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Baltimore Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog

U.S. birth-related deaths are on the rise

Death during childbirth is unusually common in the United States compared to the rate in other developed nations, making it a serious concern for expectant Maryland mothers. Once common, the problem declined greatly in the 20th century thanks to advances in modern medicine. In the last 25 years, however, the number has been rising in the United States.

The rate of women who die due to childbirth has risen from less than 8 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to nearly 19 in 2013. From 2003 to 2013, the United States was one of only eight nations to see its rate of deaths due to birth-related complications rise. One theory about why this is happening is that the maternal death count is more accurate now than it once was. States have changed their coding systems for death causes over the years, but this does not fully explain why the number of birth-related deaths continue to rise.

Some health conditions prone to misdiagnosis

Patients who are sick expect their doctors to make an accurate diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment without multiple office visits and repetitive tests. However, physicians in Maryland and across the country are not always able to make a quick diagnosis, and if they do, the diagnosis is sometimes incorrect.

Thyroid imbalance is one of the most misdiagnosed of all conditions. Every part of the body is affected by hormones from the thyroid, leading to a thyroid imbalance being misdiagnosed for a number of conditions. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, is often misdiagnosed as seborrheic dermatitis because of the skin rash caused by both conditions. Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms, including a rash, hives and joint pain. The uncertainty of symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis unless a specific blood test is performed.

Lyme disease misdiagnosis is common and costly

Lyme disease cases have shown up in Maryland and everywhere else in the United States. A recent survey found a significant rate of misdiagnosis of patients with Lyme disease because physicians believe that it can only be contracted in certain geographical areas. Also contributing to the high rate of misdiagnosis are lab tests, which were shown to produce a false negative result in half the cases surveyed.

As with many other illnesses, a misdiagnosis of Lyme disease can result in negative health outcomes in at least two ways. First, the individual who is not diagnosed correctly does not receive the proper early treatment. Second, a patient who is erroneously diagnosed with another condition may be prescribed medication incorrectly. Both of these occurrences can lead to disabilities which might otherwise be avoided with a accurate early diagnosis.

Teen drivers cause more fatal car crashes

While individuals under the age of 21 make up approximately 10 percent of all licensed drivers in Maryland and across the United States, they cause a disproportionate number of fatal crashes. These accidents, which often involve drunk driving and distracted driving, are due in large part to teen-specific behaviors. For example, experts believe many young drivers have an invincibility complex that leads them to engage in dangerous activities.

According to national statistics, drivers under the age of 21 are responsible for around 17 percent of all fatal alcohol-related crashes. Unfortunately, while many states have strict drunk driving laws for underage drivers, the laws have done little to curb the problem. Each year, approximately 2,000 underage drinkers are killed in car accidents. About one-third of teen auto accidents involve alcohol.

Drunk driving might be stopped with a new technology

New technology that was introduced at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conference could help to put an end to drunk driving. The technology would be available as a safety option in new vehicles. It would measure a driver's blood alcohol concentration using either an infrared light or a breath test. Either method would take less than one second to complete, which wouldn't slow down sober Maryland drivers.

The technologies aren't ready for the production line yet. The method of operation still has to be finalized. The main principle of the technology is that if the driver's BAC is at .08 percent or above, the vehicle won't move. That fact alone is said to be able to save 7,000 lives each year, according to an estimate by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Speeding is major cause of car accidents

At one time or another, many Maryland motorists have driven over the posted speed limit, whether they were traveling on city streets, freeways or rural roads. Before they do so again, however, they should consider the consequences, the least of which is a traffic ticket on their driving record.

Speeding is a leading cause of car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says speeding carries an economic price tag of $40.4 billion annually. In 2012, speeding was a factor in 30 percent of fatal car accidents, killing 10,219 people, a 2 percent increase from 2010. According to the federal agency, a car accident is considered speed-related if the driver was cited for speeding by exceeding the posted limits, or by driving too fast for road conditions or racing other vehicles.

Poor communication and record-keeping in surgical errors

Maryland residents may be interested in an article in the journal "JAMA Surgery" that examined major surgical errors in American hospitals. Called "never events" because they are never supposed to occur, these incidents happen in rare circumstances. The researchers in this study looked at surgical fires, wrong-site surgery and the incidence of objects such as sponges being left in a patient after surgery.

The review was conducted by researchers at the Evidence-based Practice Center of the RAND Corporation and involved 138 studies from 2004 to 2014. One difficulty researchers encountered was with inconsistent reporting methods. For example, state reporting records and eye doctor claims put the incidence of wrong-site surgery at .5 in 10,000 procedures. However, surveying eye doctors counted 4 out of 10,000. In addition, insufficient data meant that researchers were unable to track surgery fires. Overall, wrong site surgery occurred in about 1 out of 100,000 operations while objects left behind happened in about 1 out of every 10,000.

Patients and human behavior-related surgical errors

Maryland surgical patients may take interest in a Mayo Clinic research study that examined the causes of 'never events," a term that is used to describe surgical mistakes that should never happen. Among 1.5 million invasive procedures performed over a five-year span at the Minnesota clinic, 69 never events were identified. Researchers determined that these never events were caused by 628 distinct human factors and that roughly four to nine human factors contributed to each surgical error.

The 69 never events occurred involved wrong site and wrong body side errors as well as implanting the wrong device and leaving a foreign object inside the patient's body. Nearly two-thirds of the never events observed during the study occurred during minor procedures such as endoscopies and line placements. Even highly-trained medical teams were capable of making serious medical errors.

Improper antibiotic use is far too prevalent

Maryland patients should be aware of a 2015 study's findings that misdiagnosis commonly leads to improper antibiotic treatment. Incorrect antibiotic use can cause harm to patients by reducing the effectiveness of the drugs in future treatment and raising health care costs. Approximately 56 percent of inpatient hospital treatment involves the use of antibiotic therapies, but such treatment is found to be unnecessary in nearly half of those cases, according to the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

An internist for the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System was part of a research group that examined 500 patients. They found that 95 percent of patients who received an incorrect or indeterminate diagnosis received inappropriate antibiotic treatment. Even 38 percent of patients who received a correct diagnosis received incorrect antibiotic treatment. The findings of the study suggest that antibiotic oversight programs would benefit from a redesign to help prioritize correct initial diagnoses.

Conductor sues Amtrak after train accident

Most Maryland residents have no doubt heard about the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia that occurred on May 12. The derailment resulted in eight people being killed and more than 200 people suffering injuries. Lawsuits are now starting to be filed by some victims, including one on May 19 by an Amtrak conductor who received severe injuries and who remains in critical condition.

The 33-year-old employee is alleging negligence on Amtrak's part, and he is reportedly asking for unspecified damages. The man was taking a break from his duties in the first car when the accident occurred, and he reported that the train suddenly moved forward before crashing. The conductor suffered two broken shoulders and a broken neck and back and is one of several people still in critical condition after the crash.

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