Should Parents Decide Whether Their Infant Is Screened For Treatable Diseases? ran a story last week about a Nebraskan couple who did not want any health screenings for their newborn. The couple was appealing mandatory testing laws that exist in every state, claiming that it was a violation of their freedom of religion. The couple practices Scientology. The mandatory health screening consists of nothing more than drawing blood from the baby’s foot and then testing it for rare health diseases that can be cured. Some of these diseases can lead to brain damage and even early death.

The parent intentions are honorable. They claim that their religous practices prohibit such testing. However, the religous textbook cited in the article does not state in bold letters. “Do not use this test.” If it did, then maybe, just maybe this rule violates their freedom of religion. Their cited text makes only vague references to medicine and they have extrapolated their own interpretation to determine that test their child would be in violation of their tenets. However, it is not convincing to me that anyone – the baby in question for example – would consciously choose retardation or death and scientology over good health and some other subsequently remaining belief system. The real question in this case is whether or not parents can control the religion that their children will practice, by way of risking said child’s health at birth.

How do we answer such a question? Perhaps, just as this family is appealing their claim under the constitution, and the first amendment from the bill of rights, the framer’s can shed some light on this topic. The Declaration of Independence, the founding document of this nation, declares that all men have certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These certain unalienable rights apply today, and were the founding concept of this nation. They unquestionably mean that everyone has a choice in their own path. We must consider these rights as applying to an infant child, and further, assume that they are the three things that would be most important to this child, just as they’re the most important rights upon which this country was founded. It seems evident that good health would fall under these rights. However, this is a difficult question which will be debated for some time.

If you have a question regarding a birth injury or other medical malpractice,please go to our birth injury webpage.

John R. Mininno, Esq. is a New Jersey and Pennsylvania trial lawyer representing clients in medical malpractice, defective products and other serious injury claims. He also writes about issues concerning patient safety. His offices are in Collingswood, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.

Myth – Malpractice Insurance Premiums Driving Doctors Out of Business?

A new study that will appear in the May/June issue of the journal Health Affairs debunking the claims of the American Medical Association (AMA) and malpractice pundits in Washington that high malpractice insurance premiums are driving doctors out of business.

The study reveals that medical malpractice rate have actually declined. Based on year 2000 dollars, mean malpractice premiums increased from $5,934 in 1970 to $20,106 in 1986, and then declined to $15,478 in 1996. Premiums rose from 1996 until the AMA discontinued the surveys in 2000, when mean premiums were $18,400, still lower than 1986, the study said.

However, the study conceded that when you look at percentage of total practice expenses, premiums haven’t changed that much. In 1970, they were 6% of expenses. They then rose to 11% in 1986, dropped to 6% in 1996, and rose slightly to 7% in 2000.

Nevertheless, the Chambers of commerce and other groups who want to limit the public’s access to the courts will continue to spend millions of dollars each year to convince ordinary citizens that their is a lawsuit crisis in this country.


What’s More frivolous; Medical Malpractice Claims or the Doctor’s Defenses?

Insurance industry lobbyist continue to pay millions of dollars to portray trial attorneys as evildoers who are directly responsible for high medical insurance rates and driving doctors out of business. Malpractice attorneys respond that they are protecting the rights of those who were wrongly injured and deserve compensation.

Both sides cite a study conducted of 1452 malpractice cases conducted by David M. Studdert, an attorney and health-policy researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, as evidence for their side.

The actual numbers are as follows:

  • 37 cases had no injury, 6 were compensated
  • 515 cases involved injuries but no medical errors, 145 were compensated
  • 889 cases involved injuries and errors, 236 were not compensated

Ideally, we’d want all 889 deserving cases compensated and the 552 undeserving cases thrown out. Clearly, there’s room for improvement. That said, here’s the media’s take on this.

The sympathetic view, argued in this article, reports that

The majority of payments from insurance companies went to people who had been harmed by medical errors, not to people with baseless claims, the data show. That suggests that “moves to combat frivolous litigation will have a limited effect on total costs,” the authors say.

The study also found that about 85% of cases were settled out of court and of those that did go to trial, about 80% lost.

