BY: Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller | IN: Medical Malpractice
When patients go into a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or other medical center, they place significant trust in those facilities. Patients put their lives in the hands of their doctors and nurses, expecting that these professionals have all they need to provide excellent and safe care.
For the most part, this trust is well placed. Sometimes, however, there are things going on behind the scenes at a hospital or doctor’s office that can lead to catastrophic patient injuries or even deaths. A hospital, for example, might not be maintaining appropriate staffing levels to ensure patient safety or the timely delivery of life-sustaining medications. A shortage of nurses can lead to an increase in patient falls and other dangerous events that constitute medical malpractice.
Sometimes, the only way patients find out about these situations is when courageous doctors, nurses, and other employees blow the whistle and speak out – often risking their jobs in the process. Their actions can be of tremendous help to patients who experienced unexplained complications or deteriorated unexpectedly for reasons not explained at the time.
Recently, we’ve seen how nurses at Detroit Medical Center’s Huron Valley Sinai Hospital revealed dangerous lapses in patient safety. That is far from the only case where this has happened, to the credit of medical professionals who take seriously their commitment to protecting patients.
One of the most well-known examples of whistle-blowing nurses happened in Winkler County, Texas in 2009. Two nurses reported a doctor whom they believed was providing unsafe medical care, putting countless patients at risk. They alleged the doctor used herbal remedies with patients and performed a skin graft in the ER even though he didn’t have surgical privileges at the hospital. Those nurses were fired for reporting the doctor and faced criminal charges, though they were later vindicated.
In recent years, details have emerged about unsafe patient conditions at VA hospitals across the country. Many of these revelations have come about thanks to whistleblowers.
There is even a law pending in Congress named for one of them: the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Act. If signed into law, it would protect VA employees who report malpractice and other unsafe conditions from retaliation.
Kirkpatrick was a clinical psychologist at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin who reported that patients were being over-medicated. An investigation confirmed this. Patients at that hospital were being given opioids at two-and-a-half times the national average. Countless vulnerable veterans were victims of this medical malpractice that was only brought to light thanks to Dr. Kirkpatrick.
Whistleblowers have also been responsible for revealing dangerous lapses in care at another VA hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. One patient allegedly died while his nurse played video games instead of checking on him. Patients at that hospital often deteriorated rapidly after being admitted, and veterans in long-term care were left in soiled clothing or not fed for hours.
In all of these cases, patients – and the wider public – would not have known about the dangerous conditions at these healthcare facilities were it not for nurses and other medical professionals coming forward.
Many patients who suffered catastrophic complications while in the care at these hospitals may never have known why if the whistleblowers had not spoken up. Thanks to their courage, there will likely be evidence that can be used in court to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit and secure compensation for medical bills, loss of employment, and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one suffered complications or were injured at a healthcare facility where whistleblowers have revealed unsafe patient conditions, please contact the lawyers at Sommers Schwartz today to discuss your situation.
View all posts byLisa Esser-Weidenfeller
Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller focuses her practice on medical malpractice, automobile negligence, and general negligence litigation on behalf injured plaintiffs.