1-800-272-4080
VIDEOS BLOG Facebook Twitter GooglePlus LinkeIn YouTube

Bias in Medicine: Under-Served Patient Populations. Buchanan & Buchanan.

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bias in Medicine: Under-Served Patient Populations

Posted by

There is an overlooked and harsh reality many patients face in our medical system: bias.  In the American healthcare system, gender and/or race can impact a person’s access to appropriate health care and treatment. The impact of bias in medicine is a danger to patient safety and can be the difference between life and death.

The most common form of bias found in healthcare is “confirmation bias.”  Unconsciously everybody likes to be right and confirmation bias is an example of this. Individuals tend to seek out and interpret information in a way that confirms his or her preexisting beliefs. In health care, this can lead to harmful outcomes. Antecedent thoughts about a patient’s condition can lead to misdiagnosis and potentially incorrect treatment approaches. Most commonly, confirmation bias occurs with women or races other than Caucasian.

A recent Wall Street Journal article indicated “women [were] seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed…and sent home from the hospital…” for a heart attack. This is where confirmation bias comes into play.  The article went on to explain that some perceive women as being chronic complainers, causing a medical complaint to not be taken seriously. Healthcare providers take an oath to treat all patients equally and safely, yet not all patients are treated equally well. Discrimination is deeply ingrained in the social, political, and economic structures of our society, and the healthcare industry is not exempt from bias.

What can be done to combat bias in medicine? Some solutions are standardizing care, having doctors and medical students take non-bias training, and having more diversity in the medical field.  More general solutions include recognizing, naming, and understanding bias attitudes and actions. Further, we need to be able to manage overt bigotry safely, learn from it, and educate others. Most importantly, patients must advocate for themselves and their loved ones.

Perhaps you or a loved one recently visited a hospital and experienced patient safety violations from bias by healthcare providers.  If the violations caused a devastating result, seek legal recourse immediately. It is important to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your rights. Michigan law is unfair to people injured by medical professionals and any delay seeking legal help can mean losing your right to reimbursement. A medical malpractice lawsuit must, typically, be brought within 2 years after the medical error (e.g., surgery date) or be barred forever.

At Buchanan Firm, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases involving patient safety violations from bias by healthcare providers. We have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and immediately review your claim. Our team quickly and efficiently assesses the medical facts and takes immediate action to protect your legal rights.

New Rules for Michigan Midwives Promote Patient Safety

Posted by

An increasing number of women are turning to midwives for maternity care in the current culture where women are wanting greater ownership of their health, particularly their pregnancy, and the outcomes of that pregnancy based on the choices they are able to make. A nurse midwife is a specialized nurse that deals with pregnancy, labor, and postpartum concerns. The midwife model differs from OB/GYN medical care in that it involves a trusting relationship between the provider and pregnant woman, who share in decision-making.  Midwives see pregnancy and labor as normal life processes, rather than a condition that needs to be managed.  Midwives may deliver babies at home or in the hospital. With the increase in midwifery services, the State of Michigan has developed new requirements and rules to ensure patient safety when under the care of a midwife.

Michigan has never required midwives to be licensed to practice in the State. However, as of August 1, 2019, nurse midwives in Michigan will be required to have a license to practice.

The new licensing policy is part of rules crafted by the Michigan Board of Licensed Midwifery established in 2017.  The 12-member board was created after a law was passed requiring the regulation of midwives. In addition to the licensure, new rules clarify definitions of “low-risk” births and have new processes for when unexpected complications arise and when a patient should be seeking other medical care.  The new rules promote the needed safety patients should receive when under the care of a midwife.

Finally, the new rules add a layer of protection for practicing midwives. In unlicensed States, midwives could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.  The new licensure will protect them from criminal charges and consumers will have a process in which they can file a complaint if they’re unhappy with the care received.

The new licensing requirements, along with the new rules are a step in the right direction for patient safety in Michigan. It will help mothers identify qualified midwives and make sure they get appropriate additional medical care if complications arise.

Who is Most At-Risk for a Sleep-Related Accident

Posted by

Sleep deprivation is a growing concern that can’t be ignored. Public safety and well-being are victims of poor sleep when a moving vehicle gets involved. While anyone can suffer from a lack of sleep, there are people who are at greater risk due to their age and/or vocation. If you fall into one of these categories, you will need to be more aware and vigilant about your sleep habits to make sure you get a full seven to nine hours of sleep.

