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Anderson Cooper 360?will air “Operating under the Influence” tonight, March 31, 2008, at 10pm, eastern. The advertisements for the show indicate “imagine undergoing the knife, while your doctor is undergoing treatment for addiction!” Unfortunately, a number of my clients don’t have to “imagine” that consequence.I have a number of cases in which a physician’s addiction is an issue. In one, within days of operating on my client, the physician tested positive for cocaine use. Only after the patient suffered a horrible complication did he learn that his surgeon had returned from rehab only a few days before operating. And worse yet, the hospital was aware of the stint in rehab and had not provided for drug testing before allowing the surgeon to return to the operating room and had not required that the surgeon be monitored by another surgeon in surgery.This type of negligence, on behalf of both the addicted doctor and the hospital, is clearly inexcusable. All hospitals have, or should have, in place policies and procedures to detect and monitor impaired doctors, nurses and other staff.I’ll watch “Operating under the Influence” tonight with interest. For more, see AndersonCooper360

In recent weeks, 2 celebrity medical malpractice cases have brought medical negligence to public attention. Unfortunately, usually the only thing that the public hears about medical malpractice is the constant harping on so-called “frivolous lawsuits.” However, these recent cases highlight the fact that most medical malpractice case filed by experienced malpractice attorneys, win or lose, are not “frivolous” cases.

Dennis Quaid

Actor Dennis Quaid’s wife gave birth to twins recently. Shortly after birth, the children nearly died when staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills gave the twins adult doses of a blood thinner, Heparin. Rather than give a pediatric formulation, they were given an adult formulation of heparin. As Dennis Quaid has described, “it basically turned their blood to the consistency of water” and it could not clot. What makes the mistake even worse, the hospital did not notify their parents of the mistake. An interview with Dennis Quaid will be featured on 60 Minutes to air on Sunday.For those of us who prosecute medical malpractice cases, the allegations Dennis Quaid makes in a lawsuit filed on his behalf fit a consistent pattern we see over and over. Medication mistakes are common. We routinely see either doctors prescribing the wrong medication or nurses administering the wrong medication or in the wrong dosage. And the “cover up” is seen again and again. We often even see cases where the negligent doctors aren’t even told of the complication, because the patient’s care has been transferred to another doctor.

John Ritter

In another case that has been in the news recently, actor John Ritter’s widow filed suit against physicians who allegedly failed to diagnose an aneurysm. Ritter died when an aortic aneurysm ruptured. An aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement of a vein or artery, in this case the aorta, a large artery in your abdomen. News reports last week emphasized that a jury found in favor of the physicians in Ritter’s widow’s suit, however, lost in the details was the fact that eight other doctors and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Los Angeles paid $14 million dollars in settlements before trial. In effect, only the most difficult liability aspect of the case remained. And even then, the jury split 9-3.Abdominal aortic aneurysms are absolute medical emergencies. Failure to timely diagnose and treat this condition can be negligence. Only a thorough review of the facts and medical records will determine whether or not medical negligence has occurred.Source: Reuters.com, March 16, 2008, and CNN.com, March 14, 2008.

On March 5, 2008, the FDA announced that approximately 20% of the heparin samples tested from Baxter Healthcare Corporation were contaminated. Heparin is a drug thinner that is in common use. The contamination apparently occurred in the manufacture of heparin ingredients imported from China. Baxter has initiated a recall.

A number of complications and side-effects associated with the contaminated heparin have been reported, and include: abdominal pain, decreased blood pressure, chest pain, diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, and other conditions.

Baxter has released an update of its recall of the heparin sodium injection. We have learned that this form of heparin is used almost exclusively during dialysis, invasive cardiovascular procedures and surgery and apheresis. Complications have included refractory hypotension (low blood pressure). This is a life-threatening condition and may lead to organ damage, shock, organ failure and death.

If you believe that you or a loved-one have been injured by contaminated heparin, please contact attorney Todd N. Hendrickson immediately. We can discuss your case and determine if you have a claim.

