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Detroit Medical Malpractice Law Blog

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. 

Study suggests change in standard surgical practice may be appropriate

We have written before on this blog on the topic of medical standard of care. As we’ve noted, the medical standard of care can vary from one state to another and even from one community to another, depending on state law.

Standard of care can come from a variety of different sources. They can be based not only on federal and state laws governing the delivery of health care, but also by commonly accepted clinical practice. Clinical practices can change over time based on new research, though, and so standards of care based on them can also change. 

Study suggests inverse relationship between pro-plaintiff med mal laws, quality of care

A recent study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago confirmed what has come to be increasingly obvious to many in the medical field: the threat of litigation doesn’t necessarily motivate physicians to do better work. The lead author of the study says, rather, that it is more likely to lead to the practice of defensive medicine.

Defensive medicine commonly includes ordering unnecessary or inadvisable tests out of a fear or potentially being sued, but it can also include a lack of transparency in communicating with a patient. Fearful physicians may think that the less they communicate to a patient, the less ammunition the patient will have to hurl at them if something goes wrong. Neither patients nor physicians benefit from such a relationship.

When routine medical, surgical procedures result in serious harm to patients, P.2

Previously, we began looking at the issue of medical mishaps which occur in the context of routine medical procedures. As we noted, routine medical procedures, such as tonsillectomies, are by and large successful and occur without serious incident. In some cases, though, something unexpected occurs and the outcome is not a good one.

Whenever an unexpected outcome occurs with a routine medical procedure, patients want answers to their questions. What happened? Is the patient going to be alright? What long-term consequences will there be, if any? Patients also want an answer to the question, who is at fault?  

When routine medical, surgical procedures result in serious harm to patients, P.1

One important point that every patient needs to be aware of is that every medical and surgical procedure presents risks to the patient. The nature and seriousness of the risks depends, of course, on various factors, including the patient’s condition, the proposed treatment, the overall health condition of the patient, the resources of the medical facility where treatment is being offered, the skill of the doctor and other staff, and so on.

 

Research shows potential connection between brain functioning and preterm delivery, P.2

Previously, we began looking at a recent study which found a potential connection between preterm delivery and lack of neural connectivity in a specific region of the brain. As we noted, it isn’t known yet exactly what the connection is, if any, between preterm delivery and lack of neural connectivity, nor is it known what causative factors are at play in these observations.

From a scientific standpoint, of course, more research needs to be done on the issue. This research very possibly could impact the way obstetricians do their work. One of the particularly important ways the research could affect obstetrics is by giving physicians a possible way to identify another risk factor for preterm delivery. Identify lack of neural connectivity as a risk factor for preterm delivery could help physicians better address the risks associated with preterm delivery. 

Research shows potential connection between brain functioning and preterm delivery, P.1

Something like 10 percent of births in the United States every year is premature.

Premature delivery can present serious risks for both mothers and their children, and medical professionals are expected to follow accepted standards of care in handling pregnancy-related care to minimize these risks. Both before and after childbirth, physicians are expected to pay attention to signs of risk and take appropriate steps to manage those risks.