Might Financial Penalties Reduce Preventable Medical Errors?


Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. – ranking just behind heart disease and cancer.

In 2007, in an attempt to reduce the harm done by these errors, the state of California tried something new.  The state instituted a system of fines of up to $125,000 for a specific list of errors that can cause “serious injury or death of a patient” whether or not those medical mistakes were promptly reported.

Interestingly, Medicare also punishes care providers by refusing to pay hospitals found guilty of medical errors and there are Affordable Care Act penalties that apply to some medical errors as well.

And while a few states do fine hospitals for failing to report adverse events, California is the only state in the U.S. that both publicizes and fines for these mistakes.

Since the law’s passage, $17 million in fines have been handed out – bringing adverse publicity and presumably shame to 192 hospitals in California.

The result?

Sadly, there has been no significant reduction in medical errors in California overall since the program was deployed nine years ago.  And the total number of errors is higher today than it was when the program started.

Has there been any improvement?

Oddly, California data is a bit hard to parse on that question.  However, the number of hospital acquired infections and severe bedsores has dropped nationally, while mistakes, such as leaving surgical tools inside of patients, have increased.

Interestingly – no federal law requires that hospitals report their errors – and only 27 states (including Connecticut) require it.

Does that reporting system work?

According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, only 12% of preventable errors are ever reported – even in those states requiring those reports.

What does that mean for Connecticut?

Looking at the latest data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health (2015), 471 adverse events were reported to state officials.  If one assumes the U.S. Inspector General is correct about the number of preventable errors that go unreported, there were more likely close to 4,000 medical errors in Connecticut in 2015 – of which 3,500 went unreported.

Among the leading preventable errors in Connecticut hospitals were bedsores, falls, organ perforations, and retention of foreign objects – including surgical tools.

Can our physicians and hospitals do better?  Of course they can.  And they must.  These mistakes take and tragically alter too many lives.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer.  A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.    Please contact us if we can help you.  The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.


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Could the Error Rate during Surgery Really be This High?

Photo credit: thinkpanama / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: thinkpanama / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

A new research study has just been published on what really happens during surgery. The study was done at one of America’s better hospitals and the report is disturbing.

Researchers at Harvard were anxious to understand how many medical mistakes are actually made just before, during and immediately after surgery.

What did they find?

Not what they expected.

Half of all surgeries involve medical errors and medical malpractice.


Another chilling fact… The study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital – considered by leading health authorities to be a U.S. leader in patient safety.

Not only did the Harvard team find a high error rate – mostly tied to medication errors – 30% of the errors resulted in significant patient harm.   Another 69% of the errors were defined as serious.

News of these results led one leading researcher at Yale to proclaim that “awareness of problems is where all solutions begin.”

So is the medical community just learning of the high rates of medical error (sometimes referred to as iatrogenesis) and medical malpractice for the first time?

Continue reading “Could the Error Rate during Surgery Really be This High?” »

Wait… Hospital Profit Goes Up When They Make A Mistake?

Hospital errors lead to greater profit.Did you know your hospital’s profit can jump from $16,936 to $55,953 per patient when a surgical error is made?


According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),  a surgical complication increases a procedure’s average profit margin by 330 percent for the privately insured and 190 percent for Medicare patients.

Continue reading “Wait… Hospital Profit Goes Up When They Make A Mistake?” »

Consumer Reports Grades Many of the Nation’s Hospitals with Surprising Results

It is an established fact that medical malpractice and medical mistakes in the form of surgical errors, mistakes, drug interactions and reactions are the third leading cause of death in America after heart disease and cancer.

Adding to what we know about this problem, Consumer Reports has just released a new study on hospital safety and surgical outcomes, and its results are surprising and disturbing.  The study authors used recently released federal government data to determine how patients did following surgery in 2,500 hospitals in the 50 states.

Surprisingly the report found that some of the most illustrious hospitals did not do a good job in a number of areas including the area of infection prevention – while other hospitals, some in the busiest and poorest urban centers, scored well in the study.

The report looked particularly at five common procedures largely effecting older Americans:  back surgery, hip and knee replacement, angioplasty to clear out clogged arteries of the heart, and carotid artery surgery to unplug the neck artery.

Study author, Lisa McGiffert, said “consumers have very little to go on when trying to select a hospital for surgery, not knowing which ones do a good job at keeping surgery patients safe and which ones don’t.  They might as well just throw a scalpel at a dartboard.”

Some really big named hospitals like Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Sibley Memorial Hospital, got the poorest ratings overall.  John Hopkins got only an average rating.

