“Medical Error” – the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States

By admin

May 5th, 2016

According to new report from researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore you have a greater chance of dying from medical error than from respiratory disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, the flu, pneumonia or car crashes.

The study, which was recently published in British Medical Journal, claims that “medical errors” in hospitals and other health care facilities are very common and may now be the third leading cause of death in the Unites States. According to research going back to 1999, as many as 251,454 Americans a year die from medical errors in hospitals-things such preventable infections, drug errors, mistaken diagnoses, and poor communication – especially upon discharge.

Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine who lead the research, noted that medical error includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.  “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” Makary said.

It is also possible that these numbers are underestimated.   According to the study authors, Makary and Michael Daniel, M.D., “We believe this understates the true incidence of death due to medical error because the studies cited rely on errors extractable in documented health records and include only inpatient deaths.”  Part of the problem in establishing firm numbers, Makary and Daniel write, is that the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention does not require that death certificates record medical errors. Currently, death certificates rely on assigning an International Classification of Disease (ICD) code to the cause of death-so deaths not associated with an ICD code, such as human and system errors, are not captured.

While these numbers are both shocking and appalling, human life should not be thought of as simply a “statistical human error”.  It is neglectful, bordering on reckless, to become that cavalier about the health and life of someone who has placed themselves in the hands of a professional who has sworn to the highest ethical standards.

If you know a loved one who has been harmed by medical malpractice please contact our  offices to discuss your legal rights.

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Many New Jersey Hospitals Not Making The Grade

By admin

April 28th, 2016

One-third of New Jersey hospitals dropped a grade or more in the latest national report card judging how well they kept their patients safe by protecting them from infections, bed sores, and harmful errors during their stay.

New Jersey ranked 22nd in the nation – down from last year’s fifth place rating, and the lowest the state has ever scored in the nine reports issued since 2012 by the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit health care watchdog organization.

Of the 67 hospitals that participated:

  • 23 received an A, 9 fewer than the last round;
  • 16 received a B, 1 more than last round;
  • 26 earned a C, 6 more than last round;
  • Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center is Secaucus earned the only D;
  • Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark received the only F.
  • The AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Campus and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Mainland Campus showed the most improvement by going from C’s to A’s.

In a separate study that Leapfrog contracted with Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality an analysis estimated the number of avoidable deaths at hospitals in each grade level.  According to findings patients have a 9% higher risk of death that was in B hospitals, 35% higher in C hospitals, and 50% higher in D and F hospitals, than in A-rated hospitals.

Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a Leapfrog-affiliated organization, commented that the study was created with the input of national medical experts and that Leapfrog’s report card remains a powerful tool for educating the public and prodding poor-performing hospitals to improve.

If you have concerns about medical malpractice of yourself or loved one contact us or want to learn more about the study click here.

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Arbitration – A privatization of the Justice System (Part 2)

By admin

November 12th, 2015

In their second article in the series the New York Times writes about arbitration as a ‘Privatization of the Justice System’. Through real-life accounts and interviews they express fear that over the last 10 years thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice.

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court. “This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

For more information a link to the complete New York Times’ article is listed below:

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Forced Arbitration

By admin

November 4th, 2015

Forced arbitration is a clause in a contract that requires parties to resolve their disputes without a trial; but instead outside the courts where an arbitrator decides the rules, weighs the facts and arguments of both parties, and then decides the outcome. The clauses, typically written by the corporation, often give them the right to choose the arbitrator and the arbitrator’s decision is almost impossible to appeal.

Many feel forced arbitration is a corporate bullying tactic designed to kick people out of court and eliminate their right to seek justice. It’s a system set up by corporations designed to favor corporations. Businesses are using “the fine print” to take away the rights of consumers, patients, and workers. Unfortunately, forced arbitration has infiltrated nearly all aspects of American life from when they use credit cards, talk on their cell phones, visit websites, start a new job, and even admit a loved one into a nursing home

Congress recognized that forced arbitration was among the leading threats to consumer protection when it created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2010. Consumer advocates have long said that mandatory arbitration clauses deny clients their rights to a fair hearing.

