Michigan Kidney Failure Cases Often the Result of Medical Malpractice.
Government data shows nearly 1 in every 10 adults experience difficulty with chronic kidney disease. The condition, also referred to as chronic renal disease, is characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function over time. Within the body, the kidneys continually filter waste products out of the blood for elimination through urination. Chronic kidney disease can lead to an excess buildup of waste product, and may lead to many other serious health complications, such as high blood pressure, anemia (i.e., decrease in red blood cells), fluid retention, weakened bones, damage to the central nervous system, decreased immune function, or even life-threatening sudden increases in potassium levels. If left untreated chronic kidney disease can lead to complete kidney failure, which is the kidney’s loss in ability to filter waste products from the blood.
When kidney disease is detected early, patients may take steps to reduce the risk of their condition progressing further and even possibly prevent the ultimate loss in kidney function. For instance, patients in the early stages of kidney disease can significantly slow progression of the disease and reduce their risk for other complications by:
Symptoms of impaired kidney function are often subtle, and a careless healthcare professional may fail to recognize the condition until severe symptoms of kidney failure emerge. At that stage, treatment options include dialysis or kidney transplant.
Within the healthcare field, there are safety rules healthcare providers must follow to protect patients from unnecessary harm. The safety rules are referred to as standards of care, and exist to prevent patient harm. Within a busy healthcare practice, such as a hospital, there is often a team of healthcare professionals caring for the patient. An error by one of the members can cause severe harm.
Unrecognized or misdiagnosed kidney disease is one form of medical negligence that puts a patient in danger of loss of kidney function. Other examples of medical negligence known to put an individual in danger of kidney failure include:
Fortunately, simple blood tests will detect a kidney problem. If a test shows mildly elevated creatinine, the patient should be monitored regularly by a healthcare professional. The consequences can otherwise be devastating. Kidneys can lose up to 90% function before the condition is an end-stage renal disease, which requires dialysis.
Some of the more common symptoms of kidney failure include:
– Overall feeling of illness
– Itching and dry skin
– Unintentional weight loss
– Loss of appetite
Other symptoms of kidney failure can include:
– Abnormally light or dark skin
– Changes in the nails
– Bone pain
– Difficulty concentrating
– Numbness in the hands, feet, or other areas of the body
– Muscle twitching
– Muscle cramps
– Bad breath
– Bruising easily
– Frequent nosebleeds
– Blood in the stool
– Excessive thirst
– Frequent hiccups
– Loss of sex drive and impotence
– Menstrual periods stop (amenorrhea)
– Difficulty sleeping
– Swelling of the feet and hands (edema)
Diagnosis of kidney failure typically follows a physical exam and blood tests. Loss of kidney function will affect the blood’s levels of potassium, sodium, albumin, phosphorous, calcium, cholesterol, magnesium, and electrolytes, affecting blood count. Typically, patients experiencing end-stage kidney failure produce little urine.
There are several resources available for individuals who believe they may have experienced an instance of medical negligence.
For more information on kidney disease, including the signs and symptoms of kidney disease and kidney failure, available treatment options, and the most up-to-date news and information please visit:
The National Kidney Foundation
The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, Inc.
Also, the US Department of Health and Human Services has a website dedicated to providing the most recent research in kidney disease:
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Social Worker: Social workers are available in most dialysis clinics across the country and are an invaluable resource for patients suffering from kidney failure. These individuals may be dialysis social workers or nephrology social workers. Their job assists patients every step of the way as they undergo dialysis treatment. They may be available to help answer questions, help patients understand what to expect, and provide expert guidance in navigating issues related to the financial, legal, emotional, or familial aspects that may arise when undergoing treatment for kidney failure. Social workers will have several resources available for patients on opportunities for financial assistance and will oversee the patient’s relationship with the healthcare providers at the treatment center.
The National Kidney Foundation also has several excellent resources for patients or their families, to become involved in advocacy efforts, such as tips on writing to congress or advocating through social media.
Dialysis and Transplants Paid for by Medicare: Medicare is a governmental organization solely responsible for providing care to the elderly (those over 65) and disabled. However, in 1972, the federal legislature passed an act that broadened the population eligible for coverage through Medicare to include patients with permanent kidney failure, no matter their age. Typically, Medicare will pay for up to 80 percent of medical care associated with the treatment of permanent kidney failure5. To qualify for this coverage on the basis of kidney failure, patients must meet certain eligibility requirements:
Further, the patient must meet one of the following to qualify for Medicare coverage under the kidney failure provision:
1. The patient has paid Social Security tax through an employer or is the child or spouse of someone who has.
2. The patient has worked under the Railroad Retirement Board or as a government employee, or the patient is the child or spouse of someone who has.
3. The patient is already receiving from Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or the Office of Personnel Management.
There are certain requirements for how long the patient must have been employed under Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board. Patients are urged to contact their local Social Security office for more information.
Health insurance: Many private health insurance companies will pay for the entire cost of the treatment for kidney failure. Often, individuals with private insurance still apply for Medicare benefits to cover 80% of the cost. Then these individuals will file to have their private insurance company pay for the remaining 20% of the cost, allowing them to avoid paying anything out of pocket. Private insurance companies must cover the medications associated with the treatment for kidney failure5.
Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) from Prescription Drug Companies: Many kidney failure patients require medication to treat certain symptoms of the condition. Some patients may not know prescription drug companies offer assistance programs to help patients cover the high cost of these medications. Patients interested in more information on these patient assistance programs can visit this website.
Filing a Medical Negligence Claim: A physician’s primary concern should be protecting the health and safety of their patient. However, sometimes an unnecessary error can injure the patient. These patients are left to cope with the stress of these injuries and often find themselves faced with a significant financial burden to receive treatment.
Physicians and healthcare providers may carry malpractice insurance. Filing a medical negligence claim is not an attack against the patient’s doctor or healthcare provider. It is the opportunity for patients to receive help and reimbursement.
If there is evidence of malpractice, it is important to immediately seek legal help. A legal professional can help you gather and preserve evidence, and determine if there was malpractice and how to proceed. If you or someone you know has recently experienced kidney failure and circumstances suggest possible medical negligence, it is important you contact an experienced and knowledgeable medical negligence attorney without delay to protect your interests. The best attorneys have medical professionals on staff and immediately investigate the claim to determine if caused by negligence. Buchanan Firm’s team has Michigan medical malpractice attorneys, doctors, nurses, and paralegals to guide and help you in this difficult time.
For more resources see this fact sheet published by the US Department of Health and Human Services.