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San Diego Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Doctor and nurse failures leads to $5 million verdict

One of the most common causes of medical malpractice in San Diego hospitals is poor communications between members of the health care team. A recent medical malpractice verdict from another state provides dramatic proof.

The patient fractured his hip when he fell from the back of a work truck. The orthopedic surgeon who examined him recommended the implantation of an artificial hip.

What is the statute of limitation for medical malpractice?

Most Californians understand that a legal claim for damages must be commenced before the statutory deadline for bringing such claims expires. However, the question of what is the length of time for bringing a medical malpractice case requires a lengthy answer because the law that defines the limitation period contains a number of exceptions.

The general rule is fairly simple. An action for damages caused by an act of negligence by a health care provider must be commenced within three years after the injury occurred or one year after the date on which the plaintiff discovers the injury, whichever is the first to occur. The date of discovery is the date of actual discovery or the date on which the plaintiff, using reasonable diligence, should have discovered the injury. As might be expected, determining the date on which the plaintiff should have discovered the injury can provoke significant differences of opinion.

Double-booked surgeons raise questions about patient safety

When Californians need surgery, they assume that the doctor who has advised them about the necessity and risks of the contemplated procedure will be the surgeon performing the operation. Several recent studies have revealed that this assumption is not always correct. Many surgeons commonly perform surgery on two patients at the same time without informing the patient, and critics of the practice are questioning what this practice means for patient care.

This practice, known as "running two rooms," has been common in teaching hospitals for many decades. The primary surgeon supervises two teams of doctors and nurses who are attending to two different patients in two different operating rooms. The surgeon agrees to be present for the "critical portion" of each surgery, but defining the "critical portion" is left up to the surgeon. Defenders of the practice say that the level of patient care is unaffected and that running two rooms is an essential part of the training of new surgeons. Advocates of double-booking also claim that the practice allows more patients to obtain quality care.

State court throws out malpractice damage cap

Over the last few years, many states, including California, have passed laws that limit the amount that victims of medical malpractice can recover for non-economic damages. Congress is considering a similar measure. A recent decision by an appellate court in Wisconsin may seriously undermine the constitutionality of such laws.

Damages in medical malpractice cases generally fall into three categories: medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. The first two categories include only quantifiable losses suffered by the plaintiff.

Understanding "informed consent" in California

Most residents of Southern California understand that a doctor cannot perform an operation on a patient or provide treatment without first obtaining the patient's consent. However, the form and circumstances of the consent are almost as important as the patient's agreement to go forward. The ways in which consent must be obtained have been carefully spelled out by California courts in a number of medical malpractice decisions involving accusations that the physician failed to obtain the patient's knowing and deliberate consent.

The rule for obtaining the patient's consent may be simply stated: the physician or other responsible care giver must provide enough information to the patient to ensure that the patient is fully informed about the nature and risks of the procedure before giving consent. In other words, the consent must be informed by all material and relevant information. This information cannot be imparted in a casual conversation. The doctor must take steps to ensure that all risks that a reasonable person would consider important have been explained to the patient. Moreover, the explanation must be provided in lay terms that non-physicians can be expected to understand.

Emergency room mistakes can cause serious injuries to patients

When experiencing a medical emergency, a San Diego resident may find themselves in the back of an ambulance and on the way to a hospital's emergency room. Emergency rooms are departments set up to handle the rapid diagnosis and treatment of critical patients who come in with traumatic injuries and sudden illnesses. Though many ER doctors are skilled at recognizing the signs and symptoms of serious complications in their patients, there are several reasons that dangerous and sometimes deadly emergency room mistakes happen in American hospitals.

One reason is that ER doctors simply do not have much time with each of their medical charges. Although they may be trained to go through a differential diagnosis for each patient, their inclination may push them to make likely diagnoses without completing comprehensive evaluations of all possible problems. Misdiagnoses at the emergency room level can deprive patients of valuable time to recover from their serious ailments.

What is a uterine rupture and what are the risks?

Expecting mothers across San Diego hope for easy labor and delivery experiences that are safe for both mother and child and that come with as little discomfort as possible. While many mothers are able to bring their children into the world without interventions or extraordinary medical care, some delivery scenarios result in babies being born through caesarian births.

Caesarian sections, also called C-sections, are done when mothers cannot deliver their babies vaginally or when complications arise during the birthing process. A C-section is the surgical removal of the baby from the mother, and requires doctors to cut into the body of the mother for the birth to occur. Most women and children fare very well after C-sections and recover well from their experiences.

Medication errors: packaging errors lead to birth control recall

Modern medicine and the pharmaceutical community have developed a vast spectrum of drugs that can treat many of the ailments that previously plagued California residents. What once may have been a lifetime affliction may now be treated with a course of medications and individuals are able to go about living their lives without being subjected to invasive treatments thanks in large part to the convenience and efficacy of modern prescription drugs. Prescription medications are highly regulated and generally subjected to strict quality standards to ensure consumers receive the benefits of the drugs without any undue risks. However, just as with any other manufactured good, mistakes can be made in the creation of prescription drugs that can lead to consumer harm.

Recently Southern California residents may have heard that a company that manufactures birth control pills recalled some of its products due to packaging and labeling mistakes. Birth control pills rely on hormones to prevent women from conceiving, and the recalled drugs placed the pills in the wrong order which could expose women to pregnancies that they did not intend to have.

The role of specialization in medical malpractice lawsuits

The title "medical doctor" is a general phrase that applies to individuals who hold medical degrees. Medical doctors can practice their professions in many different specialties, such as pediatrics, cardiology and gastroenterology. It is important that San Diego residents recognize and understand that role that specialization can play in proving a medical malpractice case, particularly with regard to the application of the appropriate standard of care to the doctor or doctors under review.

For example, a doctor is expected to treat their patients with the requisite level of skill and knowledge that other doctors within their practice area would use in similar situations. A family practice doctor or generalist may have a good overall understanding of the human body but may not be skilled in identifying rare diseases of the heart or lungs; if a serious condition is suspected that generalist may refer the patient to a specialist whose practice area covers such issues.

A medication error can be deadly

Although many people who live within the greater San Diego area live lives free of allergies, some people suffer from life-threatening reactions when they come into contact with the substances their bodies reject. While peanuts, shellfish and latex may come to mind as serious allergens that can cause some one harm, medications can also be the cause of serious allergic reactions.

The list of potential medications that can cause individuals to experience hives, breathing problems and even anaphylaxis can be extensive. Since every patient's body reacts differently to the medications their doctors prescribe it is imperative that medical professionals inquire about possible medication issues their patients may have with the drugs their doctors may use as treatments. The failure of a doctor to ask a patient about their medication allergies could result in the patient experiencing serious physical consequences if they are given something they should not have.