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Alleged Medical Malpractice in Boston Results in Wrongful Death

A pilot program at six Massachusetts hospitals is designed to increase patient satisfaction and reduce the cost of medical malpractice lawsuits, according to a recent news article in the Boston Globe.

scalpel-474085-m.jpgAttorneys in Boston who regularly represent clients in medical malpractice lawsuits understand the hardship caused to victims and their families when a hospital or other medical provider refuses to accept financial responsibility for medical mistakes.

In one such case, a 74-year-old woman injured her back when she fell in her Watertown, Massachusetts apartment. Surgeons fused sections of her spinal column to immobilize it, in an attempt to ease her pain. When the surgery failed, doctors recommended having a pain management pump implanted, so that it could deliver pain medication directly to her spine.

Her sons took her to Tufts hospital for what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure scheduled to take two hours. When the surgeon was having trouble seeing where the tubing needed to be inserted, he asked a nurse to go the hospital pharmacy and get a specific type of contrast dye.

When the nurse asked the hospital pharmacist for the dye, the pharmacist said he didn’t carry that type of dye, and handed the nurse a substitute dye. This dye contained a warning label that specifically said it was not for spinal use. However, when the nurse handed the dye to the surgeon, he glanced at the label and injected the dye.

After surgery, the patient experienced problems when coming out of anesthesia and died the next day. Her sons could not believe what happened after speaking with the surgeon. They asked him why he didn’t check the label, and he said that he was handed the medication, scanned the label to confirm it was the drug he requested and proceeded to inject it into his patient’s spine.

After admitting the hospital made a mistake (essentially admitting to malpractice) the hospital refused to settle the matter and avoid trial. It is being alleged that cognitive bias is the reason this fatal medical malpractice incident occurred. The doctor asked for a specific type of medicine and was only reading the label to confirm that it was what he requested. Cognitive bias caused the doctor to see what he was looking for, and not what was actually on the bottle.

While we often use the term accident, it is important to keep in mind that many accidents are really not accidents. Many accidents are someone’s fault and could have been prevented by adhering to the required standard of care. Each person, from the pharmacist who gave a substitution not indicated for spinal use, the nurse who handed the medication to the surgeon, and the surgeon who injected the fatal medication, could have prevented this wrongful death from occurring by being more careful.

Despite this tragic case, and the Boston-based hospital’s initial refusal to settle the matter, the pilot program offers the possibility that patients will receive a fair and appropriate financial recovery in less time than it would take without such a program.

If you are injured in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Surgical error at Tufts prompts widespread changes, August 31, 2014, Boston Globe
More Blog Entries:

Shapria, M.D. et al. v. Christiana Care Health Services, Inc., et al.: On Informed Consent in Medical Malpractice Cases, Aug. 15, 2014, Boston Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog