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Finding a suitable nursing home for an older loved one is an arduous and time-consuming process.  Nursing homes can be the best fit for an elderly family member’s care, but fears of elder abuse, medical mistakes, and the recent problem of MRSA infections make the choice even more difficult.  Very difficult.

First, what is MRSA?  MRSA is well known as a deadly problem for hospitalized people with open wounds or those recovering from surgery.  This type of MRSA is known as hospital-acquired MRSA.

A new study from the University of California, Irvine shows that the vast majority of surveyed nursing homes tested positive for the drug-resistant MRSA bacteria.   Researchers surveyed 22 facilities and found 20 to have strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  MRSA is the bacterial strain that no longer responds to the antibiotics used to treat staph infections.   Once it gets going, it’s a beast of a task to fight it off.  What we now know – and suspected all along – is that nursing home patients are particularly at risk, even more so than other patients of the same age who are not in nursing homes.

Here’s an interesting case that the Nebraska Supreme Court decided yesterday.  Plaintiff volunteers to donate a kidney to his dad.  The doctor removes the plaintiff’s kidney and gives it to the father. Sadly, the father has complications with the kidney, requiring further surgery. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the doctor mistakenly stitched the renal artery during the father’s exploratory surgery, which leads to the loss of the donated kidney.  Really just a tragedy – son tries to help father, which is how the world should work.  Malpractice or not, it is just a shame.

But here’s the weird part.  Isn’t this Dad’s malpractice claim?  Instead plaintiff – actually plaintiffs, inexplicably his wife was also a plaintiff, filed suit instead of the father.  Defendants, understandably, filed a motion for summary judgment.  The plaintiffs’ response was telling, asking for a continuance to pursue further discovery on whether the doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and the doctors.  The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

So the Nebraska Supreme Court had to decide whether the doctor owes a duty of care to a kidney donor during the post-transplant treatment and care of the donee.  Is this really a question?  I don’t think so, and the Nebraska high court didn’t think so either.  I’m not even sure why I’m blogging about this, except the facts are interesting.  I just wish we had a bad story.  Why didn’t dad sue in his own right?

The median medical malpractice jury award in Maryland, according to Jury Verdict Research, was $500,000 in 2003, the last year for which I could find data. Verdicts that year ranged from $54,521 to $7,708,064. One study indicates that the average award in Maryland malpractice claims (presumably claims that are reported to the national data bank) is $319,977, which is about what I would have predicted.

Studies in other jurisdictions give interesting data on median verdicts in other states: Florida – $1,257,386; Ohio – $850,000; New