The ratings are based on the percentage of a hospital’s surgery patients who died while in the hospital or who endured a longer stay than typical, based on national averages for each procedure considered.

If you are ever the victim of medical malpractice call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer.  A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 55 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases including:

  • Top listings in “The Best Lawyers in America” and “Best Law Firms”
  • Top listing by Martindale-Hubbell as a “New England Top Rated AV Preeminent® Law Firm
  • Admission of five of our personal injury lawyers as members in the very prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers.  The American College is a professional society of Fellows who become members only by invitation, with admission limited to experienced, outstanding trial lawyers who are unquestionably and eminently qualified as actively engaged trial lawyers.  Only 1% of all trial lawyers in any state are offered admission as members to the College
  • Listing in New England Super Lawyers published by Connecticut Magazine.  Less than 5% of attorneys in the New England states receive this honor
  • Lifetime Achievement awards from the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association and the Connecticut Law Tribune
  • Board Certification by the National Board of Trial Advocacy

We have a great team dedicated to medical malpractice cases. Our offices are in Hartford but we are available to meet with you in your home or office if that is easier for you.  Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.



Do Hospitals Profit From Their Medical Malpractice Mistakes?

It appears that there may be more profit for hospitals when they make mistakes than when theyDo_hospitals_benefit_from_medical_malpractice_mistakes? perform error free – this according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

How is this possible you ask?  Well… according to the study authors, complications and errors lead to longer hospital stays and extra care which in turn leads to more expensive treatment.  Sadly effective methods exist for reducing error rates dramatically but hospitals have been slow to make the necessary changes.  According to the authors, to do so would lead to lower revenues per patient in many cases.

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Medical Malpractice Is Too Common – Read Reports on Hospitals Near You

Medical malpractice at hospitals and medical centers happens every day.Read_about_your_hospitals_medical_malpractice_record. Medical staffs make mistakes.  Some instances of medical malpractice are worse than others and sometimes they are deadly.  Patients have been known to get the wrong medications or even undergo surgery intended for someone else.

When medical errors like these and others are reported, government officials are required to inspect the hospital in question and file a detailed report.

This vital information on hospital quality and safety has finally been made available to the public online.

A website dedicated to this information, www.hospitalinspections.org, provides detailed reports of hospital violations dating back to January 2011, searchable by location and the name of the hospital.

Until now, these reports were released only through a Freedom of Information Act request – making access to this information very difficult to obtain.

While this development is progress, some information is still unavailable.  For instance, once government authorities have determined there is a specific problem that needs correcting, hospitals are required to file a corrective action plan.  These plans are still kept confidential.

Continue reading “Medical Malpractice Is Too Common – Read Reports on Hospitals Near You” »

Medical Malpractice That Should NEVER Happen But Still Does…

A recent article in the journal Surgery reports that so called “neverMedical_malpractice_that_should_never_happen_but_still_does events” happen at least 80 times per week in the U.S. – and that figure is believed to be an under-estimation of the true extent of the problem.

So what is a “never event”...

It’s a mistake that literally should never happen in surgery and includes physicians leaving surgical instruments in patients, allowing patients to awaken during surgery, performing surgery on the wrong patient, performing surgery on the wrong side of a patient, and more.

Continue reading “Medical Malpractice That Should NEVER Happen But Still Does…” »

News You Should Know If You Have A Hip Implant

By some estimates,  500,000 patients in the United States have received a type ofNews-you-should-know-if-you-have-a-hip-implantartificial hip that is failing prematurely in a number of cases.

The FDA is currently proposing new rules that would prohibit manufacturers from selling these implants.

Under the proposed new rules, manufacturers will have to prove that each device is safe and effective before selling them or before obtaining approval for new all-metal versions.

Under current rules, manufacturers do not need to prove efficacy or put their products through rigorous clinical trials.

The F.D.A. rule proposal is intended to improve the 1976 federal law under which medical devices were first regulated.

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Medical Malpractice Events That Should NEVER Happen.

Since early in this century, the U.S. Government hasThere are medical malpractice events that should never happen

been tracking the incidence of what they call “Never Events”.  “Never Events” are shocking medical errors – medical malpractice – that should never occur – and that often have catastrophic consequences for the patient involved.

The term “Never Event” was first introduced by Ken Kizer MD in 2001.  Since that time the list has been greatly expanded to include six categories of medical malpractice events:  surgical, product or device, patient protection, care management, environmental, and criminal.

So just what are some of the things considered “Never Events”?   

Continue reading “Medical Malpractice Events That Should NEVER Happen.” »