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Detroit Medical Malpractice Law Blog

When doctors fail to recommend cancer screening

  • 27
  • May
    2015

We’ve been talking about cancer screening in our last couple posts—the risks, the benefits, and the potential for doctors to make the mistake of failing to recommend cancer screening. The latter issue is an important one, of course, because doctors have a huge responsibility in ensuring that their patients receive a timely diagnosis and proper treatment.

Interestingly, a recent study out of California demonstrates that certain populations may be more at risk when it comes to certain types of cancer, not because of genetic propensities, but because of the health care they have available. According to the study, racial minorities are more likely to go without colon cancer screening than Caucasians because their providers are more likely not to recommend that they receive screening. This, of course, means that racial minorities could be more at risk of developing colon cancer. 

Screening for cervical cancer: guidelines are only guidelines, P.2

  • 18
  • May
    2015

In our last post, we spoke briefly about new guidelines released by the American College of Physicians that govern when health care providers should order screening for cervical cancer. The guidelines are an attempt to balance the risks associated with cancer screening with the obvious benefits of detecting cancer early on.

One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that guidelines are only guidelines, and that physicians have a duty to use their best judgment when caring for a patient. A physician who follows established guidelines concerning cancer screening isn’t immune from making mistakes in judgment. What matters are the particulars of the patient’s situation and the applicable standard of care. 

Screening for cervical cancer: guidelines are only guidelines, P.1

  • 13
  • May
    2015

Cervical cancer, like other forms of cancer, is best treated when physicians are able to identify it early on and begin appropriate treatment as soon as possible. The presence of cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, is typically first determined by a test called a colposcopy.

If something abnormal is seen in this test, a biopsy is then taken to determine the type of tissue at hand. If a biopsy shows that the tissue is pre-cancerous or cancerous, a patient is then given other testing to determine how much tissue is affected.

Electronic records no guarantee against error

  • 04
  • May
    2015

More and more businesses and industries, in an effort to cut costs and streamline operations have been turning to electronic record-keeping in recent years. In the field of health care, the use of electronic health records is becoming a widespread trend, with many in the health care industry expecting that an electronic record system could help cut down on errors and the patient harm—and provider liability—that stems from these errors.

Not surprisingly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the use of electronic records in health care is not a safeguard against all error. More and more medical malpractice lawsuits are involving mistakes in the use of these records, such as misinterpretation of drop-down menus, errors in patient status, typos leading to medication errors, faulty voice-recognition software, and at times plainly inaccurate record-keeping.

Standards for antibiotic use would help patients hold medical professionals accountable

  • 04
  • May
    2015

Antibiotics are obviously very useful in the world of medicine, helping keep infections at bay and allowing patients to recover more quickly. In some cases, they are necessary to save a patient’s life. As with other good things, though, there comes a point where overuse of antibiotics can have potentially negative consequences. This, at least, is the concern among some medical professionals and medical researchers.

A recent study reported in Pediatrics looked at the issue of antibiotic use in neonatal intensive care units in the state of California. What was found was that the rate of antibiotic use varied significantly, with the majority of facilities demonstrating a 40-fold difference in the rate of use. This variability was seen to be independent of infection rates, suggesting that antibiotics may often be used out of habit rather than necessity. 

Off-label drug prescriptions and medical malpractice liability

  • 23
  • April
    2015

We began speaking in our last post about litigation that has been initiated against GlaxoSmithKline in connection with Zofran. As we noted, the lawsuits accuse the manufacturer of failing to warn patients about the risks the drug presents for pregnant women, which include the possibility of birth defects. The issue we raised last time was what liability may attach to doctors who choose to prescribe medications for an off-label use, as is the case with Zofran as used by pregnant women.

One important point is that prescribing medications for an off-label use is not all that uncommon, and physicians are allowed to do so as long as these prescriptions do not veer into the realm of “research.” The distinction, generally speaking, is that research is characterized by interventions aimed at testing of a hypothesis and ultimately contributing to increased knowledge. In cases where research is being conduct with the off-label use of a drug, physicians must take steps to follow established safety protocol and supervision to ensure safety and effectiveness. Patients must also be fully informed of the risks. Failure to do so opens a physician up to liability.  

Zofran litigation raises issue of physician liability for off-label prescriptions

  • 15
  • April
    2015

Readers may have heard of the medication Zofran and the current litigation going on with respect to its safety for use by pregnant women. GlaxcoSmithKline, the manufacturer of the drug, is reportedly being accused of failing to warn patients about the potentially dangerous effects of the drug during the first three months of pregnancy.

In support of their claims, plaintiffs are pointing to previous research suggesting the drug may cause musculoskeletal deformities and heart defects. The big legal issue in the cases, as already mentioned, is that Glaxo failed to provide adequate warning about the risks of Zofran with respect to possible heart and musculoskeletal issues. What we want to ask here, though, is: what liability do doctors assume in the prescription of this medication for pregnant women?

Study shows patients feel better after reviewing medical records

  • 07
  • April
    2015

Isn’t it funny how scientific research often confirms what most of us already suspected or knew to be true? Well, another study like this recently came out. According to recent research conducted at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, patients who are allowed to see their medical records during their stay in a hospital have less anxiety about their treatment or procedure. We know…not that surprising.

One of the hopes coming out of the study is that allowing patients to review their medical records while they are hospitalized will not only help them to be less anxious, but also to become more involved in their care and to potentially prevent medical errors from occurring. This last point is an important one. 

What are the qualification requirements for expert witnesses? P.2

  • 31
  • March
    2015

In our last post, we began looking at what Michigan law has to say about the qualifications for expert witnesses in medical malpractice litigation. As we noted, one of the main requirements is that the physician has knowledge and experience practicing in the same field and specialty as the defendant physician.

There are a separate—though not that different—set of factors that are considered for evaluating the qualifications of an expert witness who is being called to provide an opinion on some aspect of a medical malpractice case other than the standard of care. We’ll briefly look at these factors here. 

What are the qualification requirements for expert witnesses?

  • 25
  • March
    2015

In our last post, we spoke a bit about the role of judges in determining the qualifications of expert witnesses and the reliability of their testimony. In this post, we wanted to take a brief look at what state law has to say about these qualifications.

The first issue addressed by state law is the qualifications for an expert witness to be able to offer an opinion on the correct standard of care in the case, whether in favor of or against the provider accused of negligence. As a general matter, experts who testify on the appropriate standard of care must be licensed health professional in either Michigan or another state. Further, experts must have specialized in the same specialty as the provider accused of negligence as of the time of the alleged negligence. 

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