More and more these days medical procedures are being outsourced by hospitals, sometimes to countries halfway around the world. On March 18, 2008, Sharron Juno was discharged from an Alabama hospital with her discharge summary – unknown to her treating physician -- outsourced by the hospital and ultimately transcribed in India. The transcript and various paperwork contained critical errors, including one that prescribed insulin at 10 times the proper dosage. The medication caused brain damage and resulting cardiopulmonary arrest. Sharon Juno died nine days later.
A new study reports that each year in the United States doctors commit more than 4,000 “never events” -- the kind of medical mistake that should never happen. These errors include operating on the wrong part of the body or performing the wrong procedure or even performing surgery on the wrong patient altogether. Another common “never event” involves sewing up a patient after surgery and discovering – or worse, not discovering – that an instrument used in the operation was left inside the patient.
A jury in Syracuse awarded $1.5 million in the case of a teacher and beloved coach at an upstate New York high school who killed himself while under the effects of antidepressants. The state Supreme Court jury found that Joe Mazella had been overmedicated and that negligent medical treatment contributed to his suicide in 2009. The Syracuse Post-Standard quoted his wife, Janice Mazella, as saying: “ … He felt like his head was on fire,. There was something going on in his head and he just couldn’t figure it out.
The Washington Hospital in western Pennsylvania said it would review at least 500 Pap smear slides after one woman claimed the hospital's pathologists misread her tests for five consecutive years. A later review of the woman’s slides revealed a clear progression from pre-cancerous cells to an invasive carcinoma. Luckily, after finally being diagnosed with cervical cancer, she responded well to treatment and is now free of cancer.
When doctors at an Ohio hospital finished colon surgery on a woman, they failed to notice that something was missing from the operating room that was there before – a towel. It was nearly five months after her June 2009 surgery before the location of the towel was discovered. It was inside the patient, 43-year-old Kelly Maron. The towel was found in her upper abdomen and removed in another surgery, but two-thirds of the length of her small bowel also had to be removed.
In 2004, 12-year-old Jonathan Reynolds fell on a nail. The Tennessee boy was taken to Dyersburg Regional Medical Center but hospital personnel reportedly failed to take adequate procedures to avoid an infection and did not administer the proper antibiotics. The result was catastrophic. Jonathan contracted a flesh-eating bacterium that required numerous skin grafts and he developed severe brain injuries after slipping into a coma, according to an Associated Press report.
After a rash of spine operations went bad, it was discovered that one of the doctors performing the procedure at a New Mexico hospital had allegedly faked his credentials -- he wasn’t even a surgeon at all. That revelation and other problems resulted in the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center agreeing to settle 80 malpractice claims for a total of more than $33 million.
New York City has paid out more than a half billion dollars over the last four fiscal years to pay for medical mistakes at its 11 public hospitals, according to a report in the New York Daily News citing city records. The tab – paid ultimately by taxpayers -- came to $134 million in the last fiscal year alone. The records detailed a long list of medical mishaps, many of them causing terrible and permanent physical damage to patients.
A jury handed down a $100 million verdict against a hospital for a Staten Island teenager who suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of a premature birth. The case took years to litigate. The baby is now 17-year-old Stephanie Debes, who, along with a twin sister, was born three months early after staff at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Staten Island allegedly failed to give them proper care, according to an article in the New York Post.