The New York Times is publishing a series of in-depth articles investigating the corporate bullying tactic of forced arbitration. Their investigation was based on thousands of court records and interviews with hundreds of lawyers, corporate executives, judges, arbitrators, and plaintiffs in 35 states.

Below is a link to the first of their three part series on “Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice”



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Medical Malpractice: Fight Medical Error Not Regulation

By admin

September 14th, 2015

With the stalling of NY State’s Lavern’s law – a bill which addressed the statue of limitations for victims of medical malpractice – our focus is once again drawn to the fact that as long as hospitals, doctors and insurance companies block legislation and fight regulation patients will remain in peril.

It seems that every time researchers estimate how often a medical mistake contributes to a hospital patient’s death, the numbers come out worse. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published the famous “To Err Is Human” report, which dropped a bombshell on the medical community by reporting that up to 98,000 people a year die because of mistakes in hospitals. The number was initially disputed, but is now widely accepted by doctors and hospital officials — and quoted ubiquitously in the media.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services said that bad hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in a given year.

Most recently a study from the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.

That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America. – third only to heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of some 400,000 people each year. Doctors and hospitals are doing a poor job of policing themselves, yet they have been successful at keeping anyone else from doing it.

A 2013 study concluded that despite the frequency of avoidable errors, very few wind up as medical malpractice lawsuits. “Some say there are lots of frivolous lawsuits, but lawyers would be fools to take on a frivolous case,” says Barry Furrow, director of the Health Law Program at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University. Furrow says attorneys can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on discovery fees — the costs of gathering facts and evidence to support claims — but in the end, they earn only a percentage of the winnings. And even if a victim wins a medical malpractice lawsuit the awards are generally modest. Thirty-three states restrict the amount of compensation for pain and suffering the victims have endured.

Despite these facts, the American public remains unaware of just how serious the medical error problem is and equally concerning is the fact that many Americans still blame lawyers and the civil justice system for the filing of medical malpractice lawsuits and the cost of medical care. The problem is not limiting injured people‘s statute of limitations, or what they may collect, but instead keeping the negligent act from happening in the first place. Americans already pay a lot for medical care and they should be getting what they pay for not the 3rd leading cause of death in America.

For more information visit our website at www.pralaw.com or if you believe you or your love ones have been the victim of medical error contact our office at 800-432-LAWS (5297).

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Caring For The Elderly

By admin

June 17th, 2015

At Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman we fight for the rights of the elderly and we respect and appreciate others who join us in their support.

Please enjoy this trailer which shows why what we do is so important…


Thank you.

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Corporate Fraud Litigation: Corporations & Their Attorneys Behaving Badly

By admin

December 3rd, 2014

Recently the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the New Jersey District Court’s decision relating to a fraud case against defendants BASF and the New York law firm that defended them for years in asbestos cases, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel.

The plaintiffs, who were petitioners in asbestos workers ’ compensation claims, asserted that BASF and their law firm had collected and destroyed or hid evidence of asbestos-contaminated products in order to evade liability and forge minimal and in some cases no settlements.  The alleged deception had gone on for over two decades and conspired to prevent thousands of asbestos-injury victims from obtaining fair recoveries.

“This action is not itself an asbestos injury case, but rather an action about BASF and Cahill’s conduct when they confronted asbestos injury cases in State Courts around the country,” the Appeals Court wrote.

While this reads like a John Grisham novel the unfortunate truth is that often corporations that are defendants, and their attorneys, sometimes employ the same defensive tactics of trying to hide the truth.  Whether the company manufactures plastics or is a privately owned nursing home the fact remains the same – fraud and concealment occur, sometimes pushing the legal limits.   While the discovery process requires both sides to be forthcoming with information, how would a plaintiff know what they don’t have if they don’t know it exists?  Sometimes concealment comes in the form of denying a request because perhaps the right lingo isn’t used and sometimes, like in Cahill, it crosses the line by denying an incriminating incident report even exists or hiding the name of an employee who has knowledge about it.

