Tag: malpractice

Bioethics News

Judge Opens Door for Lawsuit Over Girl Declared Brain Dead

September 8, 2017

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Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido ruled Tuesday that it’s up to a jury to determine whether Jahi McMath is alive, which would increase the damages jurors could award if they determine doctors at Children’s Hospital in Oakland botched a routine operation to remove the girl’s tonsils.

In California, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are capped at $250,000 for medical malpractice. But juries can award unlimited economic damages far above that cap for ongoing medical care, which Jahi’s family could not claim if she were declared dead.

Jahi’s case has been at the center of national debate over brain death since the girl’s mother refused to remove her daughter from life support after doctors declared the then-13-year-old dead after surgery in December 2013.

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Image: By Blcksx – I took this photograph while visiting Riverside, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44291738

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

In Survey, Docs Say Unneeded Medical Care Is Common

September 7, 2017

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A national survey of more than 2,000 doctors across multiple specialties finds that physicians believe overtreatment is common and primarily perpetuated by fear of malpractice, as well as patient demand and some profit motives.

A report on the findings, published today in PLOS ONE, highlights physicians’ perspectives on unnecessary health care practices and the potential causes and solutions.

“Unnecessary medical care is a leading driver of the higher health insurance premiums affecting every American,” says Martin Makary, professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper’s senior author.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Jahi McMath Case Now Headed to a Jury Trial on Whether She Is Now Alive

Alan Shewmon  allowed to testify

Earlier this year, the medical defendants in Jahi McMath’s medical malpractice lawsuit filed a motion
to dismiss her claims. They argued that McMath lacks standing to sue for
personal injuries because she was pronounced dead in December 2013.

Yesterday, the Alameda County Superior Court denied those motions for
summary adjudication. “[T]hough Defendants have shown that the
determination of brain death in December 2013 was made in accordance with
accepted medical standards . . . a triable issue of fact exists as to whether
McMath currently satisfies the statutory definition of ‘dead’ under the Uniform
Determination of Death Act.”

“[D]espite the fact that Dr. Shewmon has not performed a formal determination of brain death as addressed in the Guidelines, Defendants have not cited authority that his opinions are of no weight or admissibility in addressing the changed circumstances alleged in the First Cause of Action.”

“[W]hile the Guidelines are generally accepted medically, there is some discrepancy between what the Guidelines diagnose and what the statutory definition of death specifies . . .  In re Guardianship of Hailu (Nev. 2015) . . .”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Jahi McMath – Impact Even if the Lawsuit Fails

Jahi McMath continues to litigate medical malpractice claims against the Oakland healthcare providers who treated her in 2013. 

In July, the medical defendants argued that Jahi’s claims must fail, because there is no valid evidence that she is now alive. Consequently, she has no standing to assert personal injury claims. The judge has not yet ruled on the pending motions for summary adjudication. But it looks like Jahi has submitted enough evidence that the life/death question should proceed to trial.

At trial, the jury might conclude that Jahi is still dead, because they find Jahi’s evidence to be less credible than the defendants’ evidence. The jury might also conclude that the defendants did not commit malpractice. If the jury reaches either conclusion, then Jahi’s claims will fail.

If Jahi wins her lawsuit, that means there is something wrong with the way we measure brain death. It is supposed to be “irreversible.” 

But even if Jahi loses her lawsuit, it will have had significant impact. First, the fact that she has been sustained this long (approaching 4 years) also suggests (though less obviously) that there is something wrong with the way we measure brain death. Second, it has sown distrust and confusion across the country, resulting in more family-clinician conflicts surrounding brain death.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Charlie Gard, the sick baby hospital doctors want to disconnect. Our medical and ethical assessement

He and his parents await the Judge’s decision regarding the possibility of withdrawing or not the life support who keep him alive and the possibility of receiving an experimental treatment in the United States

Medical aspects

Charlie was born on 4 August 2016. In October the same year, he was admitted to Great Osmond Street Hospital (GOSH-NHS) in London, and diagnosed with a disease that affects mitochondrial function, called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). This means that he cannot obtain sufficient energy for his muscles, kidneys, brain and other organs, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

Although there seemed to be no specific treatment for the mitochondrial abnormality at that time, in January 2017, his mother became aware of an experimental treatment using nucleosides that was being evaluated in the United States in patients with a disease similar to Charlie’s. Consequently, his parents assessed the possibility of taking him to the US for treatment because, according to them, it might improve their son’s health by at least 10%.