  • FDA Notice of Recall 
  • 2/11/08 Baster Update on Recall 
  • Wall Street Journal Article
  • An Arkansas jury found that Wyeth’s Premarin and Upjohn’s Provera menopause drugs caused a woman’s cancer. Donna Scoggin’s developed breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy after taking the drugs for ten years. The jury found her damages at $2.75 million. The same jury will hear additional evidence before deciding whether an additional award of punitive damages is appropriate.

    Premarin cotains estrogen and Provera contains progestin and have been prescribed for years to relieve menopause symptoms. However, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study, completed in 2002, found that the combination of the two drugs increased the risk of invasive breast cancer by 24 percent.

    The two drugs were combined in a single pill 1996 and marketed as Prempro. Despite the Institutes of Health study, there has been no recall of any of the drugs.

    If you are a loved one has developed breast cancer after taking Premarin, Provera, Prempro or other menopause drugs for an extended period of time, please contact our office to discuss the matter.

    Source of Post: Bloomberg.com

    Accidents involving semi-trucks, 18 wheelers and commercial trucks present many unique challenges when they cause injury or death to other drivers.  Because of their size and the speeds involved, such accidents can often cause severe injuries.

    Trucking accidents can be the result of speed, inattention, or lack of sufficient rest by the driver.  Over the road drivers must follow strict regulations as to time driven and rest breaks.  A driver who is not following these regulations may create a danger for himself and others.

    If you have been involved in an accident involving a truck, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately.  It is vital that evidence be retained and obtained.  Your attorney may need to obtain information from the truck’s “black box,” an accident reconstruction may need to be performed, the scene of the accident must be documented before important evidence such as skid marks, debris and damage is lost.  Trucking accidents may be caused by equipment malfunction or failure on the truck, such as brake or tire failure.  These things must be investigated as soon as possible and the evidence maintained.

    If you have been involved in a trucking accident, please call Todd N. Hendrickson, immediately.  Todd N. Hendrickson practices law throughout Missouri and Illinois and can discuss any potential claim you may have.

    If you suspect you or a loved one may be the victim of medical negligence (medical malpractice) you should begin to make note of people involved in the care.  In a hospital setting, you should note the names of doctors, nurses and technicians who are caring for the patient.

    If any type of surgically implanted device is removed as a result of treatment, you should request that the item be retained and turned over to you.  You should make that request in writing, to the surgeon involved and to the hospital or surgical center.  If you are refused, ask to receive a written reason for the refusal.

    If you are suspicious of medical malpractice, you should obtain second opinions or consults regarding the care and, if at all possible, from a physician unaffiliated with the hospital or doctors whom you suspect have been negligent.   There are several reasons for this:  First, “independent” consulting physicians will tend to document their true findings and conclusions, even if they don’t want to be a witness against another doctor or hospital, if for no other reason than to establish that they have not been negligent in their care.  Second, sometimes a second opinion can cause a shift in treatment which can mitigate or eliminate problems arising from the initial negligence.  Although this is not beneficial to a subsequent medical malpractice legal action, if it results in an improved result for the patient, that is the primary consideration.  Third, a consultant will provide independent documentation of findings which cannot be altered or amended by a negligent party.

    Also, you should, as soon as you suspect medical malpractice, obtain a copy of the relevant medical records for your files.  The sooner you request this, the less likely that important records will be lost, “updated” or “amended.”

    Finally, if you suspect you are the victim of medical malpractice, you should consult with an experienced, qualified attorney as soon as possible.  Experience in handling medical malpractice claims is a must.  The lawyer you choose should spend the majority of his or her time handling medical malpractice claims and should have done so for many years.  You should also consider whether the attorney you choose will handle the case himself or delegate important aspects of your case to less experienced attorneys or associates.  It is vitally important that the attorney who will handle the trial of the case also handle the preparation of the case.

