Category Archives: Our Blog

Here are some intriguing blogs brought to you by personal injury lawyers Salt Lake City UT residents can count on.

Prostate Cancer and Utah Medical Malpractice

Prostate ExamUtah medical malpractice data shows that prostate cancer is a growing concern. This potentially deadly disease is curable with early and appropriate care, but medical malpractice in these cases can spell dire consequences. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 1 out of every 7 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Since this disease is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men, it is essential to understand what can go wrong in its treatment.

Screening Failures

Prostate cancer can spread quickly. The ACS recommends that men of high risk, including African-Americans and those with first-degree relatives with prostate cancer, begin screening at age 45. Testing for men of average risk should start at age 50. Yet failure to screen is the most common type of medical malpractice. Doctors may fail to discuss screening options with patients and often fail to perform routine examinations or blood tests. In some cases, medical malpractice occurs when doctors fail to order testing even when patients exhibit symptoms that potentially indicate a problem.

Testing Failures

Screening is of key importance in the detection and treatment of prostate cancer, but adequate testing is not enough to ensure its cure. Medical malpractice can happen when doctors fail to interpret test results properly. Doctors may neglect to notice an increased level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a blood test, for example, or they may fail to follow up with a patient after receiving abnormal test results. With some patients, doctors overlook potentially cancerous masses during routine prostate examinations.

Treatment Failures

When PSA levels in the blood are elevated or when lumps are found during manual prostate examinations, doctors are obligated to recommend further testing and appropriate treatment options to patients. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In some instances, medical malpractice occurs when doctors misinterpret blood tests or biopsy results as being negative. Some doctors may also fail to perform or order a biopsy when test results are abnormal. Both of these treatment errors can cause patients to receive delayed or incorrect treatment, or no treatment at all. Since 1 in every 38 men diagnosed with prostate malignancy will die from the disease, survival is dependent upon timely and appropriate treatment.

Negligence in screening or diagnosis, as well as errors in treatment or care for any significant disease, can lead to patient suffering or death. In such cases, you and your family may wish to pursue a legal claim against the negligent physician. Although this can never undo the damage that’s been done, it will provide you with the opportunity to hold the doctor responsible for the error. If you or a loved one has been seriously harmed by mistakes or negligence in the treatment of prostate cancer, contact Rasmussen and Miner today to discuss your Utah medical malpractice case.

Botox Malpractice Facts for Cosmetic and Medical Treatments

Botox Malpractice

Reports of Botox malpractice incidents have become both more frequent and more disturbing. More than 6 million Americans have Botox injections every year, and although most have no complications or side effects, those who do can suffer debilitating injuries. Today, this product is recommended for a variety of medical conditions as well as for cosmetic procedures. Because the injectable chemical is created using the botulinum neurotoxin, an inherent risk comes with every treatment. If the medical practitioner providing the injections fails to follow protocol, the results can be dire.

Common Botox Injuries

When this treatment goes wrong, several types of injuries can occur. One risk is Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease that may lead to paralysis and death. Bell’s palsy is another possible consequence that involves nerve damage and paralysis of the facial muscles. If Botox is administered incorrectly, it may cause trouble with swallowing or producing tears, or you could be left with muscle pain and weakness for life. In many cases, the injured patients are unable to recover, even with proper treatment. Although rare, several cases have been reported wherein the patient actually contracts botulism, potentially leading to brain damage or death.

How to Prove Your Case

Most Botox malpractice cases rest on the idea that the doctor was negligent, although some cases have been attributed to defects in the product itself. In order to prove your case, you must demonstrate that you were harmed and that your doctor did not provide the correct standard of care. This typically involves obtaining copies of medical records and testimony from medical experts who are familiar with the product and its safe use. An experienced medical malpractice attorney is uniquely qualified to help guide you through this complex process, and to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the damage you have suffered.