That said, the researchers found that 97% of the patients did suffer some type of harm. In about one-third of the cases, the damages weren’t clearly attributable to medical negligence or misdiagnosis and in such cases, most were not compensated.

Among the plaintiffs who received compensation were 6 uninjured people and 145 injured individuals whose injuries had not been convincingly linked to medical error. On the other hand, 236 plaintiffs who did suffer an injury from medical error received no compensation.

“This research shows that the problem with medical-malpractice litigation is not that too many undeserving people get paid, but rather that not enough deserving people get paid,” says Tom Baker, an attorney at the University of Connecticut in Hartford.

Nevertheless, 73 percent of plaintiffs whose claims had merit received compensation, according to the study. That figure suggests that the fact-finding involved in litigation, although expensive and time-consuming, “does a pretty good job of sorting out valid from invalid claims,” says Neil Vidmar, a social psychologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

A much less sympathetic view,comes unsurprisingly, from the American Medical Association. This group cites the same study as proof that

a substantial number of meritless claims continue to slip through the cracks, “clogging the courts” and forcing doctors to waste time defending them

Still, like doctors, most trial lawyers don’t want to spend time and effort on groundless cases. Many work off a contingency fee and only get paid if the claim is compensated. They spend hours carefully screening cases and only take cases that have true merit and deserving victims. To them, it doesn’t make sense to bring a frivolous lawsuit that could take upwards of 6 years and thousands of dollars out of their own pocket and not be compensated for their efforts.

If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of medical malpractice, you may have a claim for damages. For more information, please go to the New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys page.

John R. Mininno, Esq. is a New Jersey and Pennsylvania trial lawyer representing clients in medical malpractice, defective products and other serious injury claims. He also writes about issues concerning patient safety. His offices are in Collingswood, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.

Jury Awards Nearly $800,000 in Medical Negligence Suit

Today, October 23, 2006, a Camden County jury found in favor of The Family of Mr. Robert Boylan in a medical malpractice suit. The defendants were B. Dawson, Shoemaker, M.D., Joseph Szgalsky, M.D.and Megan Vermeulen, M.D. The jury found both Dr. Shoemaker and Dr. Szgalsky responsible. The jury awarded nearly $800,000 in damages. The trial lasted three weeks before The Honorable Ronald J. Freeman. The jury deliberated 2 1/2 days. Attorney for the family of Robert Boylan was John R. Mininno, Esquire of the Mininno Law Office.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by Medical malpractice, you may have a claim for damages. For more information, please go to the New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys page.

John R.Mininno, Esq. is a New Jersey and Pennsylvania trial lawyer representing clients in medical malpractice, defective products and other serious injury claims. He also writes about issues concerning patient safety. His offices are in Collingswood, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.

Why New Jersey Should Extend the Time Limits of Its Statutes of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that effectively places a time limit on suing another party. While there are some important reasons for having statutes of limitations, there are also some good reasons why these time limits in New Jersey are too short. In New Jersey, the limitations on suits for Personal Injury, Negligence, Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice are all two years after the discovery of the injury. The date of the discovery of the injury is included in the two year period. While at first two years may seem like a reasonable amount of time for some injuries, it certainly is not for many others.

Consider a hypothetical situation where a patient, with no family to act on his/her behalf, suffers from some kind of substantial medical malpractice that makes a short hospital visit into one taking months. This incapacitated patient discovered the malpractice as soon as it occurred, leaving him two years to bring a suit against the doctor or hospital. Because of the hospital stay and because this patient has no family to act on his/her behalf, s/he is left with very little time to bring a lawsuit, for which preparations can be time-consuming. Choosing the right lawyer in itself can be a difficult task and is the most important part of bringing a successful lawsuit. A victim, such as the one in this hypothetical, is left with little time to act, because of this short time period from the New Jersey statute of limitations.

In some states, these statutes of limitations are even shorter for medical malpractice than other types of professional malpractice suits, such as suing lawyers or financial advisors. New Jersey ought to do two things for its citizens. First, they must disseminate these laws to the public. Many people in New Jersey have no idea that a time limit exists on these types of law suits and, therefore, fail to bring them within a timely fashion. Second, the politicians should reconsider the time limits that these laws create. While total abolishment of the Statutes of Limitations would not be a perfect solution to this problem, extending the time limits to a more reasonable amount of time for a victimized party is necessary. It appears as though these limitations protect the party who has caused harm to another, rather than the other way around.

