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Gov. Jay Nixon has signed Missouri House Bill 265 which will, hopefully, strengthen the Missouri Board of Healing Arts’ ability to discipline the worst physicians. The new law gives the Board the ability to discipline doctors without going through the state administrative hearing commission, a process that could take 2 years or more.

Another critical feature of the bill is that, for the first time, information that was formerly confidential will be released, such as a doctor’s educational background, speciality certifications, disciplinary record in other states and pending discipline cases. In the past only the doctor’s name, address, license date and previous Missouri discipline was publicly available.

As with anything, by making additional information available to patients, it allows the patients to be better consumers of medical services. As the Post Dispatch reports, this law is supported by patient advocacy groups including the Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.

The bill was inspired by the 2010 Post-Dispatch Series Who Protects The Patients which ran in December 2010.

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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.

California was one of the first states to institute caps on medical malpractice awards back in 1983. The limit is only $250,000 for non-economic damages. Well, recent reports in the Sacramento Business Journal reveal that the largest malpractice insurer in California is paying out less than 10% of what it collects in premiums to pay claims. It is spending far more to defend claims and even more goes directly to profit. Other insurers in California are paying out as little as 3% in claims. As a result, the insurance commissioner is requesting rate decreases.

This points out that caps do not result in reduced premiums for doctors–they result in higher profits for insurance companies. No surprise, since insurance companies are some of the biggest supporters of so-called “tort reform.” Why? Bigger profits.

We don’t need caps and other forms of “tort reform” in this country. What we need is insurance reform.

Congressman Phil Gingrey, Republican from Georgia, is again sponsoring a congressional bill to sharply cut malpractice awards. Interesting, since, as the New York Times reports on February 8, 2011, Congressman Gingrey has been sued for medical malpractice and his insurer has paid a settlement.

The details of the lawsuit are contained in the New York Times article, so no need to repeat them here. Suffice it to say that Congressman Gingrey is also Dr. Gingrey, an obstetrician. And this isn’t the first time he’s introduced bills to protect doctors at the expense of their injured patients.

The simple fact is that good doctors make mistakes and when they do, people die or are badly hurt. Medical malpractice is simply medical negligence. You wouldn’t restrict an award that could be entered against a trucking company that caused a death in an accident would you? If not, then why would you restrict the right for the victim of medical negligence to be fully compensated? The injuries aren’t any different. Death is still death. Whether the negligent person is a truck driver, an airplane pilot, a company that manufactured a deadly product, or a doctor, negligence is negligence.

And when the person introducing the bill is biased, you have to wonder. Don’t you?

Missouri’s doctors are policed by the Board of Healing Arts. And Missouri’s Board is among the most lax in disciplining physicians, according to a recent St. Louis Post Dispatch article, Missouri Secretive, Lax on Doctor Discipline. The Post recounts a story all too familiar to those of us who spend our professional lives prosecuting medical negligence actions: doctors who perform the wrong surgery, who falsify records to cover it up and do so again and again, simply aren’t subject to any meaningful discipline. Suspension of a doctor’s license in Missouri is almost never done, and then usually only when another state’s board has suspended the doctor’s license to practice.

In another article, “Deviant Doctor got OK to Work in Bootheel” the Post describes a truly horrendous situation in which a physician, already on probation for improperly dispensing prescriptions, merely had his probation lengthened after he admitted to the board that he was having improper sexual contact with his patients. It was not until the physician, Martin McDonald, was charged with sexual abuse by Dunklin County prosecutors did the Board take action to suspend his license.

Missouri patients deserve real governmental oversight of all professions, but particularly those whose actions can cause grave harm and death. The process of “disciplining” doctors is long and complicated and allows physicians with known problems to continue to put their patients at risk, with no warning to the patients or the community.

The FDA has recalled Bard Surgical mesh distributed by RAM Medical, Inc., a medical product distributor in Wayne, New Jersey.

Surgical mesh is used in hernia and other abdominal surgeries to strengthen or repair defects in the abdominal wall or peritoneum. For example, in repairing an abdominal hernia, a surgeon may use surgical mesh to create a “backing” that will reinforce the repair.