Reasons to Obtain Legal Help

If you are suffering from any complications due to Botox treatments, whether the treatment was cosmetic or medical in nature, you owe it to yourself to seek help. When you confront medical professionals or drug manufacturers with a lawsuit, you force them to accept the consequences for unsafe products and practices, potentially preventing other patients from facing the same consequences. Your case will also cover any subsequent medical bills or rehabilitation costs you may require, as well as lost wages for any time you were forced to miss work.

If you have experienced ill effects in connection with Botox injections or another medical procedure, contact the compassionate legal team at Rasmussen & Miner. They can answer all your questions and guide you through the complex process of seeking damages for Botox malpractice.

Medical Malpractice, Misdiagnosis and the Elderly

Elderly Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is dangerous for any patient, but it can be especially harmful for the elderly. The most common problem for patients of advanced age involves the misdiagnosis and subsequent mistreatment of illness or injury. Although taking legal action against the doctor or treatment facility won’t undo the pain you or your loved one has endured, it might prevent the same mistake from occurring in the future. Read on to learn more about the elevated risks older people face when undergoing medical treatment.

Common Reasons for Misdiagnosis in the Elderly

Research shows that misdiagnosis occurs significantly more often in the elderly. Older patients have a more difficult time communicating due to hearing loss, which can quickly lead to confusion and error. Fading memory and the early, undetected stages of dementia can further complicate the issue. But a more disturbing problem is the attitude that some medical professionals have about the aging population. Busy schedules and pressure in the office or medical facility means that older patients may not receive the time and attention they require. If doctors, nurses or other staff members become impatient with an elderly patient, the quality of care can decline dramatically. The research shows that misdiagnosis occurs much more frequently in emergency treatment facilities and intensive care than in the doctor’s office.

Conditions Commonly Misdiagnosed in Older People

Certain medical problems are more commonly misdiagnosed than others, especially in older patients. The most common is the over-diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. In many cases, similar symptoms may be caused by drug interaction and even depression. Depression is often missed in older patients, as some doctors erroneously assume that symptoms are a natural part of aging. Parkinson’s disease is another common source of error. Doctors often diagnose and treat Parkinson’s when in fact tremors and other symptoms are caused by something else entirely. Finally, COPD (cardiac obstructive pulmonary disease) has become one of the most frequently missed diagnoses in aging populations, especially for those patients who suffer from allergies and asthma.

Seeking Help for Injury or Harm

You can help your older family members avoid misdiagnosis by accompanying them on their medical visits and speaking with doctors and nurses to better understand their conditions. If a problem has already occurred, however, especially if misdiagnosis or medical malpractice led to the death of a parent of loved one, you may have trouble recovering damages. Insurance companies often attempt to limit damages for elderly patients, or claim the issue was related to other health problems.

Contact the attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner if you or a family member has suffered complications or died from improper treatment due to a missed or incorrect diagnosis. They can answer your questions and help you decide if it’s right for you to pursue a claim for medical malpractice.

MRSA and Other Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospital Related Infections

MRSA and other infections acquired in hospitals are one of the leading causes of patient deaths in the United States. On average, 1.7 million patients each year are infected during a hospital stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospital-acquired infections are not related to the injury or illness for which the patient was admitted. The most common infection is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA is a staph infection strain that is notoriously difficult to treat, resulting in complications that can lead to death if left untreated.

MRSA Causes and Risk Factors

MRSA is a type of staph bacteria, a common organism found on the skin or in the nose of about one-third of the population. The bacteria are generally harmless unless they enter the body. The most common way the infection enters is through cuts, wounds or surgical incisions. The reason MRSA is of such concern is because of its resistance to antibiotics and the damage it can cause while active in the body. MRSA risk factors include:

  • Undergoing surgery
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Being the victim of improper medical practices
  • Undergoing procedures that use invasive medical devices
  • Being present in medical settings that have not been sufficiently sterilized

Long-term-care facilities statistically have the highest rates of MRSA, due to lax environmental controls.

MRSA Symptoms and Complications

The infection often starts as small red bumps that resemble pimples, boils or spider bites. In cases in which the infection results from surgery, a patient may complain of a foul smell coming from the surgical site, or of redness and swelling. In healthy patients, staph infections can remain relatively minor, sometimes barely producing symptoms. However, if the patient becomes ill while infected, the bacteria may take advantage of the weakened immune system and lead to further complications.