At the same time, British newspaper “The Guardian” announced that the US Hospital that had the medication offered to ship it so that Charlie could be treated immediately, but GOSH (NHS hospital) disagreed, proposing instead to withdraw the child’s respiratory support.

In effect, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Irving Medical Center, also in New York, published a statement saying that they were willing to admit and clinically evaluate Charlie, as they had FDA approval for the use of an experimental treatment using nucleosides.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Lang v. Rogue Valley Medical Center – Unilateral DNR and Withholding Lawsuit

The Oregon Supreme Court has just issued a judgment allowing a medical futility lawsuit to proceed to trial.


In 2001, Ruth Miller was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Seven years later, in 2008, she executed an advance directive, naming Phillip Lang as her health care representative.  


On August 1, 2008, Miller was admitted into Rogue Valley Medical Center, where she died that night. Lang brought a lawsuit against the Medical Center and Miller’s oncologist, asserting claims for wrongful death, negligence, medical malpractice, and abuse of a vulnerable
person.


Lang alleges that Miller was not capable of making medical decisions when she was admitted. According to the complaint, when defendants admitted Miller, they listed her as “Do Not Resuscitate” and provided her with only palliative care instead of following plaintiff’s directions to insert a feeding tube and to take other measures to reverse Miller’s deteriorating condition. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

CAVEAT HOSPITIA: Suits Alleging Negligent Credentialing Against Hospitals Get Exemption from Tort Reform

By Alex Stein Policymakers and scholars interested in medical malpractice and torts generally should read Billeaudeau v. Opelousas General Hospital Authority, — So.3d —-, 2016 WL 6123862 (La. 2016). In this recent and important decision, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that … Continue reading

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

President Trump’s Tort Reform

By Alex Stein President Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 proposes a thoroughgoing reform of our medical malpractice system. Executive Office of the President of the United States, Major Savings and Reforms, Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2018, at … Continue reading

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Minnesota – Best Place to Practice Medicine

Medscape has just ranked Minnesota the best state to practice medicine.  Minnesota is the 2nd happiest, 4th most family friendly, and 5th most livable.


For physicians, the report cites the 4th healthiest population, 2nd highest rate of employer insurance, 17th lowest rate of malpractice, 3rd least harsh medical board, and 3rd highest in PA-NP teamwork.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Unusual Case of Ian Paterson and Criminally Harmful Surgery

Guest post by Alex Mullock, University of Manchester

On 28th April 2017 in the case of breast surgeon, Ian Paterson, the jury in Nottingham Crown Court agreed that in carrying out unnecessary and mutilating surgery the defendant had done what no reasonable surgeon would do.  Paterson was convicted of seventeen counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) and three counts of unlawful wounding (under, respectively, sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861) against nine women and one man. These ten victims, however, have been reported to represent a tiny proportion of all Paterson’s alleged victims, a group that might amount to hundreds from his many years of practice in the NHS and private sector.

The “obscure motives” that compelled Paterson may forever remain a mystery but it is interesting that the charges against him relate only to patients he treated in his private practice.  This enabled the prosecution to create a narrative that suggested that financial gain could have been the motivating factor for Paterson’s crimes.  Without greed as a possible motive his actions are baffling, and the prosecution’s case, in alleging that surgery which Paterson argued was performed in the patient’s best interests actually constituted GBH or unlawful wounding, would be more challenging because of the medical context of the allegations.  Importantly, the medical exception to the criminal law – the principle that consensual surgery carried out by qualified professionals is legitimate (“proper medical treatment”) – means that there is an assumption that harm caused by surgery is not a matter for the criminal law because it is a risk that we accept in order to enjoy the benefits of surgical medicine.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.