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Medical Malpractice

Throughout the 20th century American physicians and scientists have achieved many significant innovations in the science and art of medicine. State of the art diagnostic tests, innovative surgical techniques and a variety of new medications have created enormous opportunities for hospitals and physicians to cure disease, treat illness and alleviate suffering.

At the same time, there has been an erosion in the quality of health care provided to many Americans. The rise and dominance of managed care corporations threatens the basic tenant of all medicine derived from the Hippocratic oath, to "first, do no harm." Treatment decisions made by corporate entities have resulted in the denial to many Americans of basic levels of medical care and treatment, resulting in unnecessary and avoidable death and suffering.

A recent study from the U. S. Government's Agency for Health Care suggests that collectively, preventable post-operative infections, the accidental opening of surgical wounds, and other preventable complications lead to more than 32,000 hospital deaths per year, at a cost of more than $9 billion dollars. Another recent report from the Institute of Medicine suggests medical errors kill up to 98,000 hospitalized Americans each year. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates a patient's risk of dying from routine surgery is higher at hospitals with fewer nurses at the bedside. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that inadequate nursing levels lead to thousands of avoidable deaths each year. They also found a patient's risk of death increased 7% for every additional patient added to a nursing employee's workload. Poor working environments in hospitals and nursing homes and a shortage of nurses are the greatest threats to patient safety, according to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy and yet, HMO's recently reported annual profits of $5.5 billion.

Another common area of medical malpractice is Birth Injury. The terms "birth injury" and "birth trauma" ordinarily refer to injuries to a baby that result from complications during labor and delivery. Birth injuries range from mild to severe, ranging from minor bruising to nerve or brain damage. Most birth injuries do not result from medical malpractice. A lawyer can assist you in evaluating a specific incident for the possibility of malpractice. Common injuries include:

Bruising and Forceps Marks
Sometimes a baby will have bruising on the face or head simply from passing though the birth canal, and from associated contact with the mother's pelvic bones and tissues. If forceps are used during delivery, they may leave temporary marks or bruises on the baby's head. Vacuum extraction can also cause bruising to the head, and may cause a scalp laceration. In extreme cases, forceps use can cause depressed skull fractures, which may require surgical elevation.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
This common birth injury results in a bright red band around the iris of one or both of the baby's eyes. This does not cause damage to the eyes, and usually disappears completely within a week to ten days.

Caput Succedaneum
This is a severe swelling of the baby's scalp, and is more likely to occur as a result of vacuum extraction. The swelling will ordinarily disappear within a few days.

This term refers to bleeding between a bone and its fibrous covering. With regard to childbirth, this type of injury is typically seen on the baby's head. A cephalohematoma will ordinarily resolve within two weeks to three months. If a cephalohematoma is particularly large, the baby may become jaundiced as the red blood cells break down.

Facial Paralysis
Pressure on the baby's face during labor or birth, or the use of forceps during childbirth, may cause injury to a baby's facial nerves. If a nerve is merely bruised, the paralysis will ordinarily clear up within a few weeks. With more severe nerve damage, it may be necessary to surgically repair the damaged facial nerves.

Brachial Palsy Injuries (Erb's Palsy and Klumpke's Palsy)
This condition occurs when the brachial plexus (the group of nerves that controls movement of the arms and hands) is injured. This injury most often results from "shoulder dystocia", a term that describes birth difficulties that result when the baby's shoulders impair its passage through the birth canal. When injury causes only bruising or swelling, the baby will ordinarily recover within three months. In more severe cases, there may be permanent nerve damage, and physical therapy and surgery may be required.

Fractured Bones
The most common bone fracture is to the clavicle (collar bone), usually during difficult births or breech delivery. In most cases, the baby recovers quickly once the bone is immobilized.

Brain Injury
Birth difficulties can result in oxygen deprivation to the baby as a result of blood loss, or the twisting or compression of the umbilical cord. Prolonged oxygen deprivation can cause brain damage, and may result in seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, or mental impairment.

When corporate decisions put profits over patients, the consequences of increased suffering and death are felt in the lives of real people, families and communities. We are available to evaluate injuries as a result of medical negligence.

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