Two Lawsuits Allege Surgical Errors at Stanford University Medical Center
Two patients this month filed suit against Stanford University Medical Center alleging that physicians had left foreign objects inside their bodies after surgery, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The first lawsuit alleges medical negligence against Stanford physicians for leaving a surgical sponge in a patient after surgery to remove her colon. In the second case, Stanford doctors reportedly left an object "similar to a surgical sponge or gauze" in a woman who underwent surgery for a broken hip. Stanford spokesperson Ruthann Richter said that "medical center officials were aware of the two cases and are working with the patients' attorneys." In addition, the medical center has established procedures to ensure that doctors account for supplies after surgery. None of the doctors named in the lawsuits have patient complaints or malpractice judgments on file with the California Medical Board, according to the board's Web site (Ostrov/Lyons, San Jose Mercury News, 4/30).
In related news, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that as a result of a "legal loophole," the medical board Web site does not include hundreds of court judgments against physicians. Although state law requires hospitals and doctors to report settlements, court judgments and arbitration awards to the board, the Web site only has to disclose information about court judgments and arbitration awards. As a result, physicians can prevent disclosure of information about court judgments in malpractice cases by settling cases before a verdict becomes an official judgment, the Union-Tribune reports. The medical board also often removes information about court judgments from the Web site after doctors settle a malpractice case "on condition that the judge nullifies the judgment." Julianne Fellmeth, head of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego, said that state law makes "a discloseable court action against a doctor into a nondiscloseable settlement." She added that the medical board Web site "fails to disclose relevant information about physician performance that health consumers want and need." The California Medical Association, however, opposes reforms to state disclosure requirements. The group "fears that such disclosure will take away incentives to settle cases quickly," which would increase the cost of lawsuits, and will "give doctors who settled nuisance claims a bad name" (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.