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As reported here, the Missouri Supreme Court, in Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers declared that caps on medical malpractice cases are unconstitutional. So, if you have a medical malpractice case in Missouri, what does that mean for you?

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First, if your case involves a death, it is not clear whether the limitation on damages is still in effect in those cases. In April, 2012, the same Court upheld caps applied in a medical malpractice wrongful death case. That case, /Sanders v. Ahmed was actually decided based on the pre-2005 law on medical malpractice caps. However, that decision may be read as standing separate from the Watts decision. In short, whether caps apply in wrongful death medical malpractice cases is still an open question.

Second, in cases involving injuries, but not death, the Watts decision is unequivocal. Caps on the amount of damages that a jury can award on cases that existed under the common law, such as medical malpractice claims for injuries, are unconstitutional. Without an amendment to the Missouri Constitution, legislation seeking to impose such limits will not be upheld.

Third, for active cases, and cases yet to be filed, a Court cannot impose a limit on the damages awarded for non-economic injuries, such as pain and suffering. Under the law declared unconstitutional, the amount of those damages was limited to $350,000. While that may seem like a lot of money, in situations involving life long injury and disability, it is readily apparent that the limitation was crippling. Children injured a birth, who would deal with life-long disability, were not fully compensated. Now, that restriction is lifted.

Fourth, if you have had a medical malpractice case resolved under the old law, whether it resulted in a judgment or a settlement, you won’t be able to go back and re-open those cases to achieve a bigger settlement or verdict. If the decision wasn’t appealed, then the case is final and you won’t be able to reopen it.

Obviously, the actual monetary affect on a particular case is going to vary. If you have a current medical malpractice case you should consult with your attorney about the impact. If you believe that you or a loved one was injured as a result of medical malpractice and would like to discuss your case, please call 1-800-567-8176 for a consultation.

On July 31, 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Watts v Lester E. Cox Medical Centers. In a well-reasoned and detailed opinion by Chief Justice Richard B. Teitleman, the Court found unconstitutional the legislatively imposed limitations on damages that a jury can award in medical malpractice case found in §538.210 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.

The law, passed as a component of sweeping changes to tort law in 2005, placed a limit of $350,000 on non-economic damages that could be awarded in a medical malpractice case.

The Missouri Supreme Court found that the limitation infringed on a jury’s duty, under the Missouri Constitution, to determine the facts in a medical malpractice case. One of the facts that a jury is charged with determining is the amount of the damages. Because the Missouri Constitution declares that the right a jury shall remain inviolate, the Supreme Court looked to whether the right to a jury, as it existed at the time the Missouri Constitution was adopted, included the right to have a jury determine damages. The Court held that it did and, therefore, §538.220 infringed on that right and was, therefore, unconstitutional.

The result is that a jury is not artificially limited in the amount of damages it can award. Of course, the jury’s judgment is still subject to review and revision by the Courts, both at the trial and appellate level. Either can chose to reduce an award based on the judicial power of remittitur.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN’s senior medical correspondent, has posted Medical Mistakes: Patient’s Stores: 10 Shocking Medical Mistakes.

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In a well-written piece, citing real examples of patient victims, Cohen outlines 10 common medical mistakes that represent easily prevented, easily corrected medical malpractice. These mistakes are estimated to cause more than 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S., and injuries to millions more.

1. Treating the wrong patient–failing to identify the patient;

2. Surgical “souvenirs”–surgical instruments and sponges left in patients;

3. Lost patients–dementia patients being lost or wandering off;

4. Fake doctors–people posing as doctors or doctors who have had their licenses revoked continuing to practice;

5. ER waiting game–failure to properly triage patients;

6. Air bubbles in blood–a deadly and preventable complication of chest tubes and IV lines;

7. Operating on the wrong patient–failing to identify the correct patient and the correct procedure;

8. Infection infestation–bad hygiene by doctors and nurses;

9. Lookalike tubes–medication vials that look deceptively similar with terrible consequences;

10. Waking up during surgery–insufficient anesthesia, causing injuries when patients awake

These 10 mistakes seem so obvious, that many people think they simply can’t occur that often. But they do, with alarming frequency.

