DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Are E-Cigarettes Really Safe?

Posted in Community Service, Public Health

Business is booming for e-cigarette makers, and analysts predict that sales should exceed those of tobacco products within the next 10 years. But are these products safe?

While experts debate whether they are safer than traditional cigarettes – which come packed with nasty chemicals like ammonia and formaldehyde – the preponderance of the evidence shows they are likely far from harmless. If your child uses these devices, you may want to have an empathetic intervention and an open conversation about the legal and health risks involved.

Although many e-cigarettes look like tobacco cigarettes, their internal components are very different. An e-cig typically contains a heating element, a battery and a cartridge that holds a mixture of nicotine, flavorings and other liquids. Since smoking e-cigs involves puffing out a cloud of vapor, using these devices is called vaping.

Nicotine has an array of documented adverse health effects. It can affect brain development in children, and it may damage arteries with repeated use. The drug may be linked with addiction pathways in the brain, and depression and anxiety upon withdrawal are common, as is weight gain, which may be linked with nicotine’s effect on a fat storage enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL).

In addition to the nicotine they serve up, e-cigarettes may get kids hooked on other substances. Some argue that e-cigs may serve as a gateway drug to real cigarettes. Droves of teenagers and young adults consider them cool, and studies suggest that vaping may usher some young Americans into the disastrous habit of smoking.

For instance, a recent study published by JAMA Pediatrics found nonsmokers with no interest in smoking were more likely to use tobacco cigarettes if they had engaged in vaping. According to the authors, “These results raise concerns that the many adolescents and young adults who initiate nicotine use through e-cigarettes are at substantially increased risk for later use of cigarettes, even if they do not intend to smoke cigarettes in the future.”

Vaping has become a full-blown trend among middle and high school students, according to consumer protection experts. The explosion of e-cigarette flavors like bubble gum and chocolate certainly might be contributing to that trend.

Here’s a more general article that discusses the nature and implications of product recalls: What Do Consumers Need to Know About Recalls That Might Affect Them?

New Medical Report: Wrong or Late Diagnosis Experienced by Most Americans

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety

Picture of Salvatore J. Zambri

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

A new report by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals a critical  health system problem that impacts at least 12 million adults each year. The results from an independent panel of medical experts indicate that most Americans will receive a wrong or late diagnosis at least once in their lives.  A wrong or late diagnosis is a critical health-care error that can, and frequently does, lead to serious injury, even death. Surprisingly, the focus historically has been placed on medication errors attributed to treatment on a wrong patient or body part. These errors are much less common than diagnostic errors.

IOM was petitioned by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, a nonprofit, physician-led organization patient safety group to conduct the study leading to the new report. According to IOM President during a recent news briefing, “Despite the pervasiveness of diagnostic error and the risk for patient harm, they have been largely unappreciated within the quality safety movement in health care and this cannot and must not continue.”

As the diagnostic process and delivery of health care become more complex, chances for errors in diagnostics increase. The chair of the IOM committee and executive vice president emeritus of the American College of Physicians said, “The data on diagnostic errors are sparse, few reliable measures exist and often the error is identified only in retrospect.” Frequently, a misdiagnosis is only identified during an autopsy or as a result of a medical malpractice law suit.

According to the committee’s authors, diagnostic errors can be addressed only by a fundamental overhaul of the entire diagnostic process. A recent article about the IOM report by the Washington Post summarized the committee findings: “Diagnostic errors happen for many reasons, the committee found. There isn’t enough collaboration among clinicians, patients and their families. Clinicians only get limited feedback about the accuracy of their diagnosis. The health-care culture discourages transparency and disclosure of errors. The report also said that health information technology may be contributing to diagnostic errors. More doctors’ office and health systems now have electronic health records, but clinicians often complain the systems are hard to use. ”

The Institute of Medicine has provided  a set of detailed goals and recommendations for reducing diagnostic errors in medicine:

  • “Facilitate more effective teamwork in the diagnostic process among health care workers, patients, and families.
  • Enhance health care professional education and training in the diagnostic process.
  • Ensure that health information technologies support patients and health care professionals in the diagnostic process.
  • Develop and deploy approaches to identify, learn from, and reduce diagnostic errors and near misses in clinical practice.
  • Establish a work system and culture that supports the diagnostic process and improvements in diagnostic performance.
  • Develop a reporting environment and medical liability system than facilitates improved diagnosis by learning from diagnostic errors and near misses.
  • Design a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process.
  • Provide dedicated funding for research on the diagnostic process and diagnostic errors.”

Experts also have recommendations for patients to assist in helping to obtain the right diagnosis.

