Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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According to a recent article out of the New York Times, shorter hospital stays are not because hospitalized patients are becoming younger and healthier.  In fact, by and large, today’s patients are actually older and sicker. Rather, shorter hospital stays may be attributed to hospital financing.

According to the New York Times, in 1980 the average hospital stay in the United States was 7.3 days, while today it is closer to 4.5 days. One reason attributed to this change came in the early 1980s when Medicare stopped paying hospitals for their claimed costs and phased in a payment system. This “prospective payment system” pays a predetermined rate tied to each patient’s diagnosis and shifts the financial burden of a patient’s hospitalization from Medicare to the hospitals. As a result, hospitals are economizing and one way to do this is to get patients out of their hospitals, sooner.

Almost as soon as this “prospective payment system” started, experts raised concerns that it would lead to a higher rate of readmission. Meaning, patients discharged too quickly may be prone to complications, necessitating their return to the hospital. According to the New York Times, evidence backs this logic.  And, with recent programs created by the federal government aimed to penalize hospitals for readmission rates, e.g., Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, where hospitals lose up to 3 percent of their total Medicare payments for patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge, questions remain as to whether patients are getting the care they need.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of women dying because of pregnancy and childbirth is going up. More than 25 years ago (1987), there were 7.2 deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births; in 2011, that number more than doubled to 17.8 deaths per 100,000 births.

According to experts reporting on this subject, there is not any one factor to explain the increase, but a number of issues, including obesity related complications, record-keeping changes, age and delayed childbearing, health disparities, and an increase in the number of cesarean section births. One of the causes not mentioned, however, is medical malpractice.

Recently, a family of a 32-year-old woman who died from complications during pregnancy while being treated at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, filed a lawsuit against the hospital for negligence. According to the complaint, the hospital staff missed signs of pre-eclampsia – a potentially fatal complication of pregnancy – and then failed to timely treat it. The complaint further alleges that after the woman was unresponsive for over 10 hours and had given birth by cesarean section, staff realized she had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and would not recover.

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According to a recent study, medication errors or adverse drug events occurred in about half of all surgeries done at one of the nation’s most preeminent hospitals.  Specifically, over the course of an eight-month period in 2013-2014, researchers observed randomly selected operations at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital (“MGH”), and documented every drug given immediately before, during, and after the surgery.

“We knew that medication errors were common,” said Syracuse medical malpractice attorney Michael A. Bottar, “but the results of the study were startling.” During 124 of the 277 observed operations (i.e., 45%), researchers noted at least one medication error or drug-related incident that harmed a patient.  More than one-third of the observed errors injured patients, including three life-threatening mistakes.  Two of the life-threatening mistakes were caught by the operating room staff and one was intercepted by researchers.

The most frequently observed errors were:

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Stevens Johnson Syndrome (“SJS”) is a rare disorder in which the skin and mucous membranes react adversely to a medication. According to Syracuse wrongful death lawyer Michael A. Bottar, SJS “commonly starts with flu-like symptoms. A painful red or purple rash follows, with blistering, and skin death and shedding, also known as sloughing.” In some cases, as much as 100% of the skin can be lost. Other unsafe medication complications include infections and blindness.

A New York dangerous medication lawyer recently settled a product liability lawsuit against Pfizer for the sum on $3.780,000.00. The lawsuit alleged that a nine year old girl was given Dilantin, an anti-seizure medication, together with Flagyl, an anti-fungal medication. Less than one month later, the young girl developed toxic epidermal necrolysis (“TEN”) and, before her death, lost almost all of her skin.

According to the New York Stevens Johnson Syndrome lawyers at Bottar Law, PLLC, as many as 20% of patients in a recent study were diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis while taking Dilantin. While Pfizer warns patients in Canada of the increased risk of Dilantin Hypersensitivity Syndrome (which may include TEN) in certain patient populations, similar warnings are not issued in the United States.

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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 ( and YourDiagnosis (, as well as WD ( 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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