Header image

Pfizer, Inc., the pharmaceutical giant, has agreed to settle a wrongful death suit alleging that the drug Neurontin caused a suicide. Neurontin is an anti-seizure drug approved for use to combat epilepsy. However, Pfizer has promoted the drug to treat chronic pain–a so-called “off label” use.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an off-label use of Neurontin, contact medical malpractice attorney Todd N. Hendrickson to protect your legal rights.

For more information on the settlement, see the story on bloomberg.com.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch, in an in-depth article, reported that St. Anthony’s Medical Center in south St. Louis County, failed to report Dr. Surendra Chaganti to the Missouri State Board of Healing Arts, the state board that “regulates” doctors.

Dr. Chaganti, apparently one of the busiest psychiatrists in St. Louis County, was accused of negligent care of multiple patients, according to the Post Dispatch story. When St. Anthony’s took action to revoke his hospital privileges, Dr. Chaganti responded by suing St. Anthony’s. Dr. Chaganti was represented in the suit by his brother, attorney Naren Chaganti. Attorney Chaganti also represented his brother in several other lawsuits brought against others who accused Dr. Chaganti of improper care. The suit against St. Anthony’s was ultimately settled with an agreement that Dr. Chaganti would resign his privileges but St. Anthony’s would not report his resignation or their action to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank, a federally mandated repository for information on doctor discipline and malpractice. The data bank is not available to the general public, but hospitals and malpractice insurers have access and use the information in making decisions regarding whether to grant privileges or offer insurance.

The problems with reporting physicians for sub-optimal care are myriad, but in this particular case two specific problems are highlighted. First, St. Anthony’s entered into an agreement, which was approved by a judge, to not report Dr. Chaganti to the data base. By the data base’s definitions, reporting should have occurred. Resignations made after action is taken to revoke privileges is a reportable event and St. Anthony’s should have reported him. Their failure to do so apparently only came to light after a series of events in which Dr. Chaganti attempted to obtain privileges elsewhere and the other hospitals suspected or discovered the failure to report.

The second problem this highlights is the fact that the National Practitioner Data Bank is kept secret from those who would most benefit from being able to know if a doctor has been found to have given bad patient care–patients! By keeping this information secret, the public is being deprived of its right to make an informed decision.

You can read the complete Post Dispatch story here.

Dennis Quaid recently testified before Congress regarding the near fatal ovedose of his newborn twins at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. See his testimony here on YouTube. Mr. Quaid testified very effectively on the need for FDA recalls of Heparin and the need to keep the path to the courthouse open for families devastated by medical negligence.Please, take the time to listen to Dennis Quaid’s story and his argument that the Supreme Court and Congress should not protect a drug company from liability because the drug and the labeling was approved by the FDA.

Despite massive publicity, hospitals continue to mistakenly give infants adult doses of Heparin, a blood thinner. As reported by The Institute for Safe Medication Practices a Nebraska hospital has administered a deadly dose of Heparin, this time to a toddler about to celebrate her second birthday. The dose of blood thinner led to cerebral bleeding and brain death.This is by no means the first case and is far from the most famous. As I wrote in March 2008, actor Dennis Quaid’s new born twins were given near-lethal doses of adult formulated heparin at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills. See Celebrity Cases Highlight Medical Negligence Issues. Despite the massive publicity surrounding the incident and subsequent legal action, many hospitals have failed to take the necessary precautions and implement procedures to prevent continuing injuries and deaths.Heparin should be deemed a “high-alert medication” and special precautions should be instituted in every hospital to prevent dosing errors. As the Institute for Safe Medication Practices has reported for years, Heparin has repeatedly been among the top 10 drugs involved in serious, preventable injuries, disabilities and deaths reported to the Federal Drug Administration.If you suspect that you or a family injury has been harmed by an improper dose of Heparin, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. In Missouri and Illinois, contact Todd N. Hendrickson. I will personally review your case.

