Dennis Quaid Takes on Medical Errors & Baxter Heparin

In addition to facing lawsuits for contaminated heparin, pharmaceutical giant Baxter, is now facing a lawsuit from actor Dennis Quaid after his newborn babies almost died from a fatal heparin overdose. Apparently, a labeling mistake was to blame for a nurse injecting his twins with full-on heparin instead of Baxter’s Hep-Lock (which is a weaker form of the blood-thinning drug). And although Baxter changed the confusing labels after they were linked to other mix-ups and the death of three infants, the company did not recall the existing vials that were still being used in maternity wards across the US.

Baxter, however, continues to blame the staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for the error. Debra Bello, a senior director at Baxter, told reporters for CBS that the hospital bears full responsibility for the incident “because the product was safe and effective, and the errors, as the hospital has acknowledged, were preventable and due to failures in their system.”

I probably would buy that excuse if it weren’t for the fact that Baxter redesigned the label prior to this incident for the very reason that mix-ups were occurring. Obviously, they knew that the similarities in the labels were causing major problems, yet they failed to issue a recall to take the drug off the shelves. Not too smart in my opinion- and now they have to deal with a lawsuit from Dennis Quaid and all the negative publicity that comes with it.

In other Dennis Quaid news, the actor has also decided to tackle the medical malpractice crisis by setting up a foundation to fund efforts to reduce medical errors. “We all have this inherent thing that we trust doctors and nurses, that they know what they”re doing. This mistake occurred right under our noses…the nurse didn”t bother to look at the dosage on the bottle,” Quaid told CBS. “It was avoidable, completely avoidable.”

It’s really sad when Dennis Quaid can see there is a problem in the medical community, yet our trusted lawmakers and officials do not. If they did, they would silence the cries for tort reform legislation and tell the doctors to deal with the problems by cleaning up their act. Maybe once a politician falls victim to medical malpractice, Washington will be singing a different song.

For further information on the recent heparin deaths or medical malpractice, click on the following link:

New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorney

Does PA’s Decline In Medical Malpractice Suits Confirm The Need For Tort Reform?

Short answer- absolutely not. Although supporters of tort reform are rallying behind recent reports that medical malpractice suits in Pennsylvania have declined after the implementation of stricter court requirements to weed out frivolous lawsuits, it seems to me that the actual cases of medical malpractice are still shockingly high.

Apparently the number of malpractice suits filed in Pennsylvania fell to 1,617, which is a 4.5 percent decline from 2006. The reason for this decline, according to Chief Justice Ronald D Castille, are stricter court guidelines which require lawyers to have an independent physician or expert verify the credibility of a case before a suit is filed.

OK- so the frivolous lawsuits have been weeded out. But how can you discredit the 1,617 medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania that did have merit in the eyes of the court? These are people who have been injured, disfigured and even died as a result of a medical mistake. Most victims do not make a full recovery and are often unable to work or unable to provide for their families.

Lets expand these numbers to include medical malpractice suits on a national level. A recent analysis of Medicare patients between 2004-2006 showed that preventable medical mistakes caused 238,337 wrongful deaths, 1.1 million unnecessary injuries and cost Medicare $8.8 billion dollars. The most common mistakes involved bedsores, accidental punctures or lacerations, anesthesia complications, sepsis, infections and surgical mistakes resulting from instruments and foreign objects left in the body. Furthermore, the same report claims that if the doctors involved followed the same prevention steps and procedures required by top-rated hospitals, 37,214 wrongful deaths from medical malpractice would have been avoided.

So lets compare apples for apples and then decide what”s fair. If we allow tort reform, a doctor who makes a fortune already will save some money on his malpractice insurance. On the other hand, a mother of three who was permanently injured after the doctor made a careless mistake can not recover enough money to support her family and live off of should she be unable to work. Forget the lawyers involved. These are real people with real injuries that could have been prevented. If someone slips on your icy sidewalk and gets hurt, your gonna have a lawsuit on your hand because you made the mistake of not shoveling. That”s life. Why shouldn”t doctors be held to the same standard?

