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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For those unaware, government immunity is the doctrine that provides federal, state, and local governments with immunity against certain legal claims arising out of torts committed by a government employee, official, or agent. The doctrine comes from English law, which held that the crown could do no wrong. What this means today in Pennsylvania, in practical terms, is that in order to sue the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, your case must fall into one of several exceptions to government immunity.

One of the exceptions to government immunity is the motor vehicle exception, which seeks to hold the government responsible for motor vehicle accidents caused by government employees acting in the scope of their employment as a government employee. The motor vehicle exception to government immunity essentially waives immunity where the negligent act that caused the plaintiff’s injuries involves the movement and operation of the government owned or controlled vehicle or its parts.


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In a recent New York Times article, Dhruv Khullar, M.D., a medical resident in a large Boston teaching hospital, wrote about what often happens when a patient, especially an elderly patient, is discharged from the hospital. All too frequently, there is a high chance of readmission for many of these patients. Dr. Khullar notes that one-fifth of Medicare recipients are readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of discharge, and one-third are readmitted within 90 days.

One study found that 20% of patients have a complication within 3 weeks of leaving the hospital and that half of those complications could have been prevented or mitigated. Although many of these complications are minor, some are serious and life-threatening. Medicare spends $26 billion annually on readmissions, and more than half of that amount on readmissions that are considered preventable.


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A NY Times article published on January 29, 2016 addressed the increasingly problematic issue of drug shortages. According to the article authored by Sheri Fink, in recent years, shortages of all sorts of drugs “have become the new normal in American medicine.” Ms. Fink notes that The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists currently lists inadequate supplies of more than 150 drugs and therapeutics. The reasons for the shortages are varied: there may be manufacturing shortages, federal safety crackdowns, or the abandonment by pharmaceutical companies of low-profit products. Although pharmacists and physicians are acutely aware of the problem, the public is not.

The article observes that there are no satisfactory nationwide guidelines to determine who does and does not receive drugs, and what the pecking order is for distribution of scarce drugs to patients who need them. Pharmaceutical companies often sell their products to healthcare providers—doctors, hospitals, and other institutions—on a first come, first served basis, leaving the final decision of who gets what up to the doctors, pharmacists, and hospitals themselves.


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The Journal of Patient Safety discussed recent studies which have shown that preventable medical errors are responsible for between 200,000 and 400,000 patient deaths per year in U.S. hospitals. These errors include facility acquired infections, medication errors, omissions in treatment, communication errors between health care providers, nerve or vessel injuries, wrong operations, injuries to organs

Since 2008, Medicare has refused to reimburse hospitals for the cost of treating patients who suffer avoidable medical complications. Although technically Medicare can actually expel a hospital with high rates of errors from the Medicare program, this is very rarely done.

However, in 2015, the federal government did cut payments to 721 hospitals which possessed documented high rates of infections and other patient injuries in the previous year. Among the 721 institutions were 2 frequently used by patients in Eastern Pennsylvania – the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and Geisinger Medical Center in Dansville, Pennsylvania.

Hospital acquired conditions, or HACs, include infections, blood clots, bed sores, and other complications which are considered avoidable. The penalties levied on the 721 hospitals are estimated to be in excess of $300 million. In 2013, approximately 1 in 8 admissions to a hospital included an HAC. Populations at highest risk are the very young and the very old, as well as those who have chronic diseases which would place them at a higher likelihood of developing an HAC.


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In 1991, corporate negligence was recognized as a cause of action by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of Thompson v. Nason Hospital. Corporate negligence is a doctrine under which a hospital is liable if it fails to uphold the proper standard of care owed a patient. This “standard of care” ensures a

In a medical malpractice case, the injured patient, otherwise referred to as the plaintiff, must first establish that a healthcare provider owed a legal duty to the patient. All healthcare providers, whether they are physicians, nurses, therapists, etc., owe a duty of care to the patient.

The plaintiff must also establish what the appropriate level