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Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Law Blog

Study examines diagnosis of rare mitochondrial disease

According to a new study, a rare mitochondrial disease with a big name -- mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes, or MELAS -- is often misdiagnosed. The authors of the study made recommendations for diagnosis that could help patients in Pennsylvania and around the world.

Mitochondria are small organelles that provide energy for the body. DNA mutations in mitochondrial-expressed genes can cause rare disorders that affect several body systems, particularly the muscles and the nervous system. Unfortunately, MELAS can have different clinical manifestations, which can cause it to be confused with other disorders. Early symptoms include muscle pain and weakness, recurrent headaches, seizures, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Wrong-way auto accidents

A driver heading the wrong direction on a Pennsylvania road can be a huge danger to those in their path. While the potential for a wrong-way accident on a two-lane highway can be devastating, such accidents on divided highways or areas with controlled ramp access can be just as severe. Although these events only comprise approximately 3 percent of motor vehicle accidents, the head-on nature of such incidents makes them some of the most catastrophic.

Fatality rates in wrong-way wrecks are higher than those of other car accident scenarios. Statistics vary by state, but in some areas, head-on accidents on highways with controlled access involve fatalities more than 20 times as often as in other types of incidents. The National Transportation Safety Board has studied the issue for many decades, conducting major investigations. Although at least 30 recommendations were formulated to address driver behaviors such as alcohol impairment and other issues, most have since been closed. Unfortunately, this type of accident continues to be a problem nationwide.

Bed sores and malpractice

As many Pennsylvania residents are aging, the risk of them suffering from bed sores increases. Many sufferers get bed sores while they are receiving treatment in acute-care hospitals or nursing homes.

Recently, the American College of Physicians released guidelines outlining how bedsores, or pressure ulcers, can be prevented. The guidelines also outlined how they should be treated when people have developed them. Reportedly, around 3 million people suffer from bed sores each year, with up to 38 percent of those occurring in hospitals and up to 24 percent of those occurring in nursing homes.

Seeking compensation after hearing problems due to antibiotics

Pennsylvania parents whose newborns are suffering from a bacterial infection might be under the impression that antibiotics are useful for treating the issue. However, there are risks that come along with these medicines. Research indicates that patients might be in danger of suffering from hearing loss based on testing done on mice. These antibiotics are commonly given to newborns who are suffering from infections that are considered to be life-threatening.

Aminoglycoside antibiotics were the focus of the study. Often used in the treatment of several infections including meningitis and bacteremia, the medicines have been found to cause damage to the ear when it comes to motion and sound. Mice that had previously been healthy and were given these antibiotics had a small amount of hearing loss.

Tony Stewart faces wrongful death lawsuit

Pennsylvania racing fans and those who keep up with pop culture may remember the tragedy that took place more than a year ago when Kevin Ward Jr. was killed during a race, but some might not know about the story and lawsuit filed by Ward's family against Tony Stewart. During the Empire Super Sprints race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York, Stewart struck 20-year-old Ward when he was out of his vehicle and running toward the other driver.

Stewart faced no criminal charges following Ward's death, but Stewart may be partly responsible for the collision in civil court, as there was a yellow caution flag on the track. The Ward family commented that other drivers acted reasonably when passing Ward because of the flag, and they could receive some compensation if Stewart has some percentage of fault in the accident that killed Ward. The suit says that Stewart gunned his 700-horsepower vehicle before passing Ward, but the late racer might share some responsibility for the collision, as marijuana was found in his system.

Minimizing the risk of medical malpractice

Across the country, an estimated 85,000 suits are filed each year for medical errors and other malpractice situations. This represents less than 10 percent of medical injuries, but health care professionals may be able to reduce those numbers further with strategic changes to facility protocols. Additionally, it is important to have better oversight in hospitals in Pennsylvania and across the country to ensure that staff members are focused on the most important details related to patient care.

One major issue contributing to patient deaths is medication errors. At least 7,000 individuals lose their lives each year because of such mistakes in spite of the fact that there is a great deal of access to information about medication interactions and other contraindications. Some of these errors may be attributed to inattentiveness by overworked staff, which could be addressed through limiting working shifts.

How recordings could impact surgical procedures

Every year, patients die due to mistakes made during surgery. Some of these mistakes become the subject of lawsuits as families struggle to pay final medical bills. Recording surgical procedures may increase accountability on the medical professionals, but it could also lead to other consequences in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

Some lawmakers are considering legislation that would permit audiovisual recordings of surgeries. Proponents say that these laws could possibly help prevent a fatal medical error. A Wisconsin representative has proposed a bill that would allow patients the option of recording their procedures. A similar bill has been proposed in New York that would require cameras in all operating rooms.

3 killed in high-speed Pennsylvania accident

According to law enforcement authorities with the Philadelphia Police Department, two women and a man died in an accident on July 29 in Northeast Philadelphia. Reportedly, the accident occurred around 11:40 p.m. when the driver allegedly lost control of the car, leaving the road and crashing into a tree.

Police investigators have reported that a 20-year-old man was driving his Acura at a speed of around 75 miles per hour, which was three times the speed for the street on which he was driving. The area in which the accident occurred was in Bustleton along Sandmeyer Lane. When the man rounded a curve, he lost control of the vehicle. The accident forced the car to be split into two.

Researchers call error rate in robotic surgery 'non-negligible'

Pennsylvania patients who are about to undergo a surgical procedure may want to know if a robot will play a part in the operation. A study based on over 10,000 incidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration found that 1,391 patients suffered injuries and 144 patients died after robotic surgery between 2000 and 2013.

The study's authors included researchers from Rush University Medical Center and MIT. They considered the results alarming. The study concluded that technical difficulties and complications associated with robotic surgery were "non-negligible."

U.S. pregnancies riskier than in many other countries

Expecting Pennsylvania mothers may be at greater risk than in many other parts of the developed world, according to a recent study. Unlike in most other countries, the mortality rate for mothers giving birth in the U.S. is climbing, from a 1987 low of 8 deaths per 100,000 deliveries to a 2013 rate of 18.5 per 100,000.

Several theories have been postulated for why this is so. One possible explanation is better tracking and monitoring of pregnancy-related deaths caused by medical carelessness and physical problems with the mother. However, because reporting requirements vary by state, underreporting of childbirth-related mortality may be a problem. Additionally, the growing popularity of cesarean section deliveries could be a factor, because of the inherent risks in this type of surgical procedure.