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The St. Louis Post Dispatch has reported that Mercy Hospital (formerly St. John’s Mercy Medical Center) has settled a Justice Department investigation by agreeing to pay $365,000.

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The settlement resolves allegations that Mercy overcharged Medicare between 2000 and 2008 for performing kyphoplasty, a minimally-invasive procure to treat certain spinal fractures. The allegation was that the hospital’s unnecessarily extended the patient’s stays in order to increase the recovery from Medicare. The DOJ brought the charges under the False Claims Act.

Mercy was 1 of 14 hospitals around the nation that settled with DOJ over the practice.

Since Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius created an initiative to jointly pursue investigations to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid Fraud in May 2009, the U.S. Government has recovered $6.6 billion in cases involving Medicare and Medicaid Fraud, mostly from hospitals and large medical care providers.

You may not realize it, but our active duty military have virtually no recourse if they are the victim of medical malpractice by a U.S. military physician or health care provider. This is called the Feres Doctrine and has been the law since a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court case, Feres v. United States.

Well, now the U.S. is trying to expand the Feres Doctrine to include the spouses and family members of U.S. Military. That’s right, they are trying to get the Court’s to agree that, basically, U.S. Military physicians cannot be held responsible for any malpractice. You can read a detailed report in The Atlantic.

I’m sorry, this is just wrong. I’ve always thought the Feres Doctrine was wrong, but at least the argument existed that, as a member of the military, you were giving up certain rights in exchange for certain benefits. The families of U.S. Military don’t make those decisions. And to treat the military members, let alone their families, as if they are undeserving of the best medical care and a means to hold someone accountable if they don’t get it, its just wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Bloomberg and other sources are reporting that Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay the U.S. $1 billion to settle the U.S. Attorney’s marketing probe. Read the full report here. Criminal please still may come in this case.

Risperdal was once J&J’s biggest selling drug. It was an anti-psychotic drug approved for use in psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. J&J began marketing it for off-label uses, such as bipolar disorder, dementia, mood and anxiety disorders and other unapproved uses.

If your lovely Aunt Shelby give you a ShoulderFlex massager for Christmas … well, you don’t even want to re-gift this thing. And whatever you do, don’t use it!

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The ShoulderFlex massager by now bankrupt King International was recalled in August. NPR reports that the FDA recalled the device because clothing, hair and jewelry can get tangled in the device’s rotating parts. There were reports of one person being strangled by the massager and at least one other near-death by strangulation.

Before the recall process could be completed, King International went into bankruptcy. The toll-free recall number has been disconnected. Many consumers who purchased the product may not have been advised of the recall.

If you own one, take it back to the store where you purchased it. After all, you don’t want to end up on one of those “news of the weird” shows.

Happy Holidays!

The New York Times is reporting on a phenomenon they are calling distracted doctoring: concentrating on a computer or smartphone rather than the patient. And the risks to patients are tremendous.

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The article notes instances such as doctors making personal phone calls during operations, technicians monitoring bypass procedures texting and operating room nurses checking their phones for air fares. Obviously, if they aren’t concentrating on the patient, the patient is at risk. One physician quoted in the story refers to the smartphone or tablet computer as “iPatient.” The iPatient is getting all the attention instead of the real patient.

Smartphones and tablet computers are wonderful technology devices that give doctors and nurses access to a patient’s extensive medical records and virtually unlimited reference materials. However, the fact that the same devices can be used to surf the web, text and access Facebook, puts an area of distraction readily available, when the health care giver should be concentrating on the patient.

Like electronic medical records, smart devices are tools. Unfortunately, they can, and will, be abused.

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The New York Times is reporting, what we already know–the number of complaints about metal-on-metal hip implants is surging. And there is no end in sight.

“All-metal replacement hips are on a trajectory to become the biggest and most costly medical implant problem since Medtronic recalled a widely used heart device” in 2007. At the present time, the major problems appear to exist be with the Zimmer Durom and DePuy (Johnson & Johnson) ASR metal-on-metal hip implants. But complaints are surfacing with many brands.

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Patients are experiencing reactions, believed to be linked to the shedding of metal debris. Unlike traditional hip implants that use a ceramic or metal ball and a poly-vinyl pelvic cup liner, the metal-on-metal components have metal balls and metal cups. Reactions to the metal debris mimmick severe infections and can attack and destroy bone and soft tissue. In the simplest cases, the metalosis causes the components to loosen and after surgical revision, the patients are recovering normal function after revision. However, in some cases, the metalosis has destroyed so much muscle bone and ligament, that normal revision is not possible. These patients can suffer debilitating pain and loss of function.

If you or a loved one has had a metal-on-metal hip implant, you should immediately consult with an attorney. Please contact Todd N. Hendrickson at stlmedicalmalpractice.com.

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There is a great resource for the most current information on medical statistics, including information on medical malpractice claims. It is statehealthfacts.org a Kaiser Family site.

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For any given state, you can access statistics on how many persons are without health insurance, health costs and budges, mortality rate, Medicaid and Medicare enrollment and much more.

Also of interest is information on medical malpractice claims. Statistics on the number of claims paid in 2010, as well as the total amount paid in claims, and the average amount paid per claim, all broken down by state.

As we’ve reported on several occasions, our office is involved in the DePuy ASR hip implant recall litigation. In fact, we recently scored a minor victory against DePuy in one of our cases filed in Jackson County, Missouri. DePuy had sought to remove the case from the Missouri State Court in Jackson County to the United States Federal District Court. After extensive motions, the federal judge in the Western District of Missouri granted our Motion to Remand–one of very few such motions granted around the country.

In other developments, most DePuy ASR cases are being litigated in a Multi-District Litigation case pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of Ohio. There, the plaintiffs’ attorneys are working together to conduct discovery. It is anticipated that DePuy will release, literally, millions of pages of documents.

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This isn’t in my usual area of practice, but as a long-time Apple user and fan, I thought I’d pass this link along: Apple Patent Infringement. Oh well, I’m sure it will be appealed.

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It probably isn’t obvious to most people, but I believe the Wisconsin governor’s plan to strip state unions of rights and so-called “tort reform” have a common goal … and it is pure politics.

Generally, labor unions have been stalwarts of support for the Democratic party. Also generally, the plaintiff’s personal injury and medical malpractice bar have been among the Democratic party’s strongest financial backers. There are exceptions to both situations, but overwhelmingly trial lawyers and unions are critical supporters of most Democratic candidates.

Tort reform and labor reform have an insidious common purpose-to break the financial back of the Democratic party. Look at the history of both efforts. You will rarely find Democratic support for these measures. Why? Because traditionally the Democratic party mission is to support the rights of working class people. That’s what labor unions do and that is what trial lawyers do to.

I’m proud to call myself a trial lawyer. I spend every day fighting for the rights of people who otherwise couldn’t afford an attorney. I was raised in a union household. I’ve walked a picket line with my father. I know what unions did for my family.

Make no mistake about it, labor “deform” and tort “deform” have the same purpose. And it is purely political.