Entries in malpractice (2)


Conrad Murray Case Sends Signal to Docs About Pain Meds

David McNew-Pool/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Conrad Murray's conviction on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson sent a loud and clear message to many experts managing the care of patients who may be abusing pain medications: Hold your professional ground.

Murray, a cardiologist, crossed over the medical specialty line when he agreed to manage Jackson's pain medications, according to Dr. Charles Kim, assistant professor of anesthesiology at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Prosecutors contended that Murray was willing to give Jackson the powerful hospital-grade anesthetic drug propofol, which Jackson affectionately referred to as "milk," in return for a $150,000 a month paycheck. Murray told police that for two months leading up to Jackson's death, he had administered propofol to Jackson in his bedroom almost nightly.

Murray was accused of giving Jackson a fatal dose of propofol.  He has contended that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose while the doctor was out of the room.

Jackson had already been given lorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, and midazolam, a sedative usually administered before anesthesia; then he took Valium to help him fall asleep.

Although Murray could legally prescribe and oversee the medications found in Jackson's system at the time of his death, some experts say he may not have been experienced with administering these heavy sedatives as an anesthesiologist would have been.

Murray was also under fire during the trial for not properly supervising his patients or taking proper steps to resuscitate Jackson after he stopped breathing.

The supply of prescription painkillers is larger than ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And pain doctors carry an even heavier burden to monitor patients who may be crossing the line into addiction.

The underlying issue of pain medication dependence is not uncommon, says Dr. Eugene Viscusi, director of acute pain management services at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia.

Viscusi said some patients who seek unnecessary prescription medication are so convincing that many new and undertrained doctors become manipulated without even realizing it. He recommended honest conversations between a patient and a doctor, and setting reasonable goals in pain management.

Murray, who was convicted on Monday, may spend as little as a few months behind bars with only a temporary medical license suspension – an outcome perhaps "too lenient" given the conviction, say some medical experts surveyed by ABC News' Medical Unit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Doctors Face High Risk of Malpractice Claims

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Almost every physician in the U.S. will face a malpractice claim during his or her career, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers led by Dr. Anupam Jena, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, analyzed malpractice data over a 14-year period for all physicians covered by a large malpractice insurance provider.  They estimated more than 75 percent of doctors in specialties with a low risk of malpractice and 99 percent of doctors in high-risk practices will be sued.

"If you consider a doctor who is 30 years old and just starting a career and in a high-risk specialty, there is about a 100 percent chance that by the age of 65 he will have faced a claim," said Jena.  "We find that across all specialities, the annual risk of a claim is substantial -- 7.4 percent of all physicians had a malpractice claim every year during the study period."

The study also found that while the risk of a malpractice claim is high, about 80 percent of claims never result in any payment to plaintiffs.  Average payments ranged from $117,832 for dermatologists to $520,923 for pediatrics.

Neurosurgeons, thoracic/cardiovascular surgeons and general surgeons face the highest risk of a malpractice claim, while general practitioners, pediatricians, and psychiatrists face the lowest risk.

While the monetary costs of claims are low compared to risks, Jena said doctors pay an extremely high price in other ways.

"There are substantial costs associated with those claims," Jena said.  "There are the costs of defending the claim [and] the losses in productivity while doctors spend time with their defense.  Patients may suffer by not being able to see their doctors, and there also [are] the effects of stress and potential damage to reputations."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio