Personal Injury Lawsuits: Hospitals and Clinics Adjust To Increase in Infection Injury Malpractice Cases | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

According to an article in Lawyers USA in December 2008, medical malpractice lawsuits are on the rise against hospital and other clinics for serious or life-threatening infections that personal injury victims are claiming could have been prevented.  Most importantly, juries are holding the hospitals responsible for failing to prevent the resulting infections.

 For example, the article referred to a November 6, 2008 jury verdict of $13.5 million to a Massachusetts woman who died of an infection caused by flesh-being bacteria after she underwent cancer treatment. The article referred to a November 14, 2008 confidential settlement in the sum of $16 million to a Utah woman, who alleged that the hospital in question failed to detect a flesh eating bacteria either before or after she gave birth and caused her to lose three limbs and several body organs. The article discussed a July, 2008 verdict for $2.58 million in favor of a Missouri couple after the husband contracted a deadly type of staph infection known as methicillin resistant staph  (MRSA), after doctors had put a pacemaker in. The particular patient lost a kidney and a leg and a foot had to be amputated.

 Many medical malpractice lawyers have refused to accept personal injury cases relating to infection contraction, because infection can be a known complication of most surgeries and procedures. However, where special circumstances can be shown that prove a hospital or clinic violate a specific standard of care directed to avoiding infection, it seems that juries are paying attention and penalizing hospitals for the careless or negligent conduct.

 For example, in late 2008 Medicare stopped reimbursing for certain types of hospital contracted infections.  The implication is that it can result from a hospital mistake, and Medicare may refuse payment.

 Perhaps more importantly, the Joint Commission  (The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, also called the JCAHO) , which is a nonprofit organization based in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois,  evaluates end credits healthcare programs.  The JCAHO released a written document which outlines strategies for preventing infections. The extensive document was released in October 2008 and is very important because hospitals and clinics follow the recommendations of the joint commission and use it as a basis for many of the standards and actions they take. Also, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) also has rules for avoiding infections such as when an IV, intravenous device should be removed and how long one should be left in. Also, CDC rules specify that a surgeon should not perform a heart surgery while a remote site infection exists, as several examples of standards that apply to infections.

 Between the CDC recommendations, and the compendium released by the joint commission, the standard of care for preventing infection in hopitals and clinics is changing and it  is being recognized that the standards do exist for preventing infections. Active hand hygiene policies, screening incoming patients for certain types of infections, and a bunch of other recommendations now are relevant in any case where a personal injury medical malpractice lawyer is reviewing a case of a preventable infection that causes permanent and serious medical complications.

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