I don”t believe this study confirms the need for tort reform-in fact I believe it shows the exact opposite. If stricter rules were implemented and there were still1,617 people who had viable medical malpractice suits, then the problem lies in the medical field. Its time to stop punishing the victims because the filthy rich hospitals and doctors do not want to pay when mistakes happen. What”s fair is to weed out the bad doctors who hurt people. The medical malpractice lawsuits will then naturally drop off without the help of tort reform or the politics behind it.

Hungry? Coffee, Bagel and Salmonella poisoning for breakfast anyone?

The Center for Disease and FDA announced a defective product the recall of two breakfast cereals manufactured by Malt-O-Meal. The cereals “Puffed Rice’ and “Puffed Wheat’ were found to be contaminated by salmonella.

Salmonella is bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. These microscopic living creatures pass from the feces of people or animals, to other people or other animals. Salmonella has been known to cause illness for over 100 years. People with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness and other personal injury.

A hard working and serious, American scientist named Salmon, for whom the nasty little microbe is named, discovered the bacterium. Why such a learned man of science would want to give his name to this illness which comes from feces is another story. For more tid bits regarding salmonella click on the CDC website.

The defective products were distributed nationally under the Malt-O-Meal brand name, as well as private labels including Acme, America’s Choice, Food Club, Giant, Pathmark, Shaw’s, ShopRite, Tops and Weis Quality. The cereal bags have “best if used by” dates from April 8, 2008 (coded as APR0808), through March 18, 2009 (coded as MAR1809). If you have purchased such a box, you are advised to throw them out, and retailers have been told to remove the cereals from their shelves.

If you or someone you loved have become ill from salmonella and believe it may have been caused by this cereal, click here for further information. We will continue to post information on the illness , so check back regularly for any new developments.

Who Is Really To Blame For Contaminated Heparin?

I read an interesting post by a fellow blogger regarding the dangerous Chinese import saga. While I don”t entirely agree with his argument, I think his thoughts are worth re-printing in their entirety:

Ask yourself this question, How important is the health, safety, and well being of my family?

First it is toys from China being recalled because of various safety issues, but more specifically from lead in the paint. Now there is a recall on blood thinner [Heparin] manufactured in China, which is causing deaths in patients.

It is obvious in the Chinese quest for money it is willing to put our health and the health of our children at risk. When will the world community say acquiring cheap goods is not enough and demand quality in those goods? Do you support inhumane and unethical treatment of human beings just so you can by more “stuff”? The Chinese should be scrutinized and held to our safety and health standards.

ABC News reports, FDA Links More Deaths to Blood Thinner:

Heparin is derived from a mucous obtained from pig intestines and other animal tissues, often processed by small, unregistered workshops in China.

FDA determined last month that Baxter”s drug was contaminated with an unnatural chemical during production at a plant in China.

This in part is our own fault. Demanding a bargain, the willingness to look the other way, and greed. The Wal-Mart economic plan (cheap second rate goods), which many of Americans support is jeopardizing our safety and economy. When will your family”s well being become more important than getting a good deal? It is your greed which is driving the Chinese economy?”

Ouch. That”s a bit hard to swallow, yet there is a lot of truth to it. Obviously there is something that is hindering the American public from speaking out against dangerous imports. Could it very well be our desire for cheap “stuff”?

While I believe that may be true with regard to the recent influx of toxic toothpaste, dog food and lead paint toys from China, I think the Heparin recalls fall outside of that box. My personal opinion is that most Americans feel helpless against the pharmaceutical giants (such as Baxter) who practically play puppet master with our politicians. They have an endless amount of resources, a tremendous amount of clout and because of this people just give up and accept whatever they dish out.