Early detection and treatment are vital for MRSA infections. Prolonged exposure allows the bacterial infection to spread, causing severe pain and malfunction of the lungs, heart, bones and joints. If a doctor fails to recognize the signs of MRSA or diagnose and treat it accordingly, severe injury, including loss of limb or death from sepsis and septic shock, can occur.

When is the Doctor or Hospital Liable?

If a patient suffers an injury due to an untreated or delayed diagnosis of MRSA, the hospital can be held liable for any resulting damages, especially if the cause of infection was negligent medical treatment. This can result from improperly cleaned medical equipment, failure to follow disinfection or sterilization protocols, or improperly maintained HVAC equipment that allows infection to spread.

Patients have the right to opt out of certain procedures if they are particularly vulnerable to infections. If the hospital has not properly warned the patient, this is also grounds for liability in the event of infection. Surgical malpractice errors that may lead to infection include inadequate blood supply during surgery, dead tissue left to collect bacteria, and debris coming into contact with the wound.

Many cases of MRSA infection and injury are the result of negligent medical treatment. Contact Rasmussen and Miner today if you or someone you love is suffering from MRSA or another infection contracted in a hospital.

Malpractice Related to Breast Cancer and Screening

Breast Cancer Malpractice

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women, surpassed only by lung cancer. For women aged 45 to 55, it is the No. 1 cause of death overall. Every year approximately 205,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and of these, more than 40,000 will die. Studies have shown repeatedly that the best way to beat any type of cancer is through early and proper diagnosis, but new guidelines for breast health screenings call for delays in these procedures. With early diagnosis being so vital to the success of treatment and higher survival rates, this could be problematic.
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Recent Changes in Cancer Screening Protocols

The new recommended protocols include the following:

  • Routine screening of average-risk women should begin at age 50, instead of age 40.
  • Routine screening should end at age 74.
  • Women should get screening mammograms every two years instead of every year.
  • Breast self-exams are unimportant because they have little value, based on findings from several large studies.

These recommendations come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of independent health experts put together by the Department of Health and Human Services. These new protocols have introduced confusion and concern for both medical professionals and affected women. Part of the confusion comes because the American Cancer Society still recommends annual screening for all healthy women beginning at age 40.

Concerns with New Cancer Screening Guidelines

One of the biggest concerns with the new guidelines is whether insurance will still cover routine screenings for women ages 40-49. Skipping these early screenings can have dire consequences for early detection and treatment. According to studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 6 percent to 16 percent of women with breast cancer experienced physician-caused delays in diagnosis. This suggests that at least 10,000 of the approximately 180,000 women diagnosed as having breast cancer each year experience treatment delays because of misinterpretation or misapplication of tests. The fear is the new guidelines will make obtaining screening mammograms more difficult and costly for patients, compounding an already-disturbing risk of misdiagnosis.

Coping with these Increased Risks

Even with timely screenings, patients are still subject to an array of errors that can cause untold pain, suffering and even death. When doctors fail to request mammograms when patients present with persistent and palpable breast lumps, this leads to treatment delay. Cancer is often missed when medical professionals fail to properly interpret mammograms. Additional misdiagnoses occur when inadequate or inaccurate sampling of breast tissue is acquired during biopsy or when mismatched pathology specimens lead to missing critical cancer indications.

In many cases, physicians continue to inappropriately reassure patients that masses are benign, even without biopsy. The fear is that, with the new recommendations, doctors will be even less willing to prescribe screening or further diagnostics. Although these guidelines are not federal policy and do not prohibit women 40-49 from getting mammograms, many fail to do so because their doctors claim it’s not necessary.

If you or a loved one suspects that a diagnosis of breast cancer was missed or delayed due to misinterpreted X-rays, lack of screening or poorly performed testing, contact Rasmussen and Miner today. Some cancers are virulent and grow much faster, so much so that even short delays will likely have a greater adverse effect on outcomes. If you have questions or doubts about the medical explanations your physician has given you, we would like to speak with you about your concerns related to breast cancer.

