Law Office of Robert A. Miller
Serving People Throughout the State of Oregon
Medical Malpractice, Auto Accidents & Injuries
Free Initial Consultation Eugene, OR: 541-359-4331 Toll Free: 866-272-0803

Oregon Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Do pharmaceutical payments compromise physician integrity? Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about doctors who receive payments (cash and otherwise) from pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. These for-profit companies are not buying lunch for physicians and paying them to speak on behalf of their products simply because they want to reward doctors for the important work they do. Instead, these companies understand that such tactics work. It takes money to make money, and pharmaceutical companies definitely make money.

ProPublica reports that about 606,000 physicians received payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies last year (as did dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and other medical professionals). Obviously, a physician who has frequent contact with pharmaceutical reps and receives a lot of payments is less likely to be trustworthy than the doctor who has maybe accepted a free lunch once or twice. But where do we draw the line between objective/ethical and biased/unethical? It is precisely this question that prompts some physicians to avoid drug company payments and perks altogether.

Do pharmaceutical payments compromise physician integrity? Part I

Medicine is a science. And like all sciences, one of its most important aspects is objectivity. If a doctor prescribes a certain course of treatment or a certain medication, it should be because it has proven to be effective, it is reasonably safe and it will meet the patient's medical needs. In most cases, these are the only factors a doctor needs to consider.

As patients, we have to trust that are doctors are objective. But can we trust them if they regularly receive payments and other perks from pharmaceutical companies? Many doctors say that they can remain objective, but how can we be sure. Moreover, how can the doctors themselves be sure?

Understanding medical malpractice statutes of limitation: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the statutes of limitation in medical malpractice claims. Here in Oregon, patients have just two years after becoming aware of injury to file a lawsuit. However, no medical malpractice lawsuits can be filed more than five years past the date of injury.

This is obviously not fair to all patients, as some malpractice-related health problems may not be discovered until many years after the fact. But, as we'll discuss today, some states have statutes of limitation that are even more restrictive to plaintiffs and/or less consistent.

Understanding medical malpractice statutes of limitation: Part I

One of the most frustrating roadblocks for would-be plaintiffs in many civil lawsuits is the statute of limitations. These are laws that put a time limit on how long a plaintiff is allowed to file a lawsuit after the harm that prompted the suit. There are also criminal statutes of limitation (after which a person cannot be prosecuted for a crime), but our conversation this week will focus solely on civil matters. Specifically, we'll be discussing statutes of limitation on medical malpractice claims.

There are two logical starting points that most states use: The date that the medical malpractice occurred and the date that the patient first discovers the injury. Under Oregon law, patients generally must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of discovering the injury. There is an important caveat, however. Regardless of when the injury is discovered, patients cannot file a lawsuit more than five years after the date the malpractice-related harm occurred.

Anesthesia used during surgery carries risks

Most forms of major surgery require the patient to be sedated, both for their own comfort and to make the operation easier for the surgical team. General anesthesia uses very powerful drugs, and administering anesthesia is a medical specialty in itself.

As much as anyone else on the team, an anesthesiologist holds a surgical patient’s life in his or her hands. Mistakes, carelessness or incompetence can result in devastating injury, possibly even death. Examples of anesthesia malpractice include:

Database scores surgeons by rates of surgical complication

If you are a fan of any of the dozens of medical dramas on television, you have probably seen that surgeons are often portrayed as a distinct breed of physicians. Television tends to show surgeons as fiercely competitive, arrogant and focused on problem-solving rather than patient healing.

Obviously, television isn't reality, and not all surgeons are like this. Still, surgeons are not always rated and scrutinized the way that other doctors are unless they are accused of medical malpractice. Part of the reason for this is that it is difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison of surgical outcomes due to the many variables involved.

Study: Better quality care is good alternative to tort reform laws

Tort reform has been legislated or at least heavily debated in every state, including here in Oregon. Proponents of tort reform (specifically related to medical malpractice) have argued that healthcare costs are out of control and doctors are practicing defensive medicine because of too many "frivolous" lawsuits.

Their proposed solution: Make it harder for patients to file and/or win a medical malpractice lawsuit. Sadly, tort reform laws have not lowered healthcare costs for consumers, but they have made it much more difficult to seek compensation for very real (non-frivolous) cases of medical malpractice.

Hospitals liable when misdiagnosis leads to preventable death

Medicine is not a perfect science. Physicians have the difficult job of observing symptoms, talking to patients and using that information to correctly diagnose the problem. Because symptoms often overlap, it can be tough to make a correct diagnosis quickly and on the first try.

That being said, there are certain medical emergencies where mistakes and delays are not an option. Many of these are conditions that put extreme stress on the heart or the brain. Failure to diagnose correctly and quickly can be fatal to someone suffering from a heart attack, for instance. While it didn't occur here in Oregon, a recent medical malpractice lawsuit demonstrates just how disastrous mistakes can be when time is of the essence.

Was your surgical error due to cellphone usage in the OR?

Should surgeons be permitted to bring their mobile devices into your surgical procedure? A recent article shows that surgeons and other health care professionals are increasingly distracted by their smartphones and other devices during medical procedures. The potential for a smartphone to distract from surgery is now being blamed for surgical errors in Oregon and other states. A careless surgeon surfing the Web while in the midst of a procedure could cause potentially fatal blunders. Even support staff -- such as surgical technicians -- have been found using their cellphones during procedures, limiting their ability to focus on the patient's urgent needs.

Why is this problem coming to light now? In 2011, a victim died during surgery designed to correct her irregular heartbeat. The reason: Negligent operating room staff were busy using their tablets and surfing the Internet instead of paying attention to the patient's condition. The anesthesiologist in the case was accused of negligence because he failed to monitor the victim's blood-oxygen content for several minutes. A lawsuit resulted. More recently, smartphones were blamed for the continued spread of Ebola in some African medical facilities; the virus contaminated the phones that unwitting physicians carried from room to room while treating victims of the deadly disease. Finally, phones can interfere with medical equipment, putting patients' well-being at risk. The problem has become so severe that think-tank institutes have listed cellphones as one of the top technological dangers facing modern patients.

When birth injuries require further action

According to the Merck Manual, birth injuries are defined as any injury that occurs during the process of birth -- many babies experience minor injuries such as abrasions or bruises when passing through the birth canal. Some babies even experience minor damage to nerves or some broken bones, but medical experts note that many of these injuries resolve themselves with little to no treatment.

Sometimes, more serious injuries are experienced during delivery, particularly if the birth is difficult, at risk or involves complications. Since the head often travels through the birth canal first, serious brain or head injury can occur in these situations. Some types of serious birth injuries include skull fractures, collection of the blood in certain areas of the brain or bleeding in the brain.