I just read an article about the rise in Heparin deaths by journalist Stanley Bing. Sadly, he decided to name his article “More Good News For Lawyers”.. Apparently, what he doesn”t realize is that people depend on trial lawyers for help when things like this happen. It is our job to take on these giants when they unleash their garbage (ex Heparin, Vioxx) on the public. Without the ability to file a lawsuit and affect the only thing that matters to these companies (i.e. their money), nothing will change and the despair will continue.

There needs to be some fear instilled in these drug companies. They need to realize that if they fail to keep the American public safe, there will be consequences. There will be lawsuits filed and they will loose a ton of money. It”s just that simple–and it”s our only hope.

For further information, click on the following links below:

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Information

Heparin Deaths Jump From 19 to 62 According to FDA

The FDA announced this week that 62 deaths have now been linked to the blood-thinning drug, Heparin. This new estimate is almost triple the 19 fatalities reported last month. The drug, which is generally used in patients with heart problems and those undergoing surgery, is believed to be contaminated with man-made oversulfated chondroitin.

This contaminant is said to mimic chondroitin sulfate, which is a naturally occurring substance derived from animal cartilage and used to treat arthritis. While the FDA is still investigating the matter, it appears that the tainted animal cartilage containing oversulfated chondroitin has come from unregulated mom and pop pig farms in China.

I hope people are finally starting to notice a trend here. Chinese manufacturers have been the common denominator in the recent influx of dangerous imports, including contaminated toothpaste, dog food, and lead paint toys. Even more frightening, however, is the fact that the FDA will not completely recall the batches of contaminated Heparin out of fear the hospitals will experience a shortage. Based on that fact, I don’t see this issue going away anytime soon- especially if the FDA continues to allow Chinese manufacturers to operate below the regulation standards imposed in the U.S.

We will continue to post information on the Heparin recalls as they occur, so check back regularly for any new developments.

Mininno Law Office

No Heart at Wal-Mart: Congrats America For Fighting Corporate Greed

We as individuals often feel powerless against corporate America. Big business calls the shots and the little guy is left to cope with the fallout. However, this week’s controversy surrounding the Wal-Mart healthcare recovery suit proves that the American people can still make a difference if they will just speak up and use their voice. The following story is just one example of how the American people stepped in to save a family when corporate America and the Courts would not.

Wal-Mart, the corporate retail giant started by billionaire Sam Walton, lets nothing stop its pursuit of profit. It pays its U.S. workers an annual salary below the poverty line to keep its shelves stocked full of cheap, Chinese made products. It uses Chinese manufacturers who employ (7) seven Chinese children per day just to save on the cost of hiring one U.S. union worker per hour. It keeps importation costs lower by paying millions to lobbyists to block reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission that would increase inspections of containers arriving at our nation’s ports. And, if one of its’ workers uses the company’s health insurance benefits to pay medical costs from an injury, Wal-Mart files a lawsuit against that worker to recoup the medical benefits received by its employee even though the worker paid the insurance premium for the policy.

The evil side of Wal-Mart became apparent to the family of former Wal-Mart employee Deborah Shank over the past few weeks. For many years, 52-year-old Deborah Shank earned minimum wage stocking Wal-Mart’s shelves at night while her husband and (3) three sons slept. In May of 2000, an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer owned by a large corporation crashed into her while she was driving her minivan. She suffered brain damage, lost most of her memory, and the ability to communicate or walk. Her family hired a trial lawyer who sued the tractor-trailer company for causing her injuries. The trucking company’s insurance carrier fought the claim and a jury award was limited to $700,000 for her pain, suffering and her loss of the ability to walk and communicate. After attorney’s fees and costs, $417,477 was placed in a trust to provide for Deborah’s daily needs resulting from her catastrophic injuries.

