The Terrible Cost of the Cone of Silence
Nobody wants to think about medical mistakes, but they happen all the time. What is even more frustrating is hospitals and doctors do all they can to hide the mistakes and avoid taking responsibility for failures in their systems.
This so-called cone of silence occurs when information is kept confidential among a select few. In the medical field, doctors may feel they need to protect other doctors, and hospitals may feel they need to protect their bottom line. But covering up medical malpractice is never acceptable. Here’s why.
The Cone of Silence Lets More People Get Hurt
Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system attacks its own nerves—specifically, the fatty coating called “myelin” that protects nerve fibers and helps conduct messages from the brain to the body. It is degenerative; can cause muscle stiffness, atrophy, and paralysis; there is no cure.
It is also a highly profitable disease, if you’re a doctor with absolutely no conscience. A Summit County neurologist diagnosed dozens and dozens of patients with MS when they did not have the disease. For years, they endured excruciating treatments, multiple MRI and EEG tests, and mental anguish. It was only when the doctor gave up his Colorado medical license in a “plea bargain” with the Colorado Medical Board over another complaint and sold his practice that the patients learned they were not alone. The system allowed him to go on his way, with no patient the wiser.
“It was a lucrative operation: Since MS is incurable but requires regular monitoring during treatment, a large portfolio of patients means a steady stream of imaging and treatment revenue.” (Vail Daily News) Jim Puga and Alex Wilschke of Leventhal & Puga, P.C., represented multiple plaintiffs in this matter.
The doctor is still practicing medicine in another state.
Filing a Claim Can Improve Public Health
When victims and their families pursue a medical malpractice claim against a hospital, they may be getting compensation as well as a feeling of personal justice. Beyond that, however, they are often improving public health by bringing medical errors in hospital systems to light.
In one case Leventhal & Puga, P.C., handled, a surgical tech at Rose Medical Center infected at least 18 patients with hepatitis C. In violation of hospital policy (and state and federal laws), anesthesiologists left certain drugs (namely fentanyl) in unlocked operating rooms prior to surgery, where this surgical tech snuck in, injected herself with the drug, and replaced the solution with saline, leaving contaminated needles to be injected into patients.
The awful thing is—and something we pointed out in our lawsuit—that Hospital Corporation of America, which owned Rose Medical Center, acquired a healthcare company with a prior lawsuit in 1991 over the exact same problem: a scrub tech who swapped out patients’ fentanyl for his own use. He also had hepatitis C, and 48 patients later settled with the hospital for an undisclosed amount. Had Hospital Corporation paid attention to the circumstances of this earlier case, and communicated the dangers through its enforcement of policies, these patients wouldn’t have been infected with a bloodborne virus and been left to suffer lifelong complications.
Also, Leventhal & Puga, P.C., is currently representing clients who had surgery at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver, after it was found out the water used for sterilizing surgical instruments was contaminated with bloodborne pathogens—HIV and hepatitis B and C among them. We are fighting to demonstrate this systemic failure caused multiple viral and bacterial infections contracted by surgical patients.
Who was responsible to testing the water quality? How can hospitals ensure their tools are sterilized in the future? These are questions we’ll force them to answer.
How Leventhal & Puga, P.C., Holds Hospitals Accountable
Hospitals may try to hide malpractice, but the truth comes to light when patients have tough, experienced trial attorneys on their side. Working with a legal team is essential in medical malpractice cases, where the red tape and scientific complexities are virtually impossible for you to manage alone. Lawyers often act as investigators, pushing for the truth and proving hospitals and practitioners were responsible for actions they deny.
In an ideal world, physicians and hospitals would remove the cone of silence, admit their mistakes, and make up for them. Research demonstrates this would result in a better outcome for both parties. But for now, many medical centers continue to skirt responsibility for their errors.
When they do, you need a Denver hospital negligence lawyer willing to do the research to get the compensation for you, and improve how our healthcare system functions overall. If you’d like to speak with Leventhal & Puga, P.C., about a potential medical malpractice case, give us a call at (303) 759-9945. We handle cases across the United States, and your initial consultation is free. Should we pursue your claim, you will owe us no fees until we get justice for you.