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Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Last month, a Texas doctor was arrested on a number of serious charges related to the level of care he provided to his patients and the potential fraud that he committed against the U.S. government. He was also charged with federal money laundering offenses. Essentially, the government is claiming that the doctor falsely diagnosed patients in order to conduct expensive tests and prescribe certain types of medication that may have been unnecessary.

Doctor ConsultationWhile the case against the doctor was initially brought based on the fraud he allegedly committed against the government, many of the doctor’s former patients have begun to come forward to explain how the doctor’s conduct caused them serious injuries. According to a recent local news source, federal investigators now believe that there may be over 3,000 victims affected by the doctor’s conduct – many in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas (including McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, Pharr, Brownsville, Harlingen) as well as in the greater San Antonio area, where the doctor had offices.

The article discusses a few of the former doctor’s patients, including a man who claims that he was falsely diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis by the doctor, who placed the patient on a strong prescription drug. After taking the medication for some time, the patient began to develop burns on his skin, and his fingernails and toenails started falling off. Later, after the patient began to lose his skin, he consulted with another doctor, who told the patient that he never had rheumatoid arthritis and immediately took the patient off the prescription medication. The patient claims that his symptoms were caused by the prescription medication.

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When most people think of a medical malpractice claim, images of a botched surgery or missed diagnosis come to mind. However, some cases of Texas medical malpractice involve a doctor’s intentional conduct, not necessarily to harm his patients but to pad his own wallet.

Medical RecordsEarlier this month, federal law enforcement authorities arrested a South Texas doctor (Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada) with offices in the San Antonio, Brownsville and Edinburg/McAllen areas on a seven-count indictment, alleging that the doctor engaged in a “massive fraud scheme that jeopardized the health and wellbeing of innocent children, elderly and disabled victims.” According to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the doctor falsely diagnosed patients and performed unnecessary medical procedures – including injections and infusions of chemotherapy drugs such as methotrexate. The doctor also allegedly prescribed unnecessary medication to patients. Many of the medications he prescribed can have a harmful effect on healthy individuals. In order to justify these courses of treatment, authorities claim that the doctor falsified medical records, stating that patients claimed to have more pain than they reported to have.

The doctor practiced rheumatology in the Rio Grande Valley and Central Texas, with offices in Brownsville, Edinburg, and San Antonio. He is alleged to have hidden medical records from other doctors who work with his patients, as well as from Medicare oversight. Authorities apparently located a dilapidated barn full of his patients’ medical records.

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This is the question one woman — who is not from Texas — put before the court in her area. After days of complaining of pain, her primary care physician and doctors at another medical facility failed to correctly diagnose her condition. Her case illustrates the harm that a misdiagnosis can do, and she claims to have experienced it twice over the course of several days.

The woman experienced pain in her foot and went to the emergency room. When she went to her primary care physician three days later, her doctor diagnosed the problem with her big toe and foot as being gout. He gave her medication and sent her on her way with medication to treat that ailment. Her pain only continued to get worse, and her doctor’s office advised her to go to the emergency room.

By this time, the West Virginia woman’s pain and swelling had increased, and her toes were discolored. Emergency room personnel advised her to switch to another medication and sent her home. Finally, she went to a hospital that performed the necessary tests to discover that she suffered from a severe blood clot in her groin. Ultimately, doctors were forced to remove her foot and part of her lower leg.

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Everyone here in Texas has made mistakes at one point or another. As the saying goes, “to err is human.” In many industries, however, mistakes can lead to serious injuries or death. One of those fields is health care. When a surgeon makes a mistake and operates on the wrong body part, patient or organ, the aftermath can be devastating or even deadly for the patient. Nearly every hospital in the country has procedures meant to avoid wrong-site surgery, and surgeons should be following these protocols prior to every operation.

It may seem like common sense, but the importance of making sure that the right patient is on the operating table cannot be stressed enough. This may be the only surgical procedure that the patient goes through on a particular day, but surgeons and their teams often perform multiple procedures throughout the day. Verifying that they operate on the correct patient is vital. Once the surgical team verifies that they have the correct patient, the type of procedure and location of the procedure require verification.

Marking the correct surgical site reduces or eliminates the potential for error. The team uses medical records, X-rays and other imaging sources to verify what body part requires surgery. Even after the preliminary verifications are done, surgical teams should take a “timeout” to reverify all information before the procedure begins. Everyone on the team should agree they have the right patient, the right body part and are performing the right operation. Without these precautions, mistakes can easily occur.

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The fact is that hospitals are full of sick people. The spread of illnesses and infections through a hospital is a risk that many Texas residents who are hospitalized have no choice but to take. They rely on the hospital to maintain as sterile and sanitized an environment as possible to prevent the spread of viruses, bacteria and other germs that could result in a worsened medical condition for many patients whose immune systems are already compromised.