Age Matters for Adolescents and the Elderly

First, the demographic age groups that fall into the high-risk category—adolescents and the elderly. Teens have several factors working against them such as their driving inexperience, underdeveloped brain, and the nature of the adolescent sleep cycle to name a few.

Rather than feeling sleepy at eight or nine in the evening, adolescents experience what’s called sleep phase delay in which they don’t feel tired until ten, eleven, or even later. The problem isn’t necessarily that they feel tired later, but that once their sleep hormones are in full effect, they fall asleep faster and harder than adults.

The elderly face biological sleep challenges, too, just of a different nature. Sleep problems can arise due to medical conditions, medications, or normal aging. For example, as eyesight diminishes, the eyes absorb less blue spectrum light from the sun. This light controls the body’s circadian rhythms and, consequently, the sleep cycle. If not enough light is absorbed, poor sleep and drowsy driving are the results.

Watch Out for Shift Work

The human body is designed to sleep when it’s dark and be awake in the light. Sunlight suppresses sleep hormones. As the light fades, sleep hormones are slowly released until they’re out in full force at nightfall.

Occupations that put the body at odds with normal human behavior can lead to poor quality or too little sleep. Truck drivers who are on the road for hours, pushing their physical limits to meet deadlines are at particular risk. However, any occupation that puts employees at odds with their biological rhythms—doctors, nurses, business travelers—can find themselves dozing behind the wheel.

Sleep More, Drive Smart

Those who fall into any of these categories, whether for age or occupation, may have to be more vigilant about their personal sleep habits, such as:

  • Making Your Sleep Space Comfortable: If you’re sleeping in the middle of the day, blackout curtains, heavy drapes, blinds, or a combination of these methods are a must. You may need to block out the daytime noise with a white noise machine and try to keep the temperature at a cool 60 to 68 degrees. You also need to think about comfort. Everyone needs a comfortable mattress— child, teenager, or adult— that supports body weight and preferred sleep position.
  • Being Consistent: Your body will accommodate your preferred schedule, but you need to keep it consistent for it to do so. Go to bed at the same time every day. If you have trouble falling asleep, prep your mind and body with a relaxing bedtime routine performed in the same order and at the same time.
  • Managing Technology Use:  Smartphones, laptops, and televisions can also emit a blue spectrum light that suppresses sleep hormones. Move these devices out of the bedroom and turn them off at least two to three hours before bed.

An awareness of drowsy driving doesn’t mean there won’t be times you feel tired on the road. Be prepared with a plan so you don’t put yourself or others at risk. Pull over for a short nap, roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and stimulate your mind and body for better alertness.

But, in truth, drowsy driving is preventable. Consistent practice of healthy sleep habits and commitment to sleep can save you, the passengers in your car, and other drivers from a sleep-related accident.

What happens if you are involved in a sleep-related accident in Michigan? In Michigan, if you are involved in a vehicle accident, you are eligible to receive Michigan No-Fault insurance benefits (a first party claim) and when the injuries are catastrophic or fatal, you can also sue the at-fault party for pain and suffering compensation (a third-party claim).

If you or anyone you know was seriously injured in a sleep-related accident in Michigan, contact the Buchanan & Buchanan law firm. The accident experts at the firm understand what you are going through and will start a full investigation of the accident and identify those who are responsible to reimburse you for the harms and losses. At Buchanan and Buchanan, we are skilled at investigating motor vehicle accidents and successfully negotiate fair settlements with insurance companies, and persuasively presenting cases at trial when insurers refuse to do what is right. The firm offers a No Fee Promise: If you don’t win, you don’t pay a professional fee.

About our guest blog author:  Buchanan & Buchanan gladly partnered with the Sleep Help Institute to help spread their mission of providing unbiased sleep-health education, dedicated to bettering your waking life by improving your sleep.

Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy’s a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

Improving Patient Safety: The Surgical Black Box

Posted by

After an aviation accident, immediate efforts are made to recover an electronic recording device in the aircraft known as the “black box.” The aviation black box records important data, including cockpit voices and sounds, and recent flight history. The black box helps facilitate the investigation of aviation accidents and incidents to improve safety and reduce fatal aviation accidents. The use of audio and visual recording equipment not only assists in determining the cause of accidents, but also prevents them. If recording increases safety in the aviation industry, why not use it in the healthcare industry? Could this technology be implemented in operating rooms to increase patient safety?

