infection and wrongful death. The full report is available here.

According to Syracuse hospital mistake lawyer Michael A. Bottar, Esq., the report cited University Hospital for several violations of state regulations — one of which was an incident where a student doctor known as a “medical resident”, overseen by an unqualified attending physician, performed a complex operation on a patient’s spine because the neurosurgeon was busy in another operating room.

Syracuse surgery mistake lawyer Anthony S. Bottar, Esq., noted that the DOH, in its Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction, found shortcomings in doctor performance, patient safety, quality of care and infection control practices.

In another aspect of the report, University Hospital was cited for the apparent absence of a “time out” during a surgical procedure, which is a process where surgical staff stop and verify that they have the correct patient in the operating room and are about to operate on the correct body part. The “time out” process is intended to prevent surgical errors, such as wrong-site surgery – like in 2004 – when a Syracuse surgeon about to remove a blood clot made an incision on the wrong side of an infant’s head, as well as wrong-side surgery – like in 2006 – when a Syracuse surgeon operated on the wrong side of a patient having a tumor removed from an adrenal gland. During the latter procedure, the surgeon failed to review radiological films.

Poor medical controls and oversight may also cause or contribute to a medical misdiagnosis, which we blogged about here.
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Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer Anthony S. Bottar, managing partner of Bottar Law, PLLC, one of Upstate New York’s oldest law firms with a practice limited to medical malpractice, wrongful death, birth injuries, work injuries, brain injuries, and product/premises liability, was elected president of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and enhancing the civil justice system.

The New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers boasts a membership of more than 1400 judges, law clerks, law firms, lawyers, paralegals and law students, including: Syracuse medical malpractice lawyers handling cases concerning stroke misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose cancer and failure to prevent a heart attack; Syracuse work injury lawyers handling cases concerning construction site accidents, scaffolding accidents and injuries caused by a fall from a height; Syracuse birth injury lawyers handling cases concerning fetal hypoxia and ischemia, cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy; Utica brain injury lawyers handling cases concerning concussions, post-concussion symdrome and TBI; Watertown medical malpractice lawyers handling cases concerning Samaritan Medical Center negligence and Fort Drum physician mistakes; and Watertown injury lawyers handling New York State Thruway accidents.

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To err is human. Doctors, nurses and hospitals are no exception. According to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, as many as 10-15% of medical diagnoses are wrong. That data, taken from patient autopsies, paints a fairly accurate picture about Syracuse medical malpractice lawsuits for mistakes made by local practitioners and at area hospitals, like Crouse Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, University Hospital and Community General Hospital. That is, most patients receive proper medical care, but nearly 2 in 10 will not.

Should I call a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer to find out if I have a case? The short answer is yes. As your time to file a lawsuit is limited, you should call sooner, rather than later. In an effort to provide some guidance to the victims of medical malpractice, we will attempt to identify five warning signs of medical negligence:

ONE: Be concerned if, despite treatment for your illness, you do not get better (be very concerned if you in fact get worse). After settling on a diagnosis, whether or not it’s the correct one, many health care professionals choose not to look further. No one wants to admit that they were wrong. Seek a second opinion, as the diagnosis you carry may be incorrect!

TWO: Be concerned if your diagnosis does not seem to match your symptoms. We all have access to the internet. Search the web to see if your symptoms are consistent with the diagnosed condition. If not, you may have been misdiagnosed. Good sources of information about your symptoms and your condition include WebMD (www.webmd.com) and YourDiagnosis (www.yourdiagnosis.com), as well as WD (www.wrongdiagnosis.com). Take this information to the doctor who diagnosed you, or to a new doctor, and ask questions. Help your doctor help you!

THREE: Be wary of a diagnosis based solely upon a single lab test. Labs can be wrong. Make sure that your doctor questions the lab results and, if a very serious condition, request that a second lab perform an analysis.

FOUR: Be concerned if your doctor attributes common complaints to an uncommon diagnosis. Often, a headache without more is, well, just a headache.

FIVE: Challenge a diagnosis that can be confirmed or ruled-out with a test that you have not received. If there is a test that will paint a complete picture for your doctor, you should receive it. If it has not been recommended, ask for it (see sign TWO, supra – do research)! The failure to diagnose a condition is often due to the decision not to order a test when the test was indicated.