Major Surgical Error “Never Events” on the Rise

Surgical Errors

Grievous surgical errors may seem unthinkable, but they occur more often that you probably realize. Although it might feel like something out of a bad movie script, surgical errors occur many times every day in the United States. These irreversible mistakes include amputating the wrong limb, removing organs from the wrong people and even removing the wrong organ during a surgical procedure. You may also be surprised to know that most of these mistakes are the result of easily preventable human errors.
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The Prevalence of Extreme Surgical Mistakes

A recent study* determined that more than 4,000 “never events” — errors that should never happen — occur every year, which equates to almost 80 such mistakes each week, or about one in every 12,500 U.S. surgeries. Another study from the Archives of Surgery demonstrated that doctors in Colorado alone operate on the wrong body part nearly 20 times each year. Experts estimate that many more errors of this nature go unreported. The numbers are increasing as well. In Minnesota, for example, 18 wrong surgeries were reported in 2004. That number has risen steadily, with 50 such errors reported in 2011. Apparently an increasing awareness of the problem is doing little to diminish it.

Why Grievous Surgical Errors Occur

Many surgical failures are caused by mixing up patient medical records, test results or samples. Wrong-limb amputation has occurred due to confusion in pre-operative care, failure to validate records and failure to observe basic safety protocols. Virtually every extreme surgical mistake can be traced back to some form of human error. Statistics show that even the most seasoned surgeons have been responsible for a “never event,” from the youngest, least experienced doctors to those with decades of surgery under their belts. These errors are costly as well as emotionally devastating. Between 1990 and 2010, insurance companies paid out more than $1.3 billion in legal settlements on botched surgeries.

Error Prevention Efforts

Health organizations are trying to put an end to surgical mix-ups. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has launched an initiative called “Sign Your Site” that encourages surgeons to initial the actual surgical site before operating. To combat the chances of having the wrong limb cut off, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has released steps for surgeons to follow. The list asks doctors, hospitals, and nurses to:

  • Mark the operation site and involve patients in the process.
  • Require oral verification of the correct site by each member of the operating team.
  • Follow a verification checklist that ensures that the limb being amputated is the correct limb and that the limb is in need of amputation.
  • Directly involve the operating surgeons in the informed consent process.
  • Engage in ongoing monitoring to make sure verification procedures are followed.

Despite ongoing initiatives to improve surgical safety protocols, mistakes continue to be made. If you or a loved one has experienced a major surgical error, contact Rasmussen and Miner for help with your medical malpractice claim. Medical experts agree that more lives could be saved by increasing patient safety than by any other single improvement in our health care system. Until that day, however, people’s lives will continue to be devastated by grievous surgical errors.

Labor and Delivery Errors in Childbirth

Errors in Childbirth

Errors in childbirth can be devastating. Fortunately, these incidents are rare, but when they do occur, birth injury can result in permanent damage, or even death. In many cases, unforeseen complications arise, nothing can be done and no one is at fault. In other cases, however, human errors can happen. Sadly, hospitals and health insurance companies may try to cover up these errors. Often, birth-related injuries can be treated and your child will heal in time. But if death or disability does result, nothing can ease the heartache that befalls the family. Nevertheless, your family deserves appropriate compensation.

Common Birth and Delivery Errors

If the baby becomes stuck during delivery, the doctor may use a vacuum or forceps to facilitate the birth, or attempt to deliver the baby manually. Non-serious injuries as a result of the vacuum are common, but if the vacuum is used improperly or in situations where it’s not recommended, more serious harm can result. A lack of oxygen during delivery can also cause dire complications. If the baby fails to progress toward birth, a Caesarean section procedure is often warranted. Failure to recognize this need or to act on it promptly is another common error. It can be difficult to recognize that a problem is developing, especially for first-time parents.