Medical errors are common. The Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 revealed medial errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, trailing only heart disease and cancer. Between 210,000 and 440,000 hospital patients each year suffer a preventable harm in hospitals that contribute to death. Many errors occur during surgical procedures. Adverse events in the operating room are common contributors of morbidity and mortality in surgical patients. Adverse events often occur due to deviations in performance and environmental factors. Although comprehensive intraoperative data analysis and transparent disclosure have been advocated to better understand how to improve surgical safety, they have rarely been done.

While there is no guarantee in any medical procedure and all procedures carry risks, what if a camera recorded audio and visual data in an operating room? Would the technology increase patient safety? Some argue “black box” technology in the healthcare setting would only be beneficial in memorializing events during a procedure to allow lawyers to prosecute or defend. However, the reality is the black box would be a tool to increase patient safety and prevent negligence.

Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a surgeon in Toronto, first introduced black box technology to the healthcare industry. His black box platform records everything that happens in a surgical suite: cameras mounted in the room, physiological data from the anesthesia monitor, cameras mounted on laparoscopic instruments, noise, air temperature, telephone data, and even how often the door is open and closed. Dr. Grantcharov’s goal is to increase patient safety by quantifying performance in an operating room. While there are only a handful of Dr. Grantcharov’s black boxes in use, the technology is getting more attention in the current “safety culture,” where patients are demanding more caution to increase safety.

The benefits of black box technology in an operating room are two-fold. The first is the ability for after-the-fact analysis. Data collected from a surgical black box could be analyzed to determine areas for improvement and to identify safety concerns for implementation of new policies and procedures to decrease errors. Second, a black box would provide the benefit of direct observation of healthcare professionals. Knowledge of being observed changes behavior. A black box in an operating room could increase safety because it is proven that most individuals follow the rules closely when being watched or recorded.

Perhaps you or a loved one recently visited a hospital and experienced patient safety violations.  If the violations caused a devastating result, seek legal recourse immediately. Because black box technology does not yet exist in Michigan, it is important to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Michigan law is unfair to people injured by medical professionals and any delay seeking legal help can mean losing your right to reimbursement. A medical malpractice lawsuit must, typically, be brought within 2 years after the medical error (e.g., surgery date) or be barred forever.

At Buchanan & Buchanan, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases involving patient safety violations. We have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and immediately review your claim. Our team quickly and efficiently assess the medical facts and takes immediate action to protect your legal rights.

Patient Safety in Michigan Hospitals: What Letter Grade Did Your Local Hospital Receive in the Fall 2018 National Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade?

Posted by

What is Patient Safety? Patient safety is a discipline that emphasizes safety in the health care industry through the prevention, reduction, reporting, and analysis of medical error that leads to adverse effects. As time progresses, healthcare becomes more effective but also more complex with use of new technology, medications, and treatments. The complexity has increased medical errors and it is estimated that over 440,000 people die every year from preventable errors in hospitals. How do you determine if your local hospital is practicing patient safety? The nonprofit organization, Leapfrog Group created a Hospital Safety Grade to score hospital patient safety throughout the nation in an effort to drive quality and safety in the United States healthcare system.

A major problem with patient safety in our healthcare system is the lack of information available to the general public. The purpose of the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is to bring information to the consumer, so they can make informed choices about where to receive healthcare. It is assumed hospitals are safe. Many people do more research on what car to buy than what hospital to go to for medical care. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade provides data that assists consumers in making informed decisions about the most critical aspect of a hospital visit – safety. A hospital can boast about the latest technology and highly-trained surgeons, but unless it is preventing infections and doing everything to eliminate errors, it is not promoting what should be its utmost premise: patient safety.

Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are assigned to over 2,600 hospitals across the nation twice per year. The Safety Grade is provided in the form of a letter grade A – F. The grade is determined using national performance measures from:

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey

  • Health Information Technology Supplement

Using data from these sources, a hospital is given a single letter grade representing the hospital’s overall performance in keeping patients safe from preventable harms. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade methodology for determining the grade has been peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

Choosing which hospital is often a location preference. While you should never refuse care in an emergency because of a hospital’s Safety Grade, if you do have a choice (i.e., preparing to have a baby or a scheduled surgery), the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade can help guide your decision. The Safety Grade rates hospitals on the very basics of medical care, like handwashing, entering prescriptions, and the availability of highly trained nurses. Obviously, “A” hospitals do a better job at preventing errors. If your local hospital is below an “A,” talk to your doctor at the hospital and urge improvement on safety and emphasize the importance of patient safety.

