Halifax Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog
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Common problem may not have a common cause

Neck and back pain is one of the most common reasons that Canadians attend for medical treatment. Some studies have shown as far back as 1998 that more than 66% of the adult population were experiencingneck and back pain and more than 80% of adults had experienced back pain during their lifetime.

Pain usually resolves

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Proper medical treatment requires proper diagnosis

It goes without saying that getting the right diagnosis is the first step in receiving proper medical care. Obviously if a patient isn’t properly diagnosed then the treatment they receive isn’t likely to address their illness or condition (except perhaps by chance).

So medical misdiagnosis is a serious threat to patient safety. In fact medical misdiagnosis is the number one cause of medical malpractice lawsuits in Canada.

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The Ontario Court of Appeal has released an interesting decision in the case of Cathy Frank v. Legate et al. Victims of medical malpractice in Canada face a number of barriers in getting access to justice. The claims process can be complicated, time consuming and expense. The odds are stacked against plaintiff’s in medical malpractice claims for a variety of reasons. However, as this case illustrates, a doctor in Ontario tried a novel tactic in attempting to limit medical malpractice claims her.

Dr. Cathy Frank is an obstetrician in Ontario who is the defendant in a number of medical malpractice claims. The doctor adopted the unusual strategy of suing the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs who were suing Dr. Frank. The defendant doctor alleged that statements made by the plaintiff’s law firm in their statement of claim and on their website were defamatory.

Dr. Frank also claimed that she was the victim of malicious prosecution, that the plaintiffs’ lawyers were guilty of champerty and maintenance (a very old legal principle that prohibits plaintiffs from starting litigation with an improper motive), intentional interference with economic relations and intentional infliction of mental distress. Dr. Frank sought punitive damages from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

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Did you know that there are certain times when it is more dangerous to go to the hospital?

What’s the most dangerous time to go to the hospital?

As Canadians we are proud of our health care system. We expect hospitals, doctors and nurses to provide us with excellent care no matter when we are forced to go to the hospital. That’s not an unreasonable expectation.

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What is the CMPA?

The Canadian Medical Protective Association represents almost every doctor in Canada. The Association is a mutual defence fund that operates sort of like insurance. If a doctor is sued for malpractice, the CMPA will defend the claim and if the doctor is found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the CMPA will pay the compensation out of its $3 billion dollar reserve fund.

The CMPA also represents doctors in matters dealing with College of Surgeon and Physician complaints, disciplinary matters, criminal charges, and matters dealing with hospital privilege issues.

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Are staffing demands putting patient safety at risk?

Last week the media reported two stories of interest to patient safety advocates.

The Province of Nova Scotia released statistics from its medical errors registry suggesting that, in the last six months, medical errors had caused almost thirty cases of serious injury or death in hospitals throughout Nova Scotia. If you are interested, you can read my article about the problems with Nova Scotia’s medical errors registry.

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Last week Nova Scotia released the result of its new policy which requires hospitals to report adverse events (medical speak for errors or mistakes).

According to the Province in the last six month there were 27 separate incidents, 21 of which where an “adverse event” led to serious disability or death.

Step in the right direction

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In the six years that I have been writing this blog the article that has been consistently viewed the most, year after year, is the one published on September 29, 2008: How often does Medical Malpractice Happen in Canada?

Therefore, I thought it might be useful to take another look at the issue to see if the statics have changed or if there is any new information to shed some light on the question.

The American experience

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Weekends are dangerous in Hospitals

Last week the Canadian Institute for Health Information released a study that examined four million urgent acute care hospital admissions between 2010-2013. The study found that there was a 4% higher risk of death for patients admitted to hospital on a weekend rather than a weekday.

The statistics did not apply across the board. The so called “weekend effect” did not occur in hospital admissions for obstetric, pediatric or mental health patients.

The authors of the report point to longer delays for diagnostic tests on the weekend and hospitals having lower staffing levels on weekends as possible reasons for the increased mortality risk.

Different risks at different times

This study confirms what other reports have found on the past, that there are recognized increases in risk of injury or death at different times during the week or the year.

For example, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology studied the records of two million births over a fourteen year period in California. The study found a huge increase in the risk of cerebral palsy for children born at night.

Specifically, children born between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am were 22% more likely to suffer from cerebral palsy than children born at other times during the day.

You can read more in my article: Birth Injuries More Common during Nightshift.

Summertime is dangerous

Studies in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia have all identified that hospitals experience an increased rate of medical errors in the summertime. In fact, the effect is so well known it actually has a nickname.

In the United States they refer to it as the “July Phenomenon” and in the UK they call it the “August Killing Season”.

The studies identify a spike in medical errors and deaths in the summertime when new medical school graduates begin their training. You can read more about it in my article: Beware the July Effect: Hospital Deaths Spike in the Summertime.

How do you protect yourself?

Obviously there is not much we can do to schedule when we become ill and require a hospital admission.

So how do you protect yourself from medical errors after hospital admission?

Take a look at this article by Consumer Reports that provides a thorough checklist of things you can do to decrease your risk of medical complications.
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