  • “Be clear, complete and accurate when you tell your clinician about your illness. When did symptoms begin? What made them better or worse? Jot down notes and bring them with you.
  • Remember what treatments you’ve tried in the past, if they helped, and what, if any side effects you had.
  • Keep your own records of test results, referrals and hospital admissions. Keep an accurate list of your medications. Bring the list when you see your clinician or pharmacist.
  • Remember to ask your clinician these three questions:
    • What could be causing my problem?
    • What else could it be?
    • When will I get my test results and what should I do to follow up?”

Every day, patients are subjected to an alarming number of missed or wrong medical diagnoses. Following the advice above is a way for patients to better protect themselves from medical wrongdoings.

About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year”.  Super Lawyers recently named him among the “Top Ten” lawyers in the Metro Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 100″ lawyers in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners.  His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA.  Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine (2014) — national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.


Could a Baby’s Name Influence the Likelihood of Scary Hospital Errors?

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety

A new study published in early July in the journal Pediatrics has many obstetricians and hospital safety officials talking.

Per the research, approximately 11 percent of medical errors affecting newborn babies stem from misidentification. Many hospitals use a relatively generic naming convention, in which newborns are named “babygirl Smith” or “babyboy Miller.” In some cases, this convention involves the mother’s name, such as “Debrasgirl Smith” or “Mindysboy Miller.”

Dr. Jason Adelman, a New York City public safety officer, reported that “many people knew that using only ‘babygirl’ or ‘babyboy’ was a problem, but they couldn’t really report it, because people don’t like to report errors… We came up with a way to track them.”

Dr. Adelman and his team examined the frequency and severity of errors in hospital orders over a two-year period at two different hospitals in New York. Fortunately, these errors are often caught and fixed before problems can develop, such as:

  • One baby getting milk from the wrong mother and having an allergic reaction or some other problem as a result of drinking non-maternal milk;
  • A patient getting the wrong imaging test or lab results;
  • A patient being misdiagnosed or under diagnosed for a potentially dangerous condition.

Adelman et al found that, when hospitals use the more specific and concrete naming convention involving the mother, errors drop by a substantial 36 percent margin. Interviewed for the Milbank Quarterly about the study, a pediatrician at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts named Dr. Clay Jones said “medical errors that can occur when physicians or other healthcare professionals confuse one patient for another can be quite serious, even deadly.”

However, he offered the caveat that “the results of the study are impressive, simply looking at the percent decrease in retract and reorder errors… but we can’t draw any firm conclusions.” Perhaps, the decrease in errors stemmed from the fact that researchers observed the hospital staff, for instance, making them more conscious of their behavior.

While more research is needed, the investigation suggests that very subtle factors can contribute to hospital errors, which lead to thousands of deaths and untold agony for American patients every year.

If you need insight into a potential case, please get in touch with our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a consultation.

Here’s a sobering look at the statistics of neonatal department errors and omissions: Alarming Statistics on Medical and Obstetrical Errors.

August Is National Immunization Awareness Month – Round Up of Immunization News

Posted in Patient Safety, Public Health

2015 has been a momentous year, in terms of discussion of immunization policy. Ridiculous, unscientific efforts to connect early childhood vaccinations with autism have fortunately stalled, thanks in part to publication of another exhaustive scientific analysis that confirmed that there is no link between autism and immunization/vaccination.

Earlier in the summer, in response to a measles outbreak in Disneyland, the state of California passed a measure rescinding the “personal belief” exemption for vaccinating young children against diseases, such as rubella, mumps and measles.

On a more positive (and also newsworthy) note, scientists recently announced that they may have developed a massively effective vaccine against the terrifying virus, Ebola, which threatened to create a global viral pandemic in late 2014.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, along with the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, is trying to spread positive, objective and useful information about immunizations during August, National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This event strives to “highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan.”

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, along with the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, is trying to spread positive, objective and useful information about immunizations during August, National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This event strives to “highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan.”

  • The first week of August will focus on preteens and teens.
  • The second week, from the 9th to 15th, will address immunization concerns related to pregnant women.
  • August 16th to 22nd will explore adult related immunization questions.
  • Finally, from the 23rd to 29th, discussion will focus on immunizations for infants and children.

You can explore these messages and dive deeper into any topics at the NPHIC website. Some of the critical messages that these institutions are trying to get out include:

  • Parents of young kids (2 and under) should explore and get immunizations for their children according to an appropriate schedule not only to protect their children but also to ensure our “herd immunity” to these dangerous viruses and diseases.
  • Parents of children ages 9 to 18 should ensure that kids have gotten all their vaccines before going back to school (or going off to college).
  • Adults – particularly those who work in healthcare industries – should get boosters or new vaccines to be fully up to speed.
  • Pregnant women might need to get immunizations for protection against problems like whooping cough.
  • Everyone should know that flu season is on the doorstep and that flu vaccinations can and do save lives every year.

