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Detroit Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Federal authorities go after MI physician in first prosecution of female genital mutilation

Physicians are bound by a wide variety of rules which are legal, ethical, and professional in nature. The legal duties to which physicians are bound come from various sources, including statutes, case law, and the medical community itself. When a physician exercises bad or mistaken judgment, he or she can face various consequences, including malpractice liability, professional discipline, and sometimes even criminal prosecution.

A Northville physician is currently facing criminal prosecution in connection with a procedure commonly known as female genital mutilation. It is the first instance in which federal authorities are prosecuting such a case. The physician targeted in the case reportedly performed the procedure upon two 7-year-old daughters of a Livonia couple. The father himself is apparently a physician. 

Study looks at low reporting rate of medication errors among anesthesiologists, P.2

In our last post, we began looking at a recent study which found that found anesthesiologists may be significantly underreporting medication errors. The problem is particularly prevalent with respect to antibiotic and opioid errors.                 

Failure to self-report errors is, of course, a problem given that health care providers are best situated to determine whether such problems have occurred when a patient experiences symptoms. Patients trust that if something goes wrong, their providers will be transparent with them and help get to the bottom of the matter. Unfortunately, the research suggests that may not be happening. 

Study looks at low reporting rate of medication errors among anesthesiologists

Medication errors are a common type of medical error observed in the health care industry. In many cases, medication errors are preventable. These errors can be traced back to physicians, of course, in the prescription of medications, but also to pharmacists who prepare and dispense the medication, nurses who administer the medication, and the health care administration responsible for supervising medication-related matters.

As we’ve noted before on this blog, health care providers are not always transparent when it comes to informing patients about medical errors. This is no different with medication errors. In fact, according to a recent study looking at medical error reporting error rates among anesthesiologists, medication errors may be significantly underreported by that section of the health care industry. 

A bit about medical malpractice claims based on failure to obtain informed consent

In our last post, we noted both the importance of informed consent in health care, as well as the fact that informed consent is not necessarily always sufficient. Under Michigan law, negligence can occur with informed consent when a physician fails to reasonably inform a patient of the risks of a treatment.

Failure to provide reasonable informed consent means failing to provide the patient adequate information, information that would be provided by a reasonable physician with similar training and experienced in the same or a similar community, before pursuing a given course of treatment. In cases where the plaintiff would have chosen not to pursue the procedure had he or she been provided reasonable informed consent, there may be a legal claim there worth pursuing. 

Why do doctors refuse to admit or apologize for mistakes?

According to research conducted by John Hopkins University, medical errors kill approximately 251,000 patients each year across America. Countless other patients are injured by medical malpractice.

While these numbers are staggering, the number of families that receive an apology is very small. In fact, it's the unspoken rule of most hospitals and medical providers to never admit fault for anything that goes wrong. The vast majority of injured patients and grieving families are forced to file medical malpractice lawsuits in order to get answers and find closure.

MSU faces potential liability for failures related to physician sexual assault allegations, P.2

Last time, we began looking at a lawsuit filed against Michigan State University for its alleged failure to supervise a physician accused of sexually assault female patients during medical examinations and procedures. As we noted last time, one of the areas of focus in the litigation is the university’s new informed consent policy.

The policy, which was only recently adopted, requires informed consent from patients for examinations, treatments or procedures which are particularly sensitive, such as vaginal and rectal exams, as well as pelvic floor procedures. The policy requires that a physician wear gloves and that the patient provides consent to the procedures after a clear explanation of the procedure. 

MSU faces potential liability for failures related to physician sexual assault allegations

When we talk about medical malpractice on this blog, we are usually speaking specifically about the liability a doctor faces for acting negligently with respect to his or her professional duties. Medical malpractice, in this sense, is only one part of the total picture of liability for harm to a patient, though. In many cases, it is not only the physician that can face liability for patient harm, but also the hospital staff that assisted in the medical care or treatment and the hospital which employed the physician.

Hospital liability can arise in a number of ways, including failure to properly credential a physician, failure to ensure oversight of the physician’s work, or failing to take timely action when a destructive pattern is noticed. Hospitals can potentially face liability not only for physician’s mistaken judgments, but also for their misconduct.

Noneconomic damages cap is one among several federal tort reform proposals

Last time, we looked briefly at a federal measure being proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives which would put a cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. That measure, as some readers may know, is one of a number of Republican proposals aimed at reforming the civil justice system on a broader basis at the federal level.

Another measure, called the Innocent Party Protection Act, would for the transfer of some tort claims out of state court to the federal court system. Part of the basis for this measure is that state courts are seen as more favorable to plaintiffs. Another measure, known as the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, requires federal judges to punish attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits. The measure presumably addresses the fact that judges sometimes exercise their discretion to not punish attorneys for bringing such lawsuits. 

House lawmakers contemplate federal med mal damages cap

As we mentioned in our last post, law makers in the House of Representatives are reportedly considering a measure that would establish a federal cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

The legislation, which has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee, would cap non-economic damages at $250,000. The cap would apply not only to damages paid out by doctors, but also by hospitals and nursing home facilities, specifically to patients who are insured under federal health plans like Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, veterans or military health plans, and perhaps even those covered under COBRA and health savings plans. 

Med Mal damages caps highlight importance of building strong damages case

Michigan readers may know that there is a cap in Michigan on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages refer to damages which are not readily measurable in monetary terms, and include things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life.

As of last January, plaintiffs are limited to $280,000 in non-economic damages, unless certain exceptions apply, in which case the limit is raised to $500,000. These exceptions include cases where the plaintiff suffers: a brain or spinal cord injury resulting in functional loss of one or more limbs; permanent cognitive impairment leaving him or her unable to make independent, responsible life decisions and permanently unable to carry out ordinary daily activities; and cases where there is permanent loss or damage to reproductive organs resulting in an inability to procreate.