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Jacksonville Legal Blog

Delayed diagnosis: Stroke malpractice

Strokes are serious medical catastrophes. When a blood vessel is blocked or bursts, the brain cannot get the oxygen it needs, resulting in brain cell death. When a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition that could lead to a stroke, or do not realize that a stroke occurred, they may be liable for the outcome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability. What are types of strokes, how are they missed by doctors and what effect does it have on the patient?

Doctor's immunity claim denied in malpractice case

On Sept. 26, a Florida appeals court agreed with the state's Department of Health that a doctor cannot use a state program to shield him or herself from liability in a medical malpractice case. The claim arose after the death of a pregnant patient who sought prenatal care at a Department of Health clinic in 2007. One state program that seeks physicians to provide free care to patients provides extra protections, akin to the state's sovereign immunity, for medical malpractice claims arising from that treatment.

However, the court held that physicians cannot use that defense to shield themselves from malpractice lawsuits that arise outside of that particular context. One physician entered a contract to participate in the Department of Health's free-care program in 2005. The doctor was working in private practice when he made the agreement; later, he began working at a hospital in Palm Beach County.

Losing weight can reduce risk for breast cancer, study says

A study published in the journal Cancer has clarified the link that exists between one's weight and one's risk for breast cancer. One third of postmenopausal women in Florida and across the U.S. are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so the results of the study have a wide applicability.

Though the risk for breast cancer rises as women age, they may be able to reduce that risk by losing weight. After analyzing more than 60,000 women, researchers found that those who lost 5 percent of body weight over a three-year period saw a 12 percent statistically significant decrease in breast cancer incidences.

Detecting LBD

Florida residents who suspect that they or a loved one may suffer from Lewy body dementia, or LBD, should be aware that early detection can be a key factor in having successful treatment. People who have LBD tend to respond more favorably to certain types of dementia medications than individuals who have Alzheimer's. This means that receiving treatment during the early stages can help enhance and extend the quality of life for LBD sufferers and their caregivers. The accurate and early diagnosis of LBD is also important because many LBD sufferers tend to have poorer responses to certain types of drugs for movement and behavior than individuals who have Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's is a disease whose most well-known symptom is the progressive decline of recent memory. Its symptoms can also include difficulties with language, abstract thinking, judgement and calculation. Alzheimer's sufferers may suffer from anxiety or depression, exhibit behavioral or personality changes, and experience place and time disorientation.

Why early detection of ovarian cancer is challenging

Women in Florida may want to make themselves aware of some important facts about ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed too late because its symptoms are often confused with conditions that are less serious.

Worldwide, approximately 250,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. About 140,000 die from the disease annually. In its early stages, when the cancer has not spread beyond the ovaries, it is very treatable. However, the symptoms can be thought of as minor problems that many women ignore. Symptoms include back pain, more frequent urination, bloating and indigestion.

Determining liability when machines make mistakes

The use of artificial intelligence has the ability to revolutionize the medical field and make health care safer for patients in Florida and around the country. However, it is worth pondering what happens if a machine makes a mistake. Currently, AI is considered to be a tool used by a medical professional as opposed to something that can make decisions without being questioned. If a computer program provides poor information, it is up to the doctor to question the data.

It is akin to a surgeon not being able to blame a broken scalpel for making an error during a procedure. At some point, AI may become the standard of care when treating a patient. If this happens, it may be necessary to change liability laws to ensure that medical professionals can overrule a machine's advice.

Anesthesia errors: what are they and how you can prove them

When you, or someone you love, goes into surgery, you may assume that the most dangerous part of the procedure is the surgery itself. However, the possibility of anesthesia error is often overlooked. Anesthesia, prevents you from feeling pain during surgery, often by rendering you unconscious. Used in most surgeries, anesthesia is widely used but can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, there are many errors that an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist can make while you are in surgery that can have severe, even life altering, consequences.

Study identifies issue with prostate cancer test

Prostate-specific membrane antigen positron emission tomography testing is often used to determine what stage of prostate cancer a person is in, but for some patients in Florida and throughout the country, this could be misdiagnosed. PSMA PET scans look for the enzyme PSMA in tissue since it is expressive in prostate cancer cells. However, this may also occur in benign tissue.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine involved more than 400 patients and examined PSMA-ligand uptake. While researchers cautioned that this expressiveness could lead to a misdiagnosis, they also did not recommend that medical professionals should stop using the test. Instead, they said when the results are analyzed, there should also be configuration and localization so that benign results can be distinguished from metastasis.

Study analyzes malpractice claims involving durotomy

A study recently published in the journal Spine analyzed the varying outcomes of 48 medical malpractice claims, each of which involved a condition called durotomy. Florida residents about to undergo spinal surgery should know that durotomy is a common and sometimes unavoidable condition in which the outer membrane of the spinal cord develops tears. Surgeons can usually detect and repair the condition during the procedure, causing no long-term effects.

However, dural tears can reopen or pass undetected, creating complications. The 48 plaintiffs, who were evenly split between male and female, alleged everything from the need for additional surgery to improper repairs to delays in diagnosis and treatment. While 60 percent reported weakness among their injuries, 20 percent suffered paralysis, brain damage or death. All the cases ended in a verdict or settlement.

New software could help eliminate surgical errors

Surgical errors, from operating on the wrong part of the body to giving a patient the wrong organ, are rare. In fact, they happen in only .03 percent of all operations in the U.S. Still, up to 10,000 patients are injured every year from such surgical "never events." Florida residents will want to know about a startup in Chicago that may have the solution for not only reducing surgical errors but also eliminating them for good.

Established in 2015, SafeStart Medical uses smart mobile devices and a cloud-based patient and clinician portal to create an enhanced patient safety record. The administrative side begins by adding the clinical documents and other important data like surgeon annotated photos and the allergies and consent forms. In the end, both the physician and patient are to review and approve of the record.