If someone you love is in the hospital due to a person or provider’s negligence or carelessness, our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call or email us now.

In addition to ensuring that your kids are immunized, protect them against drowning or other water accidents in August. Learn the facts here: 6 Surprising Swimming Pool Dangers.

What Every Patient Should Know About “Number Needed to Treat”

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Medications

Most drug advertisements today include a lot of superficial information touting the benefits of medications, including statistics that can make treatments look fantastic and benign. While the statistics these drug makers cite may be accurate, they’re almost always only telling part of the story.

One of the numbers used in assessing the effectiveness of a drug is the “number needed to treat,” or NNT. As a consumer, knowing the NNT can help you make important decisions about whether or not to take a medication. Yet rarely – if ever – is the NNT included in drug ads.

So what is the number needed to treat? It’s the number of patients that would need to be treated in order to achieve the desirable effect or outcome in one patient. For instance, suppose you have a drug that’s intended to prevent stroke. You conduct studies and determine the number needed to treat is 10. What does that mean? It means you would have to treat 10 people with that drug in order to prevent a stroke in one person.

The number needed to treat is a simple way to estimate the potential benefit to be expected from a drug or course of treatment, and it can be an especially helpful marker with respect to comparing one treatment or drug to another.

As noted, the number needed to treat is very rarely included in drug advertising, especially if that number. After all, if the NNT for a new cholesterol drug is 80, that means essentially you’d have a one in 80 chance of having a successful outcome as a result of the medication. Depending on the potential side effects caused by the drug and other factors, you may decide that the benefits and risks just don’t add up.

The NNT can also play an important role in determining negligence of a drug manufacturer whose drug caused significant injury or death.

If someone you love is in the hospital due to a person or provider’s negligence or carelessness, our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call or email us now.

For yet another story on pharmaceutical companies (and the errors, intentional and otherwise, that they make), read: 6 Dangers of Pharmacy Compounding: What Patients Need to Know.

Understanding the Difference Between Absolute Risk and Relative Risk

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Medications, Patient Safety

Turn on the television at just about any time of the day or night, and chances are pretty good that within the first 30 minutes, you will see a commercial promoting a drug. That’s because pharmaceuticals are big business, and the pharmaceutical companies know the best way to make money is to make sure consumers know what their drugs can do.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising in general; but problems can arise when the claims a company makes distort the truth without actually being out-and-out lies. Statistics are often used to skew messages in advertising and elsewhere. And while that practice can be misleading, when it comes to claims regarding medications, this practice can be downright dangerous.

Most drug commercials talk about risk in terms of how well their medications work to prevent whatever ailments they’re intended to treat. But drug makers usually talk about relative risks, often completely leaving out the absolute risks determined by clinical studies.

Absolute risk is your overall risk of developing a disease or condition over time as compared to everyone else. We all have absolute risks when it comes to developing common diseases like heart disease. We can say one out of 10 people will develop X disease in his or her lifetime, which is meaningful when it comes time to determine whether we want to have treatment or not.

Relative risk, on the other hand, compares the risks between two specific groups, often producing results and percentages that are skewed. That makes it difficult to make educated decisions about whether or not to take a medication, for instance, and it can also misstate the actual – or absolute – risks associated with taking a drug.

Understanding absolute and relative risks is also vitally important in legal cases determining negligence of drug manufacturers, and it’s one of the primary reasons why having a skilled attorney is critical in any negligence or medical malpractice case.

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential options to seek compensation. Call us today for a free consultation.

Here’s an interesting article comparing the risks and benefits of the common drug (and vitamin), niacin: New Research Casts Doubts on Benefits of Niacin for Heart Health.

Six Surprising Facts about Heat Stroke

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Patient Safety, Women's Health Issues

Heat stroke can be a serious danger during the summer months. Understanding what puts you at risk for heat stroke and what symptoms it causes are essential for your health and safety. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe:

  • Heat kills an average of 658 people every year in the U.S., according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that tracked heat-related deaths from 1999 to 2009.
  • The weather doesn’t have to be super-hot to create the conditions for heat stroke. People who play or work in direct sunlight as well as those who engage in physical activity outdoors can begin to experience symptoms of heat stroke while temperatures are in the 80s and humidity is 80 percent or more, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Even if you’re physically active, you can still be at an increased risk for heat stroke. People who are elderly or very young aren’t able to regulate temperatures as well as others, making them more susceptible to heat stroke. Those who are overweight or obese as well as those who have chronic diseases also stand at elevated risk, as do those who aren’t used to high temperatures.
  • Some medications can increase your risk for heat stroke, including blood pressure medications, antidepressants and ADHD medications.
  • Feeling hot isn’t always the primary symptom of heat stroke. In fact, some people first develop headache or light-headedness as the key symptoms. As heat stroke progresses, it can cause nausea and muscle cramps.
  • While it may seem logical to sweat more when you’re hot, in heat stroke, you actually stop sweating as your body’s temperature regulation controls shut down.