Immediately after Deborah received her settlement, Wal-Mart sued her family to recover the medical costs, which were paid by her Wal-Mart health insurance policy. As if the lawsuit was not bad enough for the Shank family, one of Deborah’s three (3) sons was killed in Iraq while serving in the United States Army. Instead of backing off and allowing the family to move on with their life and loss, Wal-Mart was undeterred and continued its suit against Deborah to recover the healthcare costs. While her own lawyer defended her against the suit, the family sank deeper into debt and Deborah became dependent on Medicaid and Social Security for a lifetime of medical care. Out of desparation, her trial lawyers and friends held fundraisers to raise money for the family who was now struggling just to get by.

After an unfortunate turn of events, a Bush appointed federal judge ruled in favor of Wal-Mart. (Wal-Mart chose not to present its case to a jury of Deborah’s peers). With nowhere left to turn, the Shank family was forced to pay Wal-Mart for the money that her health insurance put out for her care. Fortunately, just as Wal-Mart was attempting to collect the money from Deborah’s medical trust, both CNN and NBC broadcast the story of Wal-Mart’s conduct. The public outrage was apparent as bloggers and average people took to their computers and expressed their disgust with the company. Within days, the Wal-Mart PR machine went to work. Televisions ads were bought and interviews were held justifying Wal-Mart’s conduct. Wal-Mart then announced that it would not seek any further reimbursement from Deborah’s family.

First a trucking company and its’ negligent tractor-trailer driver took Deborah’s mind and broke her body. Then Wal-Mart, which earns more than $10 billion every year, tried to grab the money a jury awarded her for her injuries. Thankfully, the story does not end there. The Shank family was helped by “the little guy”- just average every day people who are also trying to get by. Her trial lawyer took on a large trucking company while the American people and media took on Wal-Mart for its greedy and selfish attempt to take Deborah’s settlement.

The moral of the story is that corporate America can be stopped if we will all speak up and use our voice. We must all support our local media outlets and trial lawyers that are taking risks and going against large industries with significant resources. And while old fashion letter writing never goes out of style, get online and blog for a quicker and more effective way to get the message across. Corporate America depends on us, the consumers, to keep them rich and powerful as we buy their goods and services. So lets learn how to use that as leverage to stand up for ourselves and our fellow citizens (such as the Shank family) against corporate bullying and greed.

Mininno Law Office

Hey Abington Hospital: Stop Blaming Patients For Increase In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Abington Hospital wants to send medical malpractice victims to mediation to keep them out of court (listen to report on ABC News). Sounds good right? Don’t be fooled. “Sue happy” people aren’t driving the doctors out of town. That’s only what they want you to believe.

Lets face the facts. The Institute of Medicine released a study which states 98,000 people DIE each year from medical errors. That doesn’t even account for the other patients that are permanently disabled or disfigured by the hands of doctors.

To add insult to injury, the medical community has a longstanding tradition of covering up medical mistakes. As a patient, if my doctor screwed up, I want some answers. I want you to be honest and I want you to tell me how your gonna fix it. When you pretend like my suffering isn’t your fault, i’m gonna get mad and i’m gonna call a lawyer.

And to be honest, that’s the consensus among 99% of our clients. However, according to Abington, mediation will solve all of these problems. After all, the doctors will all come back to town, the “sue happy, money hungry” patients get their settlement and we all call it a day. Does anyone else feel like Abington is shifting some blame here on the patient without addressing the real problem that doctors are hurting patients at an alarming rate?

I have a better idea for you Abington Memorial Hospital– why don’t you take some of the money that you are spending on mediators and hire some more doctors? Studies clearly show that medical errors are caused by sleep deprived doctors who work “marathon” shifts of 24 hours or more. Its also common knowledge that going 24 hours with no sleep is equivalent to having a .10 blood alchol level (which either meets or exceds the legal limit in all 50 states).

Quite frankly, I am reminded of that old saying “you made your bed, now lie in it“. If you want to unleash sleep deprived doctors into the operating room, so be it. But at the same time, be prepared to face lawsuits when they make mistakes.