The District Court Judge dismissed this case initially due in part to the litigation privilege which is a certain type of immunity given to lawyers to protect them from lawsuits based on their statements in judicial proceedings.   However, the Third Circuit found that the litigation privilege has limits, in part, which do not permit corporate defendants to subvert the legal process through a pattern of conduct which includes misrepresentation not only to plaintiff’s lawyers but tribunals as well. In the words of Judge Julio Fuentes, “The privilege has never applied to so shield systematic fraud directed at the integrity of the judicial process.  Nor should it.”

If you believe you or a loved one has been injured at work, by a defective product, or through medical malpractice at a nursing home, please contact our office.

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Nursing Home Abuse: Alzheimer’s Patient in Florida Tragedy Reinforces Need for Strict Nursing Home Supervision

By admin

October 31st, 2014

Two certified nursing assistants at Florida nursing home are under arrest after they tormented and hit a 75-year-old Alzheimer’s Disease patient, according to Winter Haven police.  The alleged nursing home abuse was caught on camera.

Detectives say the patient’s son saw unusual bruises on his father’s arms and legs and decided to set up a hidden camera which revealed three specific incidents that happened over a timespan of three weeks.

These are the images of our nightmares; entrusting a loved one to another’s care only to find that trust has been violated and abuse has occurred.  It is imperative to know the warning signs of abuse.  Some red flags include:

Falls, fractures or head injuries
Bed sores (pressure ulcers)
Ligature marks around throat, mouth, wrists or ankles
Sudden changes in weight
Unusual or sudden changes in behavior
Soiling, poor hygiene, urine and feces odor

It is also very important to monitor your loved one’s treatment at the chosen facility on a regular basis, and immediately voice your concerns if you suspect any type of nursing home abuse, neglect or denial of your loved one’s rights. Studies show that family involvement increases the likelihood that a long-term care resident will receive quality care

In-room surveillance camera’s (like the ones used in the case above) may be another option.  For more information on “Granny Cams” please see our related blog:

Should you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect please call me at 609-520-0900 for a free consultation.

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Pressure Ulcers and Expensive Care Plague New Jersey Nursing Homes

By admin

July 31st, 2014

According to a recent survey over 8 percent of New Jersey nursing home residents were reported to suffer from pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores.  This ranks New Jersey higher than the national average, which has a median rate of 5.9 percent, and placed them second-worst in this category.

New Jersey nursing home residents also fared poorly when it came to cost of services; ranking sixth-highest in the nation.

The report, sponsored by AARP as well as the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation, ranked NJ 26th overall after some of its problems were mitigated by nursing home practices that were working; such as 8th lowest staff turnover rate and fourth lowest number of patients prescribed anti-psychotic medication.

Eight percent of residents with pressure ulcers is a statistic that is not acceptable!  Pressure ulcers are avoidable and they are a sign of nursing home neglect.   If you or a loved one is not receiving the care you are paying for, and deserve, contact us immediately so we can help!

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Medical Errors: Experts Tell Senate That Hospital Patients Are No Safer Today Then 15 Years Ago

By admin

July 28th, 2014

On July 17th Healthcare Experts told a Senate Subcommittee that American Hospitals are no safer than they were 15 years ago when the Institute of Medicine published its report “Too Err is Human”.  An alarming number of patients are still being harmed and even dying due to preventable medical errors.

Recent estimates of premature death associated with preventable harm to patients may be close to 400,000 a year according to a report in Outpatient Survey magazine.   Medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the U.S. – after heart disease and cancer.

Speakers at the Senate hearing called for industry-wide changes such as more reliable data, metrics and monitoring systems and said any improvement so far have been limited, sporadic and inconsistent.

Dr. Tejai Gandi, president of the National Patient’s Safety Foundation commented, “A culture where people are afraid to speak out about errors won’t get a hospital very far on any initiative”.

The lawyers at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman have seen the devastating effects of medical errors and negligence.   We understand that holding medical providers responsible for preventable errors is one way to try to facilitate change.

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