    This is usually a question I get at some point from every client.  Some people ask the question in the first meeting, or even during our first phone call.  Some don’t ask the question until we are well into the process.  But at some point, everyone wants to know, just how long is this going to take?  The simple answer, is we usually don’t know.  A lot is dependent upon scheduling matters with the court and all the attorneys involved and in some cases that is easier than in others.  But he process follows the same general course:

    INVESTIGATION:  An experienced medical malpractice attorney will engage in extensive investigation of your claim before the case is ever filed.  This will include obtaining all relevant medical records concerning the alleged negligent medical care as well as relevant medical records before the incident to establish the patient’s medical condition before the negligent care.   It is vitally important that you provide your lawyer with a complete list of all medical care providers: doctors, hospitals, therapists, home health care, etc.   These records form the basis on which any successful case is built. Your attorney will first review the medical records, in depth.  If he feels that you may have a viable case, he will then have those records reviewed by appropriate specialists in appropriate fields.  This step is vital.  Both Missouri and Illinois require that the attorney file an affidavit that the case has been reviewed by a qualified physician who has given the opinion that the medical care rendered did not meet the standard of care.  Without an appropriate affidavit, the case will be dismissed.   Therefore, an expert’s opinion is a requirement for the case to proceed.

    FILING:  The actual lawsuit is started by your lawyer filing a Petition or Complaint in an appropriate court with jurisdiction.  The Petition or Complaint is usually accompanied by an sworn statement confirming that a qualified physician has reviewed the case and has found that negligence has occurred.

    Once the case is filed, Summons, or an order to answer,  will issue to the various defendants.  This is the official notice of the suit that is served on the defendants.  In response, the defendant will usually notify his or her insurer who will retain an attorney who will file an Entry of Appearance and an Answer or other responsive pleading.

    DISCOVERY:  Once preliminary motions and filings are complete, the parties engage in “discovery.”  Discovery is the fact-finding process by which attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants formally investigate the claims and defenses of the case.   This will include written discovery, such as interrogatories (written questions), requests to produce documents and/or things, and requests to admit certain facts.  The various parties must answer all these forms of written discovery under oath. Discovery also includes depositions.  Depositions are formal proceedings in which parties and/or witnesses are sworn under oath and the attorneys involved in the case are given an opportunity to question the witness.  These proceedings are always recorded by a court reporter that will prepare a written transcript of the questions and answers.  This transcript can be used at trial in different ways depending upon the particular state rules.  In every court, the transcript can be used to “impeach” a witness if he or she gives a different answer at trial than in their deposition.  In some jurisdictions, like Missouri, the transcript can be read into evidence.  If the deposition has been video recorded, the deposition can be played for the jury as evidence.

    MEDIATION:  Either by court order, or by agreement, the parties may agree to mediate the case at some point before trial.  Mediation is an informal process where both sides meet with a mediator, a neutral person, usually an attorney.  The mediator works with the parties to try to reach an out-of-court settlement.   If successful, the case ends at this stage.   Of course, the parties can agree to a settlement without the need for mediation, although in medical malpractice cases, mediation is a common means of resolving meritorious cases.

    TRIAL:  If the parties cannot agree to a settlement, the case will be tried, usually to a jury.  The number of jurors, 6, 9 or 12, depends upon the jurisdiction.  In some jurisdictions when 12 jurors are used, the decision does not have to be unanimous; instead, 9 jurors must agree on the verdict.  The jury’s job is to decide issues of fact.  The judge’s role is to make legal rulings.  The trial will proceed through the steps of jury selection, opening statement, plaintiff’s case, defendant’s case, rebuttal, closing arguments, jury instruction and jury deliberations.  Once the jury reaches a verdict, the judge will, in most cases, enter that verdict as a judgment.  Either party may file post-trial motions challenging the verdict.  Once the judge has ruled on these motions, the judgment is final.  Once the judgment is final, either party may appeal the decision for any one of numerous reasons.  However, most successful appeals are based upon assertions that the judge has made an error in a legal ruling, not simply that the jury’s decision was wrong.
    The entire process, from beginning to end, can take several years and cost thousands of dollars.   Because of this, an experienced lawyer will carefully screen cases, proceeding only on cases that he believes are supported by the facts and the law.