Contracting an infection in the hospital could threaten your life and/or cause you unnecessary harm. The harm does not always come from the infection itself, although it can. A serious infection often complicates matters for the underlying condition that put you in the hospital in the first place.

An infection could be caused by the hospital failing to take the appropriate measures to minimize any risk to patients. In the alternative, a hospital can do as much as possible to prevent infection, but you could still contract one. If it is not diagnosed quickly, the infection could worsen and spread to the point that you suffer permanent harm. In either case, the hospital could be responsible for what comes after.

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Far too many Texas residents know how frustrating it can be to go to a doctor and not receive any relief. Obtaining the right diagnosis is sometimes like running a marathon. When a doctor takes the easy route and makes a diagnosis without further testing, the patient is the one who suffers the damage. A failure to diagnose a condition properly could end up leaving a patient with a debilitating and permanent injury from which he or she may never recover.

For instance, if a woman’s doctor had taken the time to perform additional testing when the woman first went to the doctor, she might not be suffering from severe brain damage today. Based on the woman’s symptoms, the doctor said she suffered from anxiety and failed to order additional tests. Over the next eight months, the woman’s condition worsened, and finally, she received an MRI that revealed she suffers from a hereditary condition called Wilson’s disease. Unfortunately, the diagnosis came too late to prevent the damage to her brain.

A jury agreed with the Missouri woman and awarded her over $28 million. The now 24-year-old was robbed of a normal life, and she will require care for the rest of it. The damage to her brain is so severe that she must be fed through a feeding tube.

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According to a study done by patient safety researchers, medical errors have climbed into third place, after cancer and heart disease, as a leading cause of death in the United States. The findings, which were published in the BMJ, or British Medical Journal, underscore the prevalence of serious medical mistakes that include everything from giving a patient drugs that were meant for someone else to removing the wrong body part during surgery.

Comprehensive research

The researchers took their analyses from four large studies, including those prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Office of the Inspector General, Health and Human Services Department. Based on the information available, the new study shows that 251,000 deaths annually can be attributed to medical error. That equates to about 9.5 percent of all deaths, from every cause, each year in the U.S.

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When you make the decision that it is best for your parent or loved one to live in a nursing home, you trust the staff will provide the care and compassion she or he needs. Unfortunately, there are a shocking number of instances of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Some cases take the form of physical harm while others involve medical errors. The latter often involves unnecessary prescription of drugs such as antipsychotics. You can better understand this issue by reading the following reasons it has become a problem.

It is seen as an easy fix

One of the reasons antipsychotics are commonly prescribed is because of patients’ supposed behavioral problems. The prescription may be preceded by a report of aggressive, volatile or even violent behavior, and this may be used as justification for the prescription. Whether or not these reports are accurate, antipsychotics are often treated as an easy fix for any apparent behavioral issue.

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In a previous post, we noted that there are certain risks for patients who make use of telehealth or telemedicine care. Proponents of telemedicine say it is a relatively low liability area of practice given that it isn’t going to commonly be used as a way of addressing complicated or high- risk conditions.

There may be some truth to these claims, but it is also true that errors can still occur in the practice of telemedicine. Physicians can still miss diagnoses or misdiagnose. They may still prescribe incorrect medications or make other errors regarding dosage. There may also be additional risk when receiving such services from a physician who doesn’t know the patient’s medical history and who has never seen the patient in person.

Telemedicine practice may provide better access to needed health care services, and this will certainly be a benefit to those who would otherwise go without health care. Patients still need to be aware of the risks and work with an experienced attorney when they are seriously harmed by a negligent physician’s errors in the course of telemedicine care.

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As readers may be aware, the growth of telemedicine in the United States is swift and holds promise for increasing access to quality medical care for those with limited access to brick and mortar facilities. Most states have recognized the benefits of telemedicine and taken steps to allow health care providers to offer direct to consumer telehealth care.

Texas is not among those states, much to the dismay of enterprising health care providers in the state. Earlier this week, though, representatives of the health care industry in Texas submitted a bill to the Texas legislature to address issues that have prevented the growth of telemedicine in Texas. 

One issue the bill apparently addresses is the specific way the doctor-patient relationship is established. Under current law, telemedicine care may not be provided outside an “established medical site.” A patient’s private home is not considered to be an established medical site unless mental health services are being provided or, for other types of care, there is an established doctor-patient relationship and a patient site presenter is present. The idea of the bill is to make it easier to establish a doctor-patient relationship so the telemedicine model is actually workable under Texas law.