Recognizing the Signs that Errors Have Occurred

The first sign that something is wrong may be one that parents feel in their gut. You may also notice that the medical staff appears to be worried or distressed, or suddenly changes their approach to the delivery. If you ask questions and don’t get answers, advocate for your family without hesitation to get the information you deserve, and to ensure that both mother and child receive the proper medical care. Unfortunately, many of the most common birth injuries don’t present until long after the child’s delivery.

If Your Child Receives a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

One of the most common results of birth and delivery errors is the baby’s diagnosis with cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a complex condition that compromises motor skills and brain function, often involving some degree of paralysis. In many cases, CP results from events that occurred during the birth process. Unfortunately, diagnosis may come weeks, months or even years into the child’s life. If your baby has problems with muscle tone, reflexes, motor skills or coordination, it is important that diagnostic tests be administered as quickly as possible. Although CP does not yet have a cure, prompt and proper treatment is critical.

If you are a Utah resident whose child has suffered due to errors or other problems in the delivery room, contact the law offices of Rasmussen and Miner. These caring, compassionate legal professionals understand that you deserve answers. Call them to discuss your case if you believe your child has been the victim of errors in childbirth.

Are Retained Surgical Instruments Common?

Retained Surgical Instruments

Retained surgical instruments refer to metal implements, sponges and other items that may be left behind in the human body after surgery. These events are entirely preventable, yet the number of occurrences continues to grow in the United States. Items left behind after surgery can cause devastating consequences for the patient, including disability and death. The cost to hospitals and medical facilities can be destructive as well, in terms of both money and reputation.

Recent Increases in “Never Events”

Retained surgical items are often referred to as “never events,” based on the belief that these events are so preventable that they should never happen. Hospitals and medical facilities are understandably tight-lipped about these incidents; however two studies have provided clues that estimate surgeons leave items behind inside patients’ bodies in one out of every 6,975 surgeries performed in the United States*. Approximately two-thirds of these items are some form of surgical sponge. Other items that have been reported left behind include clamps, forceps, scopes, tubes and even safety pins. The most common reasons cited are exhaustion, poor tracking and inventory of surgical items, the chaotic nature of surgical procedures and unexpected complications.

The Devastating Effects of a Simple Surgical Sponge

During surgery, doctors and nurses commonly use gauze, towels and sponges, as well as metal surgical implements. The soft items are the most likely to be left behind and the most difficult to diagnose once the patient begins to experience negative reactions. Due to their soft nature, they don’t show up well on X-rays, and patients don’t experience a specific set of symptoms that might alert their doctor to the problem. Their effects can be disastrous, however, including infection, internal bleeding, organ perforation and even death.

Preventing Retained Surgical Items

Hospitals have implemented a variety of protocols to ensure that all equipment is accounted for before the patient’s surgical site is closed. Some are tracking equipment using scannable bar codes, but many still rely on the manual counting of items before and after the procedure. Because human error remains a factor, this problem requires ongoing evaluation and improvement.

Surgeons argue that they must focus on the patient’s well-being rather than procedure, and repeated counting of instruments requires keeping the patient under anesthesia longer, also posing an increased risk. If complications arise during surgery, the surgical team must scramble to react to the situation. These conditions create a perfect environment in which mistakes can be made.

The professional attorneys of Rasmussen and Miner specialize in helping Utah residents who have been the victims of medical malpractice. Contact them today if you or a loved one has suffered ill effects or complications from retained surgical instruments.

Risks Associated with Outpatient Surgery

Outpatient Surgery

Outpatient surgery, also known as ambulatory surgery, has become a way of life in the United States. Insurance companies and doctors alike may direct patients to outpatient facilities, often for reasons that consider finances above patient safety. Experts warn that these facilities may not be equipped to handle complications that can arise, and as a result, injury or even death may be the unfortunate outcome. Read on for more information regarding potential risks in outpatient surgical procedures.

What Constitutes Outpatient Surgery?

