Modern Medicine: Still Plagued by Human Error

Illinois Medical Malpractice Attorneys

We live in an age of medical miracles: robotic surgeries; laser treatments; targeted radiation for killing tumors; stem cell “powders” for rapid healing of serious wounds; and a host of other developments in the pipeline.

Nonetheless, patients are still plagued by medical mistakes that are the result of primitive human errors, arising from neglect, confusion, disorganization or other behavioral gaffes.

Even wealthy patients who can afford the very best doctors and the very best care are exposed to these avoidable causes of medical malpractice, as demonstrated by the numerous lawsuits that athletes, entertainers and others in the public eye have filed against medical providers.

For example, USA Today reported in 2001 that actor and comedian Dana Carvey had filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against his surgeon and a hospital, alleging that the surgeon made an indefensible mistake in bypassing the wrong artery to his heart in a double bypass operation.

The surgeon’s defense team asserted that the mistake was related to Mr. Carvey having an unusual positioning of his arteries, but the case is nonetheless illustrative of how any patient can be wheeled into surgery for repair of one defect, only to discover later that the wrong artery, limb or organ has been subjected to the surgeon’s knife.

In fact, the courts have been filled with lawsuits related to removal of the wrong arms or legs, the wrong kidneys, or the wrong teeth in cases of infection or disease. The problem is unfortunately so common that many patients and even some hospitals clearly mark the area to be operated on while the patients are conscious and lying on their gurneys waiting for surgery, insuring that no paperwork errors or hurried operating room miscommunications will cause a life-changing mistake.

In a more recent case that attracted press attention, actor Dennis Quaid and his wife settled a case against the reputable Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in California after medical staff there allegedly administered a dose of Heparin (a blood thinner) to their newborn twins that was 1,000 times the proper level in 2007.

Clearly, the medical personnel were not trying to harm the twins, but hospital errors related to administration of the wrong medicine or the wrong amounts of medicine are also regrettably common, and likely related in many instances to understaffing of nurses who are asked to perform way too many tasks under stressful conditions, including double-shifts and pressure from the occasional “bully-style” doctor.

One more example of a noteworthy avoidable mistake occurred in 2007, when Ed McMahon, the long-time sidekick to Johnny Carson, fell at his home and was later discharged from the hospital with a missed diagnosis. McMahon alleged that physicians not only failed to diagnose his broken neck, they even failed to take X-rays, leaving him with a lingering neck problem that troubled him for the rest of his life.

This latter case was also settled for an undisclosed amount, and is emblematic of one of the most common medical mistakes that give rise to malpractice lawsuits – failures to diagnose conditions, often as a result of failure to take the simplest and most ordinary tests.

Obviously, if these wealthy and famous patients can suffer the pains of ordinary medical mistakes at the hands of top notch professionals affiliated with reputable institutions, then you too can be exposed to these dangers.

If you think that you or a loved one has been victimized by a medical mistake, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with a qualified medical malpractice attorney who can advise you with respect to protection and vindication of your rights. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.