The New York Times is reporting that doctors are finding that “metal on metal” hip implants are failing at a much higher and faster rate than expected, leading to the need for early revision and replacement.“Metal on metal” refers to the materials used in the design. A typical hip implant consists of a femoral stem which is fixed into the femur or thigh bone. The hip socket (or acetabulum) is replaced with a “cup” of one design or another. A ball device is attached to the end of the femoral stem and fits into the acetabulur component, completing the ball and socket joint. Until about 10 years ago either the ball or the liner of the acetabulm was made of either ceramic or a poly plastic. Beginning in the late ’90s manufacturers began replacing either the ball or the cup or both with metal components. The theory was that the patient would achieve a longer life thus avoiding revision surgery to replace either the ball or the cup or both. The older ceramic and poly components had typical lifespans of 15 to 20 years.The theory is apparently proving to be false. As the is reporting, these metal on metal implants are failing much sooner than expected, some in as little as two years. What is occurring is the wear of the components is creating metal debris which is destroying soft tissue and bone. The estimate now is that 1 to 3% of implants are failing at this rate. However, since the metal on metal didn’t reach the peak of their popularity until 5 years or so ago, the real extent of the problem is still unknown. Given that 80,000 or more of these implants are used in primary replacements a year, that could be anywhere form 8,000 to 24,000 patients affected each year. Given that the typical hip replacement procedure can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 and lead to additional lost income and other losses, the financial impact on patients is potentially extensive.If you have experienced an early component failure, either due to pain or component loosening, or have had your hip implant revised for other reasons earlier than expected, you may want to consider a product liability action against the implant manufacturer. If you would like to explore this further, please feel free to contact me, attorney Todd N. Hendrickson. Although my practice is concentrated in Missouri and Illinois, I will consider appropriate cases throughout the United States. I have extensive experience and expertise in medical malpractice and medical product liability litigation, with particular emphasis in orthopeadic matters, including hip, knee and shoulder replacements. I have successfully litigated cases against hip implant manufactures for a variety of matters and I am uniquely qualified to review these types of cases.

Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania died last week at Bethesda Naval Hospital as a result of complications following gallbladder surgery. While it is not possible to comment on the medical care rendered to Congressman Murtha without a thorough review of his medical records, it can be said that “complications” from gallbladder surgery can often be the result of medical negligence.In order to understand what may have happened to Congressman Murtha, you have to understand the anatomy of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ that secrets bile into biliary system to aid in breakdown of food. The gallbladder is a sac that attaches to a structure called the cystic duct. The most common complication associated with gallbladder surgery are cutting the wrong structure and severing the biliary tree. Nearly as common is perforating one of the surrounding structures, usually the small intestine, although perforations to the colon are also common. Less common are perforations of the bladder.In Congressman Murtha’s case, it appears that there was a perforation of his small intestine. Can this happen in the absence of negligence? Absolutely. Sometimes a perforation can occur when the surgeon is taking down scar tissue, called adhesions. However, such perforation must be recognized and addressed at the time of surgery. Failing to find and repair perforations during surgery can be negligence or medical malpractice.Often, the real case for malpractice is when the surgeon fails to recognize that a perforation has occurred. In the event of a peroration during surgery, particularly of the small intestine and colon, the result is usually an infection or sepsis. The most common symptoms or complaints following a perforation are severe abdominal pain, fever, elevated white blood count, and x-rays showing air accumulations in the abdomen. If any or all of these are present, the doctor should be considering whether a perforation has occurred. In that case, exploratory surgery is almost always indicated.Delays in treating perforations can lead to massive infections and death. Those that survive these infections can be left with damage to their bowels and bladder and ongoing abdominal pain.

The Illinois Supreme Court has declared legislation imposing a limit, or “cap,” on the amount that a jury can award to the victims of medical malpractice is unconstitutional. In Lebron v Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Court held that “statutory caps violate the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution and declared the entire Act invalid.”The case represents a major victory for civil justice. By declaring that a legislature cannot substitute its judgment for that of a jury of citizens, the Illinois Supreme Court has joined a growing number of state supreme courts who have deemed such legislation unconstitutional, or otherwise invalidated such acts.In order to understand what this decision means, it is important to understand what so-called “tort reform” acts “cap.” These acts place a limit, or cap, on what a jury can award in any case for non-monetary damages. These are damages for loss of a normal life, pain and suffering. By placing a uniform limit on these damages, legislatures have, in effect, said that those who are harmed the most should not receive compensation for their losses. The Lebron case is a perfect example:The Lebrons filed suit for injuries their child received during delivery, including severe brain injury, cerebral palsy and cognitive mental impairment. Because of the negligence of the doctor and nurses involved, Abigaile Lebron will never develop normally and will be fed by tube for the rest of her life. And Abigaile is exactly the type of victim of medical malpractice who deserves compensation and, due to tort reform, is exactly the type of patient who is most affected by caps. Because caps act to limit only non-monetary damages, it is the young, the old and those who have low earnings who are most affected by caps. If a 50 year old banker making $250,000 a year is left in the same condition as a 1 year old, that 50 year old banker will be able to show earnings losses in the millions of dollars, in addition to past and future medical bills. But, if the same thing happens to an infant, that infant has no earning history, so it is difficult or impossible to establish those lost earnings. Thus, with caps in place, hospitals and doctors consistently devalue loss of life and injury to the very young and the very old.The Illinois Supreme Court made the right, and just, decision.