Ambulatory surgical facilities have several characteristics in common. They are typically freestanding facilities owned by doctors or medical groups, rather than hospitals. Some offer a limited scope of treatment types (such as endoscopy services) while others offer a range of surgical services. Although they have the appearance of a standard hospital facility, they lack emergency and critical care personnel and equipment. Patients are given a brief recovery period after their procedure, then sent home. Procedures are performed at a high volume in most ambulatory facilities. Experts estimate that approximately 23 million outpatient surgeries are performed each year in the United States. That’s nearly 60 percent of all surgeries, and that number is increasing.

The Rise of Ambulatory Surgical Procedures in the United States

As medial insurance companies continue to scale back on what they will cover, patients are forced to undergo surgical procedures on an outpatient basis (or pay for a hospital stay out of pocket). The insurance companies assert that this is made possible by technological advances; however, many physicians disagree with that position. Ambulatory procedures also involve a conflict of interest between a doctor’s profits and patient safety. If your doctor has a financial stake in an outpatient surgical center, he or she may send you there for a procedure rather than to a hospital. Unfortunately, disclosure of this conflict of interest is not typically required.

The Inherent Risks Outpatient Surgery

This issue received very little attention until the recent death of comedienne Joan Rivers as a result of an outpatient procedure gone wrong. Patient-safety advocates warn that older patients, the obese and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk of complications that outpatient facilities are not equipped to handle. If something goes wrong, precious time is lost in transporting the patient to an emergency facility. In addition, surgical recovery involves several inherent risks, including blood clots, which can potentially lead to death. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control reports that ambulatory facilities are doing a poor job of preventing secondary infections. In a study, two-thirds of the facilities inspected had lapses in infection control protocols.

If you or a loved one has suffered complications from a recent procedure, contact the professional attorneys of Rasmussen and Miner. They will schedule a private consultation for you to discuss any potential liability or malpractice with regard to your outpatient surgery.

The Link between Hospital Ratings and Medical Complications

Hospital Ratings

Hospital ratings have become a hotly debated topic recently. A variety of governmental and private resources publish comprehensive ratings for hospitals and medical facilities across the country, and research shows that these ratings correlate significantly with potential patient outcomes regarding surgical complications and risks.

Unfortunately, the health care system may dictate where insured patients can seek covered services. Before you need a hospital, whether for an emergency or a scheduled procedure, do your research to find those facilities that have the best safety records.

American Hospital Quality Study Results

Healthgrades, a well-regarded physician and medical facility evaluation resource, recently published its annual “American Hospital Quality Outcomes” report. In an executive report, Healthgrades said that a significant variation in outcomes exists between hospitals, even after considering patient demographics and the potential for complications.

The outcome of this research was disturbing in many ways, as significant quality differences emerged within cities and geographic regions. Healthgrades, for example, ranks each hospital based on multiple criteria such as the number of deaths following post-surgical complications, or deaths during procedures with normally low mortality rates.

The Influence of Doctors and Insurers on Hospital Choice

Most insurance networks have service provider agreements in place with specific facilities and doctors. Likewise, most physicians and surgeons only have “privileges” at certain hospitals. The insurance plan you select (or that your employer provides) will ultimately dictate where you are able to seek care that will be covered by your plan and provider.

Not surprisingly, proximity also figures highly into hospital choice. Patients tend to default automatically to the closest hospital to their home, even for non-emergency procedures. Physicians often locate their offices in relative proximity to their hospital of choice as well. Ultimately, none of these elements should be the deciding factor in your selection.

Making Informed Decisions in Selecting a Hospital

It can be extremely difficult for patients to know how to select a hospital or medical facility. If an emergency arises, you may have little time to decide where you or your loved one should seek care. Hospital data regarding patient safety, complications and mortality rates are widely available online from a variety of resources, including Medicare.gov and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Healthgrades and other private data collection sources.

It is important for consumers to realize that not all medical facilities are created equal. The most effective way to protect your health is to do your research before you need a hospital.

If you are a Utah resident who suffered an unexpected complication related to a hospital procedure or stay, you may be the victim of medical malpractice. Contact Rasmussen and Miner today to discuss your case. Research shows that hospital ratings do matter for patient safety.