Medical malpractice lawsuits over infections acquired in hospitals are increasing nationwide, according to a report in the Maryland Daily Record. A number of hospital infection lawsuits have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts recently, and a growing number of experts suggest that nearly all such infections can be prevented if certain steps are taken by the hospital and medical staff.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 2 million hospital infections acquired each year, resulting in about 90,000 deaths annually. Another 1.5 million long term care and nursing home infections occur every year.
Experts suggest that when hospitals follow certain steps and protocols, the hospital infection rate at a particular facility can be negligible. These protocols include frequent washing of hands, instruments and patient rooms. In addition, screening for latent infections in incoming patients can allow staff to take steps to prevent other hospital patients from becoming infected.
The Maryland Daily Record quoted Betsy McCaughy, founder of the nonprofit patient safety group, Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, who compared the rise in hospital infection lawsuits to asbestos litigation, which has resulted in over 600,000 people filing lawsuits. She indicated that there is overwhelming evidence that nearly all hospital infections are preventable.
The most common hospital infections involve bloodstream, surgical site and urinary tract infections.
Methicillin-Resistant Staph Aureus, commonly referred to as a MRSA infection, has accounted for more than 60 percent of hospital staph infections in recent years. The CDC reports that about 126,000 hospital MRSA infections occur each year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths.
As more hospitals and medical facilities have begun to follow protocols designed to reduce the risk of hospital infections, those that have not established the standards or enforced the rules have been found by juries to be providing care that does not fall within the ordinary standard of care for the industry.
In recent months, juries have awarded $13.5 million to a the family of a Massachusetts woman who died from a flesh eating bacteria acquired during cancer treatment and $2.58 million was awarded for a MRSA hospital infection that caused a man to lose a kidney and one leg.
In another Utah malpractice lawsuit filed for a woman who lost three limbs and multiple organs from necrotizing fasciitis, the parties announced last month that a confidential settlement had been reached before trial.