That’s just one of many ways that hospitals can do something constructive to fix this problem. Let’s stop blaming the victims for “our good doctors leaving town“. Step up and take some real responsibility Abington. That’s the only real way to bring the doctors back to town.

Free Legal Advice: Nursing Home Abuse

Patient’s advocate to preventing bedsores

Whenever a patient is in a nursing home, that patient is at risk of developing a bedsore. Although there are both and federal and state guidelines specifically designed to prevent bed sores, many nursing homes and hospitals have failed to follow these guidelines. As a result, nursing home patients are developing bedsores at an alarming rate. This article is designed to help patients and their families prevent bedsores when in a nursing home.

First, some background. What is a bedsore? A bedsore is skin and tissue that has died because it has not received sufficient oxygen from the body. Since blood carries oxygen to all parts of our body, a bedsore is developed when the blood vessels that feed the skin are compressed or damaged in some manner.

The compression or damage prevents the blood from reaching the skin and the skin cells begin to die. If the blood supply continues to be damaged or compromised, more tissue will die. Eventually, the blood supply compromise can infect the underlying tissue, bones and joints. It takes as little as two (2) hours of sustained blood flow compromise to begin this process.

Bedsores are common in the lower back, buttocks and on other boney protrusions that routinely come in contact with a patient’s bed. Although every patient in a nursing home is susceptible to bedsores, the majority of cases are easily preventable. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has published clinical guidelines for bedsore prevention since 1992.
These guidelines can be found at this website

In addition, all nursing homes are required to enact, publish, and follow similar guidelines to prevent bedsores. Despite longstanding published guidelines, why is it then that nursing home patients continue to develop bedsores resulting in hospitalizations, medical complications and, in some instances, death?

Basically, the failure of healthcare facilities to employ enough qualified staff members is the primary reason for the high incidents of bedsores. Typically, licensed practical nurses that work in a nursing home setting are less experienced and cheaper to employ when compared to registered nurses. Furthermore, the resident to nurse ratio is very high. The nurses are simply unable to spend the necessary amount of time with each patient to ensure that the guidelines are being followed. Sadly, understaffing at nursing homes is a serious problem that leads to patient neglect.

For example, many residents are immobile and unable to regularly reposition themselves while lying in bed. The guidelines require nurses and aides to physically move these patients every few hours to prevent bedsores. Unfortunately, by the time an overwhelmed nurse gets around to checking on the resident, the two-hour time frame in which a bedsore can develop has already expired.

Similarly, bedsores are also caused by prolonged exposure of the skin to moisture. It is no wonder then that patients who are left to sit for hours in urine soaked diapers and sheets quickly develop bedsores in places that go unnoticed by the nursing home staff and family members alike. Sadly, the situation spirals out of control and the resident suffers because the staff could not make time to provide them with dry diapers and sheets.

So, what should patients do to prevent these devastating injuries? Fortunately, nursing homes fear the civil tort system where juries can hold them financially accountable for failing to follow the guidelines. Family members should not hesitate to seek legal advice if their loved one develops a bedsore. In addition, family members should go to the web, print up several copies of the guidelines and bring them to the nursing home. Family members should sit down with the nursing home’s medical director to ensure that the guidelines are being followed with respect to their loved one. They should leave a copy of the guidelines prominently displayed on the resident’s bedside table. Finally, family members should follow-up in writing asking the director of medicine and nursing if the guidelines are being followed on an every other-day basis.

The real key is involvement. Family members cannot sit back and blindly trust that their loved ones are in good hands. Most residents are already in poor health when they enter a nursing home facility. Therefore, any neglect can have serious physical consequences. It is only by being a patient advocate in the manner set forth above that family members can ensure that their loved one is receiving the federally and state mandated required bedsore prevention care.

In order to prevent other potential abuses in nursing homes go to our nursing home abuse or our bed sore prevention web pages.

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.