The Pennsylvania Superior Court will reconsider its ruling that attorney-client privilege does not apply to an email from a hospital’s attorney to its public relations firm.

The discovery dispute in the case involved a document generated by outside counsel pertaining to a public announcement planned by the hospital. The announcement would name two doctors who were identified from the results of a cardiology services audit as having performed unnecessary cardiac stent procedures. The hospital claimed that the audit indicated that the blockages in the patients at issue were so minimal that stents were not medically appropriate.


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According to the March of Dimes, each year more than 12,000 newborns are identified as having a condition detected through newborn screening. Newborn screening is the practice of testing every newborn for certain genetic, metabolic, hormonal, and functional conditions. If diagnosed early, many of these conditions can be successfully managed, improving lives and reducing costs. If not diagnosed, or not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, these conditions can cause severe disability or death.

Newborn Screening in the US

Through newborn screening, nearly every baby in the United States is tested for genetic disorders shortly after birth. Health care providers collect blood samples from newborns and send them to labs for testing. But a recent report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found most states have not met federal benchmarks to screen 95 percent of blood samples within seven days of birth by 2017.
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A Pennsylvania judge recently entered a $41.6 million verdict against the federal government after an obstetrician employed by a federally-funded health clinic negligently used forceps to deliver a baby. The baby suffered severe permanent brain damage as a result.

The lawsuit claimed that the obstetrician applied excessive force and traction and misapplied the forceps on the baby’s skull while performing a mid-forceps delivery, causing catastrophic neurological injury to the baby. One expert testified at trial that mid-level forceps deliveries are indicated only in severe, life-threatening emergencies. Another noted that the use of forceps caused multiple skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and destruction to the cerebellum and brain stem.


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In a Common Pleas Court decision, the Honorable Terrence R. Nealon set forth a detailed discussion concerning what materials are discoverable in a medical malpractice action under the Peer Review Protection Act (“PRPA”). 63 P.S. §§425.1 – 425.4.

In Vaccaro v. Scranton Quincy Hospital Company, LLC, plaintiffs allege obstetrical and hospital negligence leading to a minor plaintiff suffering an acute hypoxic ischemic brain injury, resulting in catastrophic injury and disability. The case involves an alleged failure to promptly diagnose and treat a placental abruption, and asserts that objective signs indicating a need for emergency cesarean section were ignored, leading to the alleged brain injury.


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The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) announced on March 10 that first-year doctors will be allowed to work 24-hour shifts in hospitals starting July 1. The cap currently limiting physicians to 16 consecutive hours of patient care will now be lifted. The new standards will allow four hours to transition patients from one doctor to the next, so first-year residents could work as long as 28 straight hours, the same as more senior medical residents.

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According to an article in Outpatient Surgery, every day, operating room (OR) teams nationwide leave almost a dozen surgical sponges inside their patients. To improve patient safety, Stryker implemented its “SurgiCount Safety-Sponge System” to keep track of surgical sponges. Reducing or eliminating the number of surgical sponges left behind reduces the risk of infection and permanent injury, the need for additional surgery, and even patient fatalities. Healthcare providers are hopeful to realize cost savings arising from legal expenses, malpractice settlements and awards, and non-reimbursable patient care.

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“Defensive Medicine” is a phrase used when doctors order extra tests or perform additional procedures because they are concerned about being sued for “missing something.” However, studies do not support the idea that the extra tests or procedures are warranted and actually reduce the risk of a physician being sued.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that the greatest predictor of whether a physician is likely to be sued is whether he or she has been sued before. In other words, physicians who have been sued once are much more likely to be sued again. Between 1991 and 2005, 6% of all doctors in the United States were estimated to be responsible for 58% of all malpractice payments.


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Recently, New York Times journalist Robert Pear published an article on the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). According to Mr. Pear’s article, in November or December of 2016 you may be selected to join the Precision Medicine cohort, a long-term population-based health research study that will provide valuable research on disease and illness in the United States.

Government scientists are seeking a million volunteers willing to share information on their genetic background, environment, and lifestyle choices.  The PMI hopes to collect ten (10) years of data related to diet, exercise, smoking, drinking, sleep patterns, and other social behavior that will permit researchers to identify possible risk factors for health, including from air pollution and lead levels in drinking water.


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A recent BMJ (British Medical Journal) study listed medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States. The BMJ recommends that healthcare providers make prevention of patient harm the top healthcare priority and institute policy and procedure changes directed toward that objective.

The study points out that the medical cause of an injury or death on the death certificate doesn’t reflect that “communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, poor judgment, and inadequate skill can directly result in patient harm and death.”


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