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Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Law Blog

The consequences of low visibility due to fog

Pennsylvania motorists might sometimes find themselves in driving situations where visibility is low due to fog. In those situations, drivers might wonder how to respond and react. Studies have revealed that in most cases, people tend to continue their normal driving patterns, which can lead to serious and often fatal accidents.

One such accident took place in 2012 in Florida, after the Florida Highway Patrol decided to open up a stretch of Interstate 75 in Gainesville which it had previously closed for three pre-dawn hours due to low visibility. Three accidents had already taken place in the stretch, though none were fatal. When it seemed visibility was improving, the Florida Highway Patrol allowed the stretch to open again, even though one trooper insisted the weather conditions could change again quickly. Within an hour, a fatal accident that left 11 dead and 18 injured and involved 19 vehicles occurred.

Handbook to help surgeons improve non-technical skills

Even highly adept surgeons in Pennsylvania hospitals require non-technical skills to perform their jobs safely. While working with medical staff in the operating room, it is crucial for surgeons to have good communication skills, situation awareness and strong decision making abilities. To help surgeons and other operating room staff improve upon their non-technical skills, researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland created a handbook called 'Enhancing Surgical Performance: A Primer in Non-Technical Skills."

The handbook was written in response to the growing concern in both the U.S. and the U.K. about the high rate of adverse events that occur during surgery. Adverse events affect about 12 percent of hospital patients, and half of these adverse events take place during surgery. Researchers believe that many medical errors occur as a result of communication breakdowns and other non-technical failures in the operating room.

Diagnosis education helps cancer patients survive

According to a new British study, cancer patients who are given detailed information about their diagnosis, course of treatment and potential lifestyle changes are twice as likely to beat the disease as those who are not informed. The research could impact the treatment outcomes of cancer patients in Pennsylvania and around the country.

Giving patients accurate information begins with a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that around 28 percent of all diagnoses contain some sort of error. A Boston study also found that some cancers are more likely to be misdiagnosed. For example, up to 75 percent of breast cancer mammograms and 71 percent of lung cancer scans are misread in some way.

Overworked pharmacists may make more mistakes

Pennsylvania consumers may be interested in learning about a new study that shows that pharmacists with heavy workloads are at greater risk for committing prescription errors. The research was recently published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

Researchers with the University of Houston College of Pharmacy and Houston Methodist Hospital examined inpatient and outpatient medication errors reported at a large Texas medical center between July 2011 and June 2012. The study involved 50 pharmacists and more than 1.9 million drug prescriptions. The authors of the study discovered 92 medication errors during the one-year review period. They also found that the number of errors increased with the volume of orders placed per work shift. Pharmacists verifying 400 or more orders per shift demonstrated the highest risk of errors.

Convictions overturned after GM recall

A judge in Pennsylvania ruled that a woman was not guilty of causing the fatal accident that she had spent three months in jail for. The woman's case was reexamined after new evidence emerged about a manufacturing defect in her Chevrolet Cobalt. In February 2014, General Motors recalled 2.6 million vehicles because of faulty ignition switches. The company was aware of the problem for more than 10 years before a public notice was issued.

The 25-year-old Pennsylvania woman is just one of a growing number of people who have had their criminal convictions reversed since the GM recall was announced. Prior to the recall, drivers' claims about their vehicles speeding up or shutting off by themselves did not seem plausible to the courts. Now, such claims are known to be consistent with a defective ignition switch.

Wrong diagnoses to receive attention at medical conference

Pennsylvania residents who have received a wrong diagnosis might be interested to learn that the U.S. Institute of Medicine has released a report examining the problem. Wrong diagnoses will also be discussed at an upcoming national conference.

There are a number of reasons wrong diagnoses happen. Doctors bring their own biases and assumptions into their work and might overlook symptoms because they have their own ideas about what the diagnosis should be. They might build on the errors of other doctors and accept wrong diagnoses. There may be problems with communication. In some cases, there might be faulty equipment or tests may return false positives or negatives, and medical professionals fail to repeat the test.

A car crash may cause injuries with delayed symptoms

Although some Pennsylvania car accidents are merely fender benders, others can be far more serious. Injuries resulting from auto collisions could range from whiplash and lower back pain to more dangerous conditions. Sometimes even serious injuries may not manifest themselves immediately. Disorientation and psychological trauma after a car crash are not uncommon, and sometimes physical damage could be missed until later.

Rear-end collisions could cause whiplash at speeds under 14 mph and may cause delayed shoulder and neck pain or stiffness, and numbness in the hands and arms. CT scans, x-rays, or an MRI may be needed for a proper diagnosis. Physical therapy and a chiropractor are usually used for several weeks after a car accident injury. Injectable treatments to reduce inflammation can be given by a pain doctor if there is no improvement.

Adults also drive while using cellphones

A California survey shows that many middle-aged people are using their smartphones while driving. It has been suggested by the deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association that teens should pressure their parents into putting down the phone while driving. He added that changing phone-use habits in the car comes down to a culture change. He believes middle-aged drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country can still be taught what to do through the strong enforcement of laws.

The San Diego distracted-driving survey was filled out by 700 residents between the ages of 30 and 64. They all drove at least once a week and had a cellphone. There are many other actions that may be engaged in by distracted drivers, such as eating, looking for objects, and putting on makeup or fixing hair, but this survey only focused on cellphone use. It found that most adults are using their cellphones while driving for checking emails, talking on a hand-held phone, and texting.

New technology may make roads safer from fatigued drivers

Some Pennsylvania drivers may already have cars with new technology installed that helps to prevent accidents that result from drowsy drivers. One of these devices detects the danger of a forward collision and may sound an alarm or even brake for the driver. Another alerts a driver who begins to sway into another lane.

These improved safety measures are important because it is estimated that drowsy driving is a factor in 7,500 deadly motor vehicle crashes annually. Driving while fatigued is said to be as dangerous as drunk driving, and fatigue is believed to be partly responsible for the 2014 crash that left comedian Tracy Morgan seriously injured and killed one other man. According to authorities, their vehicle was hit by a truck driver who been awake for more than 24 hours.

Surgical performance in Pennsylvania relates to overnight fatigue

A study out of Ontario and headed by a doctor with the University of Toronto indicates that a doctor fatigued from having performed an operation the night before may not be more likely to make a surgical error. This goes against a prior study, published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which states that there is an increased chance of surgical mistakes if a doctor is sleep-deprived.

The more recent Canadian study found that the odds of a surgery-related issue were 22.2 percent when a surgeon treated other individuals between midnight and 7 a.m., and the odds of a problem were 22.4 percent when the physician had not been working during those times. However, the problem is that this study only looked at if a doctor had been working the night before and did not actually determine if a doctor had slept.