While a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot fix the physical damage caused by a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose, but it can help to secure funds so that you and your family can attempt to live a normal life despite your losses, which may include permanent disability due to a surgical error, wrongful death due to nursing negligence, limb loss due to infection, or brain damage due to medication errors. A lawsuit may also recover future medical costs and restore economic losses, such as lost wages and benefits.
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If you, your child, or a family member have been injured due to medical negligence, you and your loved ones may be entitled to compensation. But, just like there are all kinds of doctors — good and bad — there are also all kinds of lawyers — good and bad. Who you select to represent you is paramount.

Unlike the typical personal injury case, a medical malpractice case requires a very specific skill set. Not every Syracuse personal injury lawyer has the skill, experience and resources to handle a medical malpractice case that costs $50,000.00 to prosecute and, while many lawyers accept medical malpractice cases, very few in Central New York have a nearly 30 year track record of success.

When selecting a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer make sure you pick a lawyer that knows his/her medicine. While your lawyer need not be a doctor to win your case, he/she certainly needs to understand anatomy, or be willing to learn through research and consultation with experts. Make sure you also check to see if your lawyer, like the attorneys at Bottar Law, PLLC, has been selected for membership in peer review organizations such as The Best Lawyers In America, SuperLawyers, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Lawdragon, etc. Inquire about whether your lawyer has, like Anthony S. Bottar, Esq., ever been named Syracuse personal injury lawyer of the year. Ask your lawyer how long he/she has been advocating for patients and their families. Experience counts.

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A malpractice claims analysis was recently published by CNY HealthPro, in conjunction with the Nurses Service Organization. The analysis reviewed nurse practitioner lawsuit claims data in an effort to increase medico-legal awareness, decrease nurse practitioner malpractice and prevent patient injuries from nurse practitioner mistakes.

According to Syracuse New York nurse practitioner error lawyers Bottar Law, PLLC, nurse practitioners are increasingly becoming the focus of malpractice cases because of the growing role they play in dispensing medical care. According to the HealthPro/NSO report, the highest number of claims against nurse practitioners arose out of care provided in the medical care office. Nurse practitioner specialties with the most claims against them included adult/geriatric NPs, family NPs, and pediatric/neonatal NPs. The most severe claims — meaning those with the most significant injury to the claimant — conerned care that was or should have been provided by a pediatric/neonatal nurse practitioner. The largest settled claims involved a pediatric/neonatal NP’s failure to diagnose.
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According to New York medical malpractice lawyers Bottar Law, PLLC, with offices in Syracuse, Utica and Watertown, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may reduce a potentially lethal labor and delivery complication known as placenta acrete.

Placenta accrete is a condition occurring in 1 out of every 2,500 births. It involves the placenta attaching too deeply to the uterine wall – through the endometrium and into the myometrium. If undetected until the time of labor and delivery, either because an OBGYN failed to order an MRI to diagnose the complication, because and MRI was misread by a radiologist, or because the condition was occult, post-partum hemorrhaging may occur as the placenta is delivered during the third stage of labor.

A recent study suggests that an MRI may be more than 90% effective in diagnosing placenta accrete. Risk factors for placenta accrete include: a prior uterine surgery, prior cesarean section, myomectomy, advanced maternal age (over 35), D&C and, according to some literature, a female fetus.
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According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all Central New York OBGYNs should closely review the nature of their practice and consider whether their patient load, hours worked and other time commitments are causing fatigue-related birth injuries.

A recent study suggests that most OBGYNs practicing in Upstate New York hospitals do not sleep enough. The most sleep deprived include residents and specialists on call, such as neonatologists. Without at least five hours of sleep, a doctor’s speech, numerical skills, memory and concentration decline. Missing faculties can leading to medical mistakes. Doctors awake more than 19 hours performed worse on tests than individuals with a blood alcohol content of 0.05. The legal limit for drunk driving in most U.S. states is 0.08.

During a labor and delivery, minutes and even seconds matter to a baby that may not be receiving appropriate blood flow and, in turn, may be suffering from brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. After just a few minutes of low oxygen levels, a fetus may develop cerebral palsy. Because delay caused by doctor fatigue and sleep deprivation could result in permanent injury to a baby, ACOG recommends that OBGYNS follow good sleep habits, sleep immediately after long shifts, make arrangements for a backup, nap, and avoid working between 2 a.m. and 9 a.m.
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