Policy and standard lapses: simple breaches can hurt — and cost — a lot

by • September 1, 2008 • UncategorizedComments Off on Policy and standard lapses: simple breaches can hurt — and cost — a lot1551

• The Gist: Medical-legal professional may not need to look far to find the breach in care, or care below the standard.

© 2008 The Medical-Legal News

The July 2008 and August 2008 issues of the Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter (www.nursinglaw.com) reported several med mal cases of note.
In a case where a 9-year-old boy was suffering from an asthma attack, he was given succinylcholine, which paralyzed his breathing. Delays in intubation then compounded his brain damage from lack of oxygen. Award against the military hospital: $4 million.
A nursing home that was on a campaign to raise revenues admitted a psychiatric patient, who was known to be violent and who had been previously locked up, from a VA hospital. The nursing staff complained that the patient should not be at the home. The patient soon injured his defenseless roommate. Award: $100 million in punitives, which was reduced to $750,000 under Texas caps.
In one case a post-op patient coded. The batteries in the laryngoscope were dead and no spare batteries were on the crash cart, as per hospital policy. Next, the wall-mounted suction in the room did not work. The defendants did a lot of finger pointing, but all settled.
In another case, an aide left a weak and anemic patient alone in the bathroom while he was showering. The patient had asked the aide for assistance. The patient fell, hit his head and suffered a subdural hematoma, from which he later died. The article noted that lapses in patient safety policy are indicative of conduct below the standard of care, so no expert witnesses would be needed.
In another case a lung cancer patient, after a successful surgery, was discharged without compression stockings and without being told stockings were needed. The patient later suffered deep vein thrombosis that led to cardiac arrest and death. Award to widow: $1.3 million.
In another case, nursing staff did not wait for lab results to come back about a patient’s suitability for Coumadin. The patient was hospitalized with severe bleeding problems. Award: $100,000.
Lastly, an ER patient with a known history of suicidal thoughts was left alone in a room by a psychiatric nurse. The patient hanged himself. Settlement: $1 million.

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