The counterfeit Bard surgical mesh ranges in size from 2″x4″ to 10″x14″. It is not properly sterilized, the edges are not properly finished and the weave is larger. This mesh can cause infection and failures of the repair, necessitating additional surgeries and other complications. The counterfeit mesh was distributed beginning October 21, 2008. You can review the recall notice here.

If you or a loved one had a surgery using mesh after October 21, 2008, and have experienced any infection, pain or other complications, you may have received the recalled mesh. If so, you have legal rights that need to be protected. Please call the Law Office of Todd N. Hendrickson at 314-721-8833, or click here to submit an inquiry.

This article by CNN in their series, the Empowered Patient makes what I believe is an extremely important point if you do not want to be the victim of medical negligence: don’t be a good patient. Don’t simply go along passively with whatever your doctor recommends. Ask questions. Be proactive. If something doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. If you don’t get answers to your questions, go somewhere else for answers. Research your condition. Know what the treatment options are.

This goes for those whom you care for as well. Parents, children, sibling. Get involved. I once heard a nurse derisively refer to the mother of a sick child as a “scribbler.” By that, she meant a family member who constantly took notes on what was going on. Nurses generally don’t like scribblers. But you can bet that, if it is their child or their parent who is sick, that nurse will become a scribbler too.

Take action, be proactive and be informed. You are a consumer of medical services. You’d do research about what kind of car or computer or TV to buy. You should do the same thing with your medical care.

For those interested, see the September 28, 2010, Wall Street Journal article titled Medical Malpractice Claims Data Being Used to Curb Medical Mistakes. Among those interviewed are malpractice insurers who admit that medical malpractice suits are “reflective of deeply rooted problems” in the medical industry.

DePuy, a division of Johnson & Johnson, has issued a recall on its ASR hip replacement components, including the ASR Hip Resurfacing System and the ASR XL Acetabular System. You can read about the recall here.
The DePuy ASR components are known as metal-on-metal components. Rather than using a poly-vinyl, ceramic or other material pelvic cup surface, the DePuy, like many other manufacturers, designed the ASR system to utilize a metal ball head and metal pelvic cup. The result is apparently is a disaster.
By some reports, more than 13% of these implants are failing within five years. The average him implant lasts 15-20 years before it wears out and needs to be revised. The highest rate of failure is in the smaller ASR implant sizes, 50mm and less, the most common sizes implanted in women.
If you have an ASR hip implant that has been revised due to early loosening or other problems, please contact the office of Todd N. Hendrickson immediately. Our office is aggressively investigating these cases and can help you. It is important that you be represented by an experienced medical malpractice and medical product liability lawyer, as DePuy will attempt to defend these cases by claiming that surgeon error in implantation. Don’t trust your case to a so-called “mass tort” law firm that doesn’t prosecute medical malpractice cases.
Contact our office today, by clicking on this link.

The John Cochran VA Medical Center appears to have exposed at least 1800 veterans to heapatitis and HIV. It appears that the problems stems from improperly cleaning and sterilizing dental instruments. Numerous news outlets, including CNN have reported that technicians at the John Cochran dental clinic hand-washed dental instruments. The practice of hand-washing dental instruments is reported to have begun in February 2009 and continued up until the initial news reports at the end of June.

Hand-washing instruments is a clear breach of sterilization protocols. If a patient has contracted HIV, Heapatitis or any other blood-born infection after receiving dental treatment at John Cochran VA Medical Center dental clinic, there is a good chance that the infection was a direct result of these negligent practices.

HIV and Hepatitis C are serious illnesses that can lead to death. HIV is the precursor to AIDS. Both HIV and Hepatitis are highly infectious. If you or a family member have received dental treatment at the John Cochran VA in the last two years, please contact The Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson, P.C. for a free consultation. You should immediately seek legal advice. If you have contracted a blood-born infection you may be entitled to significant compensation.

Click on these links to learn more aboutmedical malpractice and infection. To send a confidential e-mail message to attorney Todd N. Hendrickson, click this link: CONTACT. Please remember to give your name, e-mail address, telephone number and a brief description of when you treated at John Cochran VA Medical Center and the type of procedure.