Once symptoms set in, it can be difficult to “restart” the body’s natural temperature regulation system. Getting medical help is critical to avoid seizures and even death.

If you need smart insight into a potential case, please contact our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a consultation.

In addition to keeping your body cool, you want to keep cool at the grill. To that end, you might want to check out this article: “Practice Safety Rules When Grilling.”


Four Medical Problems That Are More Common in Summer

Posted in Public Health, Uncategorized

Summers are filled with picnics, barbecues, beach trips and other fun activities, but they can also be a time of increased risks for specific types of disease. While it may seem like most illnesses occur during the cold months of winter, summer brings its own health issues, including these four common problems:

Enjoying lazy summer days doesn’t mean being trapped indoors. Being aware of the risks of illness and disease that are most likely to occur in the summer is the best way to stay healthy and enjoy fun in the sun.

Another hidden summer danger: lawn mower accidents. Learn what to do (and what not to do) by studying this article: Lawn Mower Safety: Practice Common Sense.

Father’s Day Tips for Caring for Your Dad Who’s in the Hospital

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Nursing Home Negligence

Father’s Day is a day to recognize all the great things your dad has done for you – a day for ballgames, barbecues and special gifts. But for dads who are spending the day in the hospital, the day can appear pretty bleak. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make the day extra-special, even if your dad is sick or injured. Here are four ideas to get you started:

  • Decorate the room. Choose a theme your dad will enjoy. Keep it bright and light-hearted, but leave the flowers behind – some patients are allergic, and many hospitals ban flowers as a result. Bring along a bright-colored pillowcase while you’re at it.
  • Bring treats. Even patients on dietary restrictions may be allowed specific types of treats. Be sure to ask the nurse or nutritionist before bringing any food or beverages to ensure you don’t run afoul of your dad’s diet restrictions and wind up having your treats tossed in the trash.
  • Rent a DVD or stream a movie. Some hospitals have DVD players available, and you can always stream a movie or play a DVD on your laptop. Choose one of your dad’s favorite flicks, or opt for a new movie in his favorite genre. Comedies (as opposed to maudlin dramas or horror films) tend to be good choices.
  • Give a useful gift. Gifts that can be used in the hospital or during recovery are ideal. Puzzle books or a book on a favorite subject, a new CD or DVD, or a comfy robe and slippers can all be good choices.

Celebrating your dad doesn’t have to be delayed or deferred because he’s in the hospital – in fact, his medical issues should serve as added incentives for you to show him how much he means to you. Be creative, and remember – the gesture doesn’t have to be big. Just your presence can cheer your dad and provide him with happy memories to brighten his mood.

If someone you love is in the hospital due to a person or provider’s negligence or carelessness, our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call or email us now.

For more useful tips to protect dad, review: 10 Tips Patients Can Do to Make Your Hospital Stay Safer.


Five Scary Things You Didn’t Know about Hospital Errors

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety

Doctors and other medical personnel are in unique positions of trust; when we’re ill or injured, we trust these men and women with our very lives. But in recent years, several studies have revealed an alarmingly high number of medical errors, many of which lead to life-threatening complications. Consider these eye-opening statistics:

More than 400,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors, according to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety. That alarmingly high figure places preventable medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease and cancer are the top two causes.

Each year, more than 700,000 patients acquire an infection while hospitalized, and about 75,000 of those patients die, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hospital errors occur more frequently in critical care units, according to a study by Harvard University Medical School, which found preventable errors occurred in nearly half of all ICU patients. Most errors were due to simple “slips and lapses” and not due to lack of knowledge.

• The Institute of Medicine says about $400 billion is wasted each year in medical costs in the U.S. due to unnecessary services, inefficient delivery of services and missed prevention opportunities, all of which can be related to medical errors.

• Jackson Healthcare Survey found 92 percent of doctors reported they made medical decisions based on fear of being sued rather than care based on their patients’ best interests – a disturbing trend called “defensive medicine.”

Some experts hope the expansion of electronics in the healthcare industry may help reduce medical errors, but only time will tell if electronic devices provide a benefit to patients or become just another source of potential errors.

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential options to seek compensation. Call us today for a free consultation.