So how did local West Michigan hospital’s score in the most recent Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade? Below are letter grades received by West Michigan hospitals in the fall 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade:

A: Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, 200 Jefferson Ave. SE in Grand Rapids

A: Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital, 8333 Felch St. in Zeeland

A: Spectrum Health United Hospital, 615 S. Bower St. in Greenville

A: Spectrum Health Pennock, 1009 W. Green St. in Hastings

A: Bronson Battle Creek, 300 North Ave. in Battle Creek

B: Mercy Health Mercy Campus, 1500 E. Sherman Blvd. in Muskegon

B: Mercy Health Hackley Campus, 1700 Clinton St. in Muskegon

B: Bronson Methodist Hospital, 601 John St. in Kalamazoo

C: Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital, 1840 Wealthy St. SE in Grand Rapids

C: Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, 100 Michigan St. NE in Grand Rapids

C: Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, 5900 Byron Center Ave. SW in Wyoming

C: Ascension Borgess Hospital, 1521 Gull Rd. in Kalamazoo

Michigan ranked number 11 overall in the country for patient safety, improving from its rank of 24 in spring of 2018.

The website allows for one to look at an individual hospital to see data that led to the determination of a letter grade. For example, below is a closer look at why Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital scored a “C” this fall:

You can look up your local hospitals and see the score by visiting the link below:

http://www.hospitalsafetygrade.org/

Perhaps you or a loved one recently visited a hospital and experienced patient safety violations.  If the violations caused a devastating result, seek legal recourse immediately. Ask about filing a complaint online with your state health department. It is important to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your rights. Michigan law is unfair to people injured by medical professionals and any delay seeking legal help can mean losing your right to reimbursement. A medical malpractice lawsuit must, typically, be brought within 2 years after the medical error (e.g., surgery date) or be barred forever.

At Buchanan & Buchanan, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases involving patient safety violations. We have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and immediately review your claim. Our team quickly and efficiently assess the medical facts and takes immediate action to protect your legal rights.

Legalizing Recreational Marijuana: What It Means for Michigan Roadways

Posted by

On November 6, 2018, Michiganders went to the polls in record numbers.  Among the heated races for governor, attorney general, and senate seats, was proposal one: the legalization of recreational marijuana.  The proposal passed, allowing adults 21 and above to possess a certain amount of marijuana for recreational purposes. What does this mean for the safety of our roadways? How will law enforcement test for marijuana use in vehicle accidents? What happens if you or someone you love are injured in a vehicle accident by a driver impaired by marijuana?  Below, we examine what Michiganders can expect on the roadways from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

What is The Law For Driving a Vehicle “Under The Influence” of Marijuana?

The new law does not permit marijuana use in public places, nor does it change Michigan’s impaired driving laws, which means that driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. Criminal and civil liability for driving under the influence of marijuana remains a serious and growing problem. Many people are injured as a result of marijuana related driving. Notwithstanding criminal penalties that one can face for causing an accident “under the influence” of marijuana, there is civil liability in third party lawsuits for negligence when driving under the influence of marijuana.

How Will They Test for Marijuana?

Just because marijuana is legal for recreational use does not mean that you can’t get sued for causing injuries in an automobile accident while under the influence of marijuana. While the amount of marijuana (THC) in one’s blood alone does not definitively establish whether a person is driving a vehicle “under the influence,” there have been studies which demonstrate that higher levels of THC correlate with an elevated level of intoxication.  However, there is no scientific consensus on what amount of marijuana in saliva or blood constitutes impairment. And even more concerning, Michigan has not established a roadside test to determine if there is impairment. Police have drug testing procedures in place – the problem is they aren’t carried out road side at traffic stops in the way that preliminary breath tests are conducted for alcohol. The only thing the police can do are visual sobriety tests, and seek a warrant to force someone to take a blood test at a hospital.  Unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the body much longer — so blood tests requested by law enforcement can’t exactly indicate when someone consumed the substance.

Will Legalization of Marijuana Lead to More Accidents?

Michigan is not the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.  Before proposal one passed in Michigan, nine states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  According to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, the frequency of collision claims filed to insurers were higher in four states where marijuana is legal: Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. A different study on police-reported crashes before and after recreational marijuana was allowed found Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw a 5.2 percent increase in the rate of crashes per million vehicle registrations, compared with neighboring states.

It is difficult at this point in time to isolate the specific effects of marijuana impairment on crash risk, but evidence is showing that legalizing marijuana for recreational use increases the amount of crashes.  