If you or a loved one were injured or killed as a result of medical negligence, please call for a consult. STLMedicalMalpractice.com

“American hospitals are capable of great medical feats, but they are also plagued by daily errors that cost lives.” So begins a recent article by the AARP, titled Hospitals May Be the Worst Place to Stay When You’re Sick.

The AARP reports several statistics that may be shocking to those who don’t deal with these issues, day in and day out. For example:

? Each year as many as 100,000 American die in hospitals from preventable medical mistakes

? A report on Medicare patients released in January found that hospital staffs don’t report 86% of harms done to patients

? An HHS study found that 1 in 7 patients suffered serious or long term injuries, or died as a result of hospital care

? 44% of the problems are preventable

? The patients who die each year from preventable hospital errors equal four full jumbo jets crashing each week

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If you suspect that you or a loved one are the victim of this type of medical negligence, please call me to discuss. 314-721-8833 or 800-557-8176 or view my website STLMedicalMalpractice.com.

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.

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 Missouri Board of Healing Arts, the entity that disciplines doctors in Missouri, has been given new powers by the legislature, and those changes to the law have now gone into effect, reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch. That’s a good thing. Among other things, the new law makes it easier for the Missouri Board of Healing Arts to suspend a doctors license on an emergency basis. Probably of most use to the average patient, the new law provides a way for patients to learn more about their doctors, including licenses, board certification, discipline and whether the doctor has been disciplined by another state. Previously this information was literally a state secret. The Missouri Board of Healing Arts didn’t disclose that information.

These changes should make the Missouri Board of Healing Arts more adept at disciplining dangerous doctors. You would think so. But the Board’s first action since the law took effect belies that thought.

You may recall the series of articles the Post Dispatch ran in late 2010 exposing the dismal record of the Board in disciplining doctors in Missouri. One of the featured “doctors” was Krishnarao V. Rednam, who was convicted of overcharging patients and their insurance companies more than $600,000 and destroying patient records. He would bill Medicare for expensive drugs but inject his patients at the St. Louis Eye Clinic with watered down doses or substitute experimental drugs. Rednam was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 4 months of home confinement and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution and fines.

In one of the few cases where the Board of Healing Arts actually acted, it revoked his license until at least 2015. Mind you, this action came only after he had been convicted. But in a stunning reversal, Rednam appealed to the Board to allow him to regain his license. And, reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Board granted that request.

Rednam’s excuse for his actions that led to his conviction? Irrational insanity! Irrational insanity–and you give him back his license to practice medicine? Are you kidding? Know what I call that?

Irrational Insanity.

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported here the the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $29,000,000 verdict against doctors and nurses at a federal government-funded clinic that left a common neonatal blood infection untreated for twelve hours, resulting in irreversible brain damage.

Christian Arroyo’s life would have been perfectly normal, had a timely diagnosis been made. Antibiotics would have cleared the infection. Instead, Christian suffers from spastic quadraplegia with cerebral palsy who will require a life-time of care.

Have you or a family member contracted a serious infection following a procedure at a hospital or doctor’s office that involved prepping the site with an alcohol wipe? If so, you may have a legal case against the manufacturer of the wipe.

A truly massive recakk of Triad Alcohol Prep Pads has been issued. The original recall in January 2011 was rather limited, however, as months have gone by, the recall has grown. Triad Alcohol Prep Pads, Alcohol Swabs can be identified by the manufacturer Triad Group. They have also manufactured these products for sale by companies such as Walgreens, CVS, Smith & Nephew, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and others. These products may be contained in various “kits” used by nurses and doctors, such as IV prep, blood draw and procedure kits.

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The Triad products were contaminated with Bacilus cereus, a bacteria that is normally soil dwelling. Normal symptoms of Bacilus cereus infection would include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. At least one death has been linked to these contaminated products.

If you suspect that you or a family member was infected with Bacilus cereuas and you suspect it was caused by use of a contaminated alcohol prep, please contact the Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson, P.C. at www.hendricksonlaw.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.