Free Legal Advice: Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice and Cosmetic Surgery

On Friday, June 23rd, a Superior Court judge decided not to overturn a civil jury’s decision to rule against medical malpractice on the part of surgeon Dr. Richard Marfuggi. The Daily Record, a local newspaper in New Jersey, explained that Marfuggi is a renowned plastic surgeon, who specializes in breast implant and reduction surgeries. Deborah Wrede, the patient, claims that Marfuggi left her “mutilated and flat chested,” reported the Record.

Regardless of the particulars, this case’s broader implications of cosmetic surgery and medical malpractice may continue to be a point of contention in New Jersey courts. The question for a jury in a medical malpractice case is whether or not a doctor deviated from the standard of care that any reasonably prudent doctor would hold him or herself to in the same or similar situation. The interesting part of this case is that it focuses on cosmetic surgery, not critical surgery. For critical surgery, courts have ruled to expose a brightline standard, making the jobs of future juries less speculative. For an extreme example, imagine a minor surgery, such as the removal of a benign cyst, which results in the death of a healthy patient. It seems relatively clear that this would be gross malpractice, because no patient should die in that situation.

Here, in the cosmetic realm, this jury has espoused through its ruling that, whether or not a doctor meets the specifications of a patient, he or she may still be acting “prudently.” It does not seem reasonable for a patient to be so displeased with cosmetic work that she would say of herself to be “mutilated,” yet still have to pay a doctor for his so-called “prudent” work. Breast reduction surgery seems to be a fairly common surgery in this day and age. If this case is seen as precedence for cases to come, it may be hard for displeased patients of cosmetic surgeons to win civil suits against them. Fortunately, in the counter, if this trend continues, then low quality surgeons will likely lose their business altogether, because of the patient’s inability to protect themselves from possible malpractice. Perhaps this case can teach both doctors and patients a lesson.

Free Legal Advice: Medical Malpractice

PA Bar Association Claims Medical Malpractice Crisis of 2002 Resolved

The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s reforms for the resolution of the “medical malpractice crisis” of 2002 have proven successful, reports local newspapers this morning (The Patriot) The report was conducted by Duke University.

Compensation for claims of medical malpractice dropped almost $50 million alone in 2004. Most seem elated at the smaller number of claims of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania state court – most of the doctors that is. The staggering statistics in the report, such as how there were a thousand less medmal claims filed in state court in 2005 than in 2000, only portray fewer cases and not an increase in the quality of medical care provided. And as mentioned before, less rewards for claimants were granted by state courts yearly. So, obviously, the crisis is over.

These results should probably be explained more clearly, because my confusion is yet to be resolved. By making sure doctors get sued less for their inability to apply the appropriate standard of care for the patient, it surely appears the crisis is resolved. Well done, PA.

Furthermore, once the tragedy of a doctor’s inability to apply the appropriate standard of care for the patient has transpired, we may only collect limited financial compensation, because compensatory rewards were also part of the crisis. Thanks PA.

For further infirmation: Medical Malpractice

Heart Risk Falls When Patients Stop Taking Vioxx

There’s good news for Vioxx patients. It seems that cardiovascular risks decline when patients stop taking the drug.

Merck continued its 3 year Vioxx study for a 4th year.

Those fourth-year results, as analyzed by Merck and released yesterday, showed that former Vioxx and placebo users reported a nearly similar rate of cardiovascular events. Among 2,178 patients, 28 formerly on Vioxx and 16 formerly on placebo suffered confirmed thrombotic cardiovascular events. An undisclosed number died.

Peter S. Kim, head of West Point-based Merck Research Laboratories, said the 28-to-16 difference is not statistically significant and might be due as much to chance as to the drug itself.

Merck recalled the drug on 9/30/2004 after study data suggested that Vioxx increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people taking it longer than 18 months.

Merck faces at least 11,500 personal injury lawsuits and 190 class action lawsuits. The company is now 50/50, having won 3 and lost 3 trials.

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Related Information: Medical Malpractice

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