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Detroit Medical Malpractice Law Blog

What is an affidavit of merit and why does it matter in med mal litigation?

The concept of merit is an important one when pursuing medical malpractice litigation. Merit refers to the plaintiff’s basis for pursuing the claim. A case which has merit has a valid basis such that a court could find that the plaintiff’s legal rights have been violated based on the claims made in the complaint.

Just because a case is meritorious does not mean that the claims will be sustained, though. The plaintiff has the duty to present sufficient evidence to support the claims, and a defendant has the right to respond to the complaint, which can affect the case. Setting forth meritorious claims in a complaint is the important first step a plaintiff’s takes, though, in pursuing a case

Gaining access to medical records: a common challenge in medical malpractice litigation

Surgical procedures involve various risks. As we’ve pointed out in recent posts, surgeons can and do sometimes make mistakes. Sometimes these errors are serious and leave the patient with permanent health problems.

A recent example of this is the case of an Oak Park woman who went in for outpatient surgery for the removal of a scar. Within a week of having the surgery, the woman developed infections that refused to heal, which led to numerous surgeries to address the issue. Testing apparently showed that the infection was caused by a heat-resistant bacteria which, according to her attorneys, left the surgical instruments improperly sterilized. Unfortunately, the woman faces an uphill battle in proving this in her case.

Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient: welcome to the world of surgical errors, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about the persistence of surgical errors despite efforts to prevent them. Wrong-site, wrong-procedure and wrong-patient errors are particularly concerning because of the serious impact they can have on the patients involved. 

Surgical errors are even more problematic when the providers who performed the surgery, or the hospital that employs them, refuses to take responsibility for the error.  A recent example of this is an incident that took place at an out-of-state hospital where a surgeon reportedly removed a kidney from the wrong patient. Afterward, the hospital claimed that its staff followed proper protocols in prepping and performing the procedure, and that the patient’s physician was to blame for the error. 

Wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient: welcome to the world of surgical errors, P.1

Getting a surgical procedure can be a nerve-racking experience for many people, not only because surgery has its own inherent risks, but also because most the public is aware of the fact that surgeons and other health care providers are not perfect and do occasionally make mistakes.

Different types of mistakes can occur in surgical procedures, but several particularly concerning possibilities are when the hospital performs surgery on the wrong body part, performs the wrong form surgical procedure, or performs surgery on the wrong patient. 

What is the relationship between clinical practice guidelines and standard of care?

In recent posts, we’ve been discussing cancer screening guidelines in the context of medical malpractice litigation. One important point to highlight in this discussion is that cancer screening guidelines do not, in and of themselves, constitute a standard of care.

Cancer screening falls within what could generally be termed clinical practice guidelines. There is, to be sure, a difference between clinical practice guidelines and the legal standard of care. The latter is determined by how a reasonable practitioner would act in given set of circumstances, and is the proper subject of medical malpractice litigation. Clinical practice guidelines, on the other hand, are intended to synthesize the evidence and guide physicians in making evidence-based decisions in caring for patients. 

Study highlights family physicians’ knowledge gap regarding lung cancer screening, P.2

In our last post, we looked briefly at a recent study which highlighted, at least to a small extent, the concern that family physicians may not have adequate knowledge of cancer screening guidelines, at least in the context of recommending effective screening for lung cancer.

This is concerning, of course, because many patients rely on their family physician to not only be knowledgeable about available cancer screening methods, but also to recommend appropriate cancer screening when the time is right for it. While no physician is perfect, a patient should be able to expect a physician both appreciates the effectiveness of cancer screening and follows accepted cancer screening guidelines when advising patients. 

Study highlights family physicians’ knowledge gap regarding lung cancer screening

We have previously written on this blog about failure to properly diagnose cancer, and the duty of physicians recommend appropriate screening tests and track a patient’s conditions, noticing potential warning signs of cancer and referring to specialists when necessary.

Part of what is required for doing this effectively is to keep up with current practice guidelines regarding cancer screening, and recognizing the importance of cancer screening in the first place. Surprisingly, many physicians are simply unaware of the effectiveness of cancer screening and aren’t familiar with screening guidelines. 

Study: error-tracking makes for more effective surgical resident training

An important task for any surgical residency program is how to evaluate the skills of its surgeons in training. Thorough and effective training, of course, ensures surgeons are equipped to succeed in their work and that patients entrusted to their case will receive competent care.

A recently published study from Johns Hopkins looks at the issue of how to effective assess the operating skills of orthopedic surgeons. What the study found was that the common method of using step-by-step checklists and measures to assess general surgical skills is effective as far as it goes, but that it is more effective when combined with a rigorous system for detecting and tracking errors. 

Did your physician fail to recommend cancer screening?

Last time, we looked briefly at new lung cancer screening technology and noted that physicians have the duty to take appropriate action with regard to cancer screening, whether this means referring a patient to a specialist or ordering appropriate tests for the patient.

Cancer screening is a bit tricky, because there are different screening guidelines for different types of cancer and these rules change over time. In addition, different organizations have slightly different screening recommendations. That being said, there is a great deal of agreement in these recommendations, and patients should not suppose that their physicians are without clear guidelines when it comes to medical recommendations. 

Lung cancer breath test could be effective screening tool

When it comes to treating cancer, early detection and treatment are critical to success. Screening guidelines exist for a wide variety of cancers, with breast, colon, and skin cancer being among the more well known and performed screenings. Some forms of cancer are harder to diagnose than others.

As our knowledge and technology continues to develop, we will hopefully have more and more screening options available to for a variety of cancers. A recent example of such a development is a straightforward breath test which apparently can help identify chemical compounds indicating the presence of lung cancer. The test used in the study is not approved by the FDA, but it may be someday. The cost is reportedly quite low, which would make it accessible to the public.