A recent article on CNN Health discusses “How to avoid falling victim to a hospital’s mistakes.” The article contains good advice for avoiding identification mistakes such as mixing you up with another patient or operating or performing procedures on the wrong side or wrong body part.Their advice?1. Clearly identify yourself, using your full name and your date of birth and state the reason you are there, such as “I am here for gollbladder surgery”.2. Demand that they check your ID bracelet. Why? Because nurses, techs and doctors are supposed to confirm your identity in two ways–usually verbally and by the ID bracelet.3. Demand that they confirm in your chart what they are doing.4. If having surgery, demand that the surgeon mark up your surgical site before you are anesthetized. Better yet. My advice? Do it yourself! If you are having surgery on your right knee, mark “NOT THIS KNEE” on your left knee. Surgery on the wrong side is not uncommon. It happens so regularly that Medicaid/Medicare has declared that they will no longer pay for such mistakes.5. Be impolite. If you suspect that something is wrong, don’t simply assume that the nurse or doctor is right. Ask questions, demand answers.Your best defense against medical malpractice? Ask questions. Demand answers. Write down what is going on and what is said. If you get conflicting information or orders, demand an explanation. Nurses refer to people who do this as “scribblers.” But if you ask nurses and doctors what they do when their spouse, child, or parent is int he hospital and they will all tell you that they become “scribblers”. You’d much rather be known as a scribbler than need the services of an attorney.But … if you do, please call or contact me.Todd N. Hendrickson, P.C.

We’ve all heard the talking heads and seen the news stories: “There are too many frivolous lawsuits,” “doctors are fleeing because of malpractice suits,” and “malpractice claims have driven up health care costs.” The fact is, these are simple myths touted by the insurance industry to frighten us so that we help them to remain as the most profitable industry in the country.A new paper by the American Association for Justice debunks these myths.For example:Myth: Malpractice claims drive up health care costs.Truth: The total cost of paying and defending malpractice claims is less than 1% of the cost of health care–in fact, .3%.Myth: Doctors are fleeing/Truth: According to the AMA the number of doctors is continually increasing, not decreasing.Myth: Tort reform will lower doctor’s insurance premiums.TruthL Tort reform has never resulted in lower premiums for doctors. What it has resulted in is increasingly larger profits for insurance companies.Know the truth about the malpractice myths.

On October 1, 2009. a jury in the Federal District Court of Southern Illinois in Benton, Illinois returned a $600,000 verdict in a difficult survival action. I represented the Estate of Jennifer DeArmon in a case against Primary Care Group and Dr. Vinay K. Mehta, a general surgeon.After 4 days of evidence, the 7 person jury took less than 90 minutes to find that Dr. Mehta was negligent in perforating the superior vena cava (the main vein returning blood to the heart) while placing a central veinous catheter. Jennifer DeArmon, who suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy, had been wheelchair bound since age 6. Her disease, anterior horn cell disease, progressively weakened her muscles, leaving it difficult for her to cough and clear her lungs, resulting in frequent bouts of pneumonia. She had been hospitalized for two weeks in December 2004 before Dr. Mehta attempted to place the catheter. As a result of the perforation, Jennifer was transferred by air ambulance to another hospital. She was hospitalized for more than 2 months following the perforation and her health deteriorated. In July 2005 she passed away from unrelated causes.It was my honor and pleasure to have met Jennifer shortly before her death and to go on and represent her Estate.If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, please contact me at 314-721-8833 or use the Contact form on this page.