Category: Medical and Dental Malpractice

What Is Informed Consent & How To Prove It Under Connecticut Law

To understand what informed consent means in a medical context and how to prove a failure to obtain informed consent, the following information is provided.  This information is taken directly from Connecticut court’s jury instructions in cases involving a failure to obtain informed consent cause of action.
The theory of informed consent imposes a duty upon a physician that is completely separate and distinct from (his/her) responsibility to skillfully diagnose and treat the patient’s ills.  A physician has a duty to disclose all known material risks of the proposed procedure.  A material risk is risk that a reasonably prudent person in the patient’s position would have found significant in deciding whether or not to submit to the proposed procedure.  The physician has a duty to give a patient whose situation permits it all information material to the decision to undergo the proposed procedure.  This duty includes a responsibility to advise the patient of feasible alternatives.  The duty to warn of alternatives exists only when there are feasible alternatives available.
The plaintiff must prove both that there was a failure to disclose a known material risk of a proposed procedure and that such failure was a proximate cause of (his/her) injury.  In order to find proximate cause in this context, you must find that a disclosure of the material risks of the proposed procedure would have resulted in a decision by a reasonably prudent person in the patient’s position not to submit to the proposed procedure.  The particular patient’s reaction, had (he/she) received the information as to the risks involved, is not the governing one with respect to the duty to inform.  The standard is what a reasonably prudent person in the patient’s position would have decided if suitably informed of all material risks.

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Failure to Treat Sepsis – Medical Malpractice

The United States Government agreed to pay a former Utah family nearly $1 million to settle a medical malpractice case involving failure to treat infection / sepsis. The man was being treated for leukemia at at a Veterans Affairs hospital in 2004 when he developed a severe infection and died. His surviving wife and daughter filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the hospital told him to take gas-x instead of going to the emergency room to get antibiotics. The man was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2004 and received chemotherapy at the VA in October. Three days after his last treatment, he had diarrhea and abdominal pain. After calling the hospital to see what to do, his wife was told by an oncology doctor that the man should take an over-the-counter medicine for gas. What he really needed were antibiotics immediately to fight off a severe infection.  He did not receive the antibotics and died and preventable death.

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CDC Publishes Steps For Hospitals To Prevent MRSA

The CDC has published safety measures for hospitals to follow to prevent MRSA and/or prevent the spreading of MRSA to other hospital patients.  The guidelines include the placing of MRSA patients in a single room or in a room with another MRSA patient, health care providers are to wear gloves, masks and gowns when treating MRSA patients and take such items off when leaving the patients room, and wash hands with soap and water.  The spread of MRSA is absolutely preventable if proper safety measures are followed.

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Preventing Catheter-Associated Blood Stream Infections

Catheter-associated blood stream infections are preventable.  The CDC has published guidelines for health care providers to follow to avoid such infections.  These guidelines include basic safety measures including washing hands with soap and using sterile gloves when inserting the catheter.  Failure to follow these safety measures can result in serious injury or death to the patient.

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Hospitals Facing Infection Lawsuits

Claims based on hospital inquired infections are on the rise.  Recent jury verdicts suggest that more lawsuits will be filed.  On November 6, 2008, a jury awarded $13.5 million to a Massachusetts woman who died of an infection caused by flesh-eating bacetria she acquired during cancer treatment at the hospital.  On November 14, 2008, a Utah woman reached a confidential settlement in medical malpractice she filed against a hospital after the hospital failed to detect a flesh-eating bacteria resulting in the loss of limbs.  In July, a couple in Missouri was awarded $2.58 million after the husband contracted Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA) when doctors at the hospital inserted a pacemaker.  As a result of the deadly MRSA, the man lost a kidney, a leg and a foot.  According to the CDC, 2 million patients acquire infections while at the hospital per year resulting in 90,000 deaths.  In the past, hospitals were successful in arguing that the vast majority of the infections were unpreventable.  This argument is no longer holding water.  The standard of care has been raised requiring hospitals to take appropriate measures to prevent infections.  Last year, the CDC published guidelines for preventing infections.  As of October 1, 2008, Medicare stopped reimbursing for certain type of hospital acquired infections.  Hopefully, by having the hospitals held accountable, the rate of deadly hospital infections will decline.

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