Liability of At-Fault Drivers Under the Influence of Marijuana

Because Michigan is a no-fault state, many people assume there is no legal remedy if hit and injured by a reckless driver, like one under the influence of marijuana.  That isn’t true. Lawsuits against the driver who was at fault are called third-party lawsuits in Michigan.  In a third-party case, the injured person brings a claim against the driver who caused the accident seeking reimbursement for pain and suffering, and economic harms and losses if wage loss or household service loss are permanent or will continue more than 3 years after the accident (your own auto insurance pays a wage replacement benefit for up to 3 years).  Money is paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, so long as he or she has coverage.

Just because you were hit by a person under the influence of marijuana, does not mean you automatically can sue them in a third-party auto case. Most people don’t qualify for a third-party claim unless the accident injuries are severe.  Third-party claims reimburse pain and suffering, and excess economic harms and losses that continue beyond the 3 years and are not covered by your own insurance company.  To get reimbursement for pain and suffering, the injured person must have a “serious impairment of a body function” or “severe disfigurement” caused by the accident.  In simple terms, an injury so severe that it impairs your ability to lead a normal life or disfigures you.

There is no simple way to know if you have a third-party claim against an at-fault driver under the influence of marijuana because the answer depends on the unique facts of your claim.  Our experienced legal and medical staff are always available to answer your questions and give you a free consultation.  Call 800-272-4080.

Myths of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Michigan

Posted by

In 2006, Harvard School of Public Health released a study amidst the ongoing debates over medical malpractice lawsuits in America and their legitimacy. The authors of the study reviewed 1,452 closed claims from malpractice insurance companies and found that most injuries were due to error, casting doubt that the system is plagued by frivolous lawsuits.

Myth: Medical malpractice claims raise insurance premiums, thus raising the cost of healthcare

The reality is that insurance rate increases are much more correlated to the insurance industry’s economic cycle, not to medical malpractice claims. What about the rising cost of healthcare? Healthcare costs keep rising, however, malpractice claims have decreased dramatically in the past decade. It is illogical to correlate the rising cost of healthcare with medical malpractice claims.

A study from the RAND Institute published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 found no effect on emergency department care in light of malpractice reform. The study found legislation that substantially changed the malpractice standard had little effect on the intensity of practice (i.e., there was no increased orders of medical tests or longer hospital admissions) – thus, there was no reduction in patient costs.

Myth: Medical malpractice attorneys are “ambulance chasers” and only in it for the money

The truth is most medical malpractice attorneys carefully evaluate claims to ensure they are meritorious. Statistics prove that medical malpractice attorneys reject approximately 80 percent of requests for representation. While some may be viable claims, Michigan law prohibits attorneys from bringing claims unless three clear elements are reached: a breach in the standard of care, the breach caused a damage, and the damage resulting from the breach in the standard of care is significant. Often, the damage because of the breach in the standard of care is insignificant, making the claim difficult to pursue.

Plaintiffs’ medical malpractice attorneys are patient advocates. They are real people who want to help others. While it is a business, most medical malpractice firms have core values of helping others first and foremost. At Buchanan & Buchanan our core value is securing prompt and just compensation for the wrongly injured. We want to help others who have been wronged.

Myth: Main motivation for medical malpractice lawsuits is money

Most medical malpractice claims are not catastrophic claims. Payouts over $1 million often are claims involved a baby injured at birth needing lifelong care, or serious injuries resulting in brain damage or quadriplegia.

Between 2003 and 2008 the money recovered in medical malpractice lawsuits has dropped by 50 percent. In Michigan, non-economic damages (i.e., damages for pain and suffering because of medical negligence) are capped. The caps limit the money a victim of medical malpractice can recover for pain and suffering. The current maximum for all plaintiffs, resulting from the negligence of all defendants, is set at $445,500, except in instances of paralysis due to brain or spinal cord injury, impairment of cognitive capacity, or loss of reproductive ability, in which case the limit is $795,500. Any jury award in excess of these amounts must be reduced by the court. Most individuals file medical malpractice claims to find answers after a bad outcome and not receiving straightforward answers from healthcare professionals.

Myth: Medical malpractice cases target all healthcare professionals, not just the dangerous providers

A common misconception is medical malpractice lawsuits target the vast majority of health care professionals, and do not target the minority of dangerous health care providers. In reality, from 1991 to 2005, approximately 6 percent of physicians were responsible for 60 percent of malpractice payments. Of the 6 percent, each doctor was found liable of medical negligence twice, and 2.3 percent found liable 3 times, and 1.1 percent liable four times. The statistic proves the medical malpractice lawsuits hold dangerous health care providers responsible for their actions and are successfully targeting those who continue to provide negligent care.

Myth: There are more medical malpractice claims than incidences of medical malpractice

One in eight people involved in medical negligence file a malpractice claim. The media suggests medical errors are rare occurrences. In reality, medical errors are common. The Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 revealed medial errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, trailing only heart disease and cancer. Between 210,000 and 440,000 hospital patients each year suffer a preventable harm in hospitals that contribute to death. Most Americans are unaware medical errors occur frequently in hospitals and clinics. Despite the massive number of medical injuries, medical malpractice lawsuits are uncommon. In reality, they constitute only three percent of the civil tort caseload.

At Buchanan & Buchanan, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases. We also have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and review your claim. We quickly and efficiently assess the medical facts and take immediate action to protect your rights. We are patients’ advocates, and will successfully convince you legal action for medical negligence is fair and just, contrary to common misguided “frivolous” misconceptions.

Anesthesia Error: My Loved One Did Not Wake Up After Surgery

Posted by

Patients undergo surgery to improve or fix a medical condition. Surgery is a serious matter, no matter if it is a “minor” surgery like a routine mole removal or if it is a major surgery like a quadruple bypass. All surgeries have risks. While there is no guarantee in any medical procedure, when healthcare professionals follow patient safety rules, surgical problems are significantly reduced. In a surgery, anesthesiologists have an important role of monitoring the patient’s blood pressure, heart rhythm, temperature, level of consciousness, and amount of oxygen in the blood. If an anesthesiologist does not pay close attention, a patient is put in serious danger. Below is information on the most common anesthesia errors, the injuries resulting from the errors, and what you can do to lower risks associated with anesthesia so that you or your loved one is not a victim of an anesthesia-error related injury.

Common Causes of Anesthesia Errors

The following are some of the most common anesthesia mistakes resulting from medical negligence or wrongful action:

Dosage error: When an anesthesiologist gives the patient too much or too little anesthesia.

Failure to properly monitor a patient: An anesthesiologist is responsible for monitoring the patient’s blood pressure, heart rhythm, temperature, level of consciousness, and amount of oxygen in the blood. Failure to monitor or failure to recognize complications from abnormal inaccurate monitor readings can put the patient in serious danger.

Turning off an alarm for abnormal readings: Devices are often used during many medical procedures to monitor the oxygen and blood pressure. These are key vital signs monitored during surgery. Medical devices have an alarm function intended to alert medical providers when levels give cause for concern. If a medical professional turns this function off, they may miss important cues about patient distress and injury.

Delayed anesthesia delivery: There can be error in the delivery of anesthesia including vaporizer leakage, IV errors, syringe-swapping troubles and other complications at the outset of surgery.

Common Injuries from Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia error can cause significant damage. The most common injuries caused by anesthesia errors include:

  • Asphyxia or lack of adequate oxygen supply

  • Cardiovascular injury, which may include heart attack or stroke

  • Brain damage including traumatic brain injury or TBI

  • Coma

  • Death

Questions to Ask to Reduce the Risk of Anesthesia Error

Anesthesia care is both important and dangerous. Before any surgery, make sure that you have a clear understanding of the role of the anesthesiologist in the operating room during the administration of anesthesia and throughout the procedure. When the anesthesiologist meets with you prior to surgery, insist on asking the following questions and take your time reading the informed consent provided:

  • Will the anesthesiologist be in the room?

  • What monitoring equipment will be used during the procedure?

  • Does the monitoring equipment continuously monitor?

  • How many other surgeries are on the schedule?

  • Is the anesthesiologist employed by the hospital? Does he or she have adequate insurance coverage should an error occur and if not, will the hospital accept responsibility?

  • Will the anesthesiologist wait for wake-up before going to another procedure?

  • Will a CRNA manage the anesthesia, while the anesthesiologist is somewhere else?

  • What is the experience and training of the CRNA?

  • How long would it take to get the anesthesiologist in the room if you stopped breathing?

If you are uncomfortable with the answers to these questions, withhold your informed consent for the procedure until you are satisfied with the level of care that will be provided to you.

Unfortunately, some physicians are not careful during surgical procedures. They get careless, complacent, or cut corners on patient safety, forgetting the real dangers or cramming more surgeries into a day to maximize profits. Reckless physician conduct injures patients.

Before a surgery, talk to your physician and anesthesiologist about your concerns. Insist the physician take precautions to prevent error. Demanding safety before surgery may just save your life.

At Buchanan & Buchanan, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases, including cases involving surgical errors. We have medical professionals on staff to talk with you and immediately review your claim. Our team quickly and efficiently assess the medical facts and takes immediate action to protect your legal rights.

Is My Baby Normal?

Posted by

Questions Parents Often Ask About a Birth: “Why wasn’t my baby breathing when born?” . . . “Why did my baby’s skin look blue?” . . . “What does a low or poor Apgar score mean?”  . . . “What is causing my baby’s seizures?”

When a baby is delivered, each person in the room (including the health care professionals) are waiting with bated breath to hear the first cry and catch a glimpse of the pink tiny human. Sometimes, however, a newborn baby does not cry right away, or is a pale/bluish color after delivery. When this happens, the baby is often rushed to NICU. This can be quite frightening for parents. Below we answer questions parents often ask after a difficult birth and provide next steps to determining if a baby born with problems has lasting damages.

Why wasn’t my baby breathing when born?

There are several complications that can result in a baby born in respiratory distress. Between 2 and 10 out of every 1,000 newborns experience lack of oxygen. The most common reasons a baby is born not breathing include:

  • Excessive and frequent uterine contractions (tachysystole): These types of contractions can be caused by the labor induction drugs. These drugs sometimes make contractions so strong and fast that there is essentially one continuous contraction that is constantly compressing vessels in the uterus and placenta. These vessels bring blood to the baby through the umbilical cord. With excessive pressure on the vessels, the supply of oxygen-rich blood that travels to the baby can be severely reduced.
  • Umbilical cord problems: twisted, knotted, or umbilical prolapse (the cord drops through cervix before the baby causing the cord to be crushed by the baby as it moves through the birth canal) can cut off a child’s oxygen supply at the most critical moment of his or her life.
  • Birth canal problems: During a difficult labor, an infant may get stuck in the birth canal. If medical professionals do not act quickly, the infant risks losing oxygen.
  • Blocked airway: Mucous sometimes can become lodged in an infant’s lungs. If medical professionals do not act quickly, the loss of oxygen can cause long-term problems from the brain damage.
  • Placental abruption: If the placenta separates from the uterus too rapidly, a healthcare provider must act quickly to get the infant delivered before he/she’s oxygen supply is reduced.
  • Complications related to baby’s size or position.
  • Delayed delivery of the baby; or delayed c-section.

Why did my baby’s skin look blue?

When a child is born blue, there is always a flurry of activity in the delivery room. The reason a baby is born blue in color is because of poorly oxygenated blood. Blood pumps from the heart to the lungs, where it receives oxygen, then is circulated back through the heart and throughout the body. The condition of having blue-tinted skin is called cyanosis. Cyanosis is not always an emergency. Babies transitioning to life outside the womb may at first struggle to get oxygen, but it often resolves within a minute. If, however, your baby’s skin remained blue for longer than a minute, or had other symptoms at birth, it could be a sign of serious health problems.

What is causing my baby’s seizures?

The most common cause of neonatal seizures is hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy (HIE), a type of brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen during labor and delivery. HIE is a brain disfunction caused by a reduction in the supply of oxygen to the brain and other organs (hypoxia), compounded with low blood flow to vital organs (ischemia). Encephalopathy refers to any condition that results from reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. When oxygen deprivation occurs, there is a series of events that cause a decrease in energy production in the brain. This can cause the brain to produce a chemical that causes excessive excitation in a part of the brain called the cortex, resulting in seizures.

What are APGAR scores and what does a low APGAR score mean?

Apgar score is a test given one minute after a baby is born, and five minutes later. Sometimes, if there are concerns about the baby’s condition or the score at five minutes is low, the test may be scored for a third time at ten minutes after birth.

Five factors are used to evaluate the baby’s condition and each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score:

A: Appearance (skin color)
P: Pulse
G: Grimace (reflex)
A: Activity (muscle tone)
R: Respiration

A perfect Apgar score is 10. A score lower than seven means that the baby might need help breathing. A low Apgar score does not mean a child will have serious or long-term health problems, as it is not meant to predict the future health of the child. For others, however, it may signal a serious and potentially life-threatening problem requiring immediate medical attention. 

What should I do if I suspect negligence caused my baby’s injury?

Perhaps your newborn was sent to NICU right after birth. If you or someone close to you recently suffered a difficult labor or delivery and injury to the newborn that resulted in a stay in NICU, act quickly to preserve evidence. The only way to determine if the injury was avoidable is to have prenatal, delivery, and newborn medical care attentively reviewed by qualified professionals who understand the complex physiology of mother and fetus during gestation, stresses the baby undergoes during the birth, mechanisms to cope with the stresses, adjusting the newborn to life outside of the womb, and requirements and responses to stresses and factors in the environment.

At Buchanan & Buchanan, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases, especially birth injury and birth trauma. We have experienced medical professionals on staff to talk with you right away and review your claim. We quickly and efficiently to assess the medical facts and take immediate action to protect your rights. And, if we find malpractice caused injury, we will take the wrongdoer to court to secure fair and just compensation for the injured child.

Why Is My Newborn Baby’s Head Being Cooled?

Posted by

Most parents remember the birth of their baby as a most joyous experience. It is then end of nine months of preparation, anticipation, and eagerly waiting. Becoming a parent is a festive celebration. But what happens when the birth of your child does not go exactly as expected? What if after the birth of your baby the healthcare providers inform you that your newborn baby requires brain cooling? We are here to provide you the answers to the why, when, how, and what surrounding brain cooling of a newborn baby.

What does brain cooling treat?

Brain cooling or brain hypothermia is a treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (also known as HIE). HIE is a brain disfunction caused by a reduction in the supply of oxygen to the brain and other organs (hypoxia), compounded with low blood flow to vital organs (ischemia). Encephalopathy refers to any condition that results from reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. There are many different causes of HIE, some which occur before, during, or after a baby is born.

Without immediate treatment of HIE, a baby is at risk of severe brain damage or even death. HIE can lead to serious, long term complications and health conditions if not properly treated.

How does brain cooling work?

Brain cooling is a treatment that attempts to achieve and maintain a specific body temperature in a newborn for a specific duration of time in an effort to improve an outcome during recovery after a period of lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. Brain cooling is induced by cooling a baby to around 33.5° Celsius (or 92.3° Fahrenheit) for up to three days after birth. Brain cooling has been proven to be the only medical intervention which reduces brain damage and improves an infant’s chance of survival and reduced disability. Cooling alters the chemical processes in the brain, reducing the risk of permanent brain damage.

When should brain cooling therapy begin?

If your baby suffered HIE, cooling therapy should start as soon as possible after birth, but no later than 6-hours post labor, if possible. If the hospital does not have resources for cooling therapy, ice packs may be a suitable temporary method of cooling while transferring to a location that has a NICU department that supports therapeutic brain cooling. Although one would never expect for a bad thing to happen during birth, it is important to inquire whether the hospital you intend on delivering your baby has cooling therapy capabilities.

What are the benefits of brain cooling?

Immediately, brain cooling slows naturally-occurring processes that lead to permanent brain damage, such as swelling and brain cell death. Long term benefits include survival of the baby and in future adolescent years, the child is less likely to develop permanent disabilities. While brain cooling helps reduce neurological damage, it does not prevent secondary conditions associated with HIE, such as cerebral palsy, eye issues, hearing deficiencies, and motor delays.

What happens after my baby’s brain is cooled?

After brain cooling, a baby will be monitored and assessed to ensure he or she can eat, digest, and function. Several tests, such as MRIs, EEGs, and heart monitors should be expected. In most cases, after cooling, if a baby is able to feed, digest food, and have regular urination and bowel movements, he or she will be discharged home. Just because your baby’s brain is cooled, does not ensure he or she will not have resulting injury. Brain cooling has been shown to improve babies’ outcomes, but it is not a guarantee.

What should I do if I suspect negligence caused my baby’s injury (HIE)?

Perhaps your newborn has been cooled right after birth. If you or someone close to you recently suffered a difficult labor or delivery and injury to the newborn that resulted in brain cooling, act quickly to preserve evidence. The only way to determine if the injury was avoidable is to have prenatal, delivery, and newborn medical care attentively reviewed by qualified professionals who understand the complex physiology of mother and fetus during gestation, stresses the baby undergoes during the birth, mechanisms to cope with the stresses, adjusting the newborn to life outside of the womb, and requirements and responses to stresses and factors in the environment.

At Buchanan & Buchanan, our combined legal-medical team has decades of experience handling medical malpractice cases, especially birth injury and birth trauma. We have experienced medical professionals on staff to talk with you right away and review your claim. We quickly and efficiently to assess the medical facts and take immediate action to protect your rights. And, if we find malpractice caused injury, we will take the wrongdoer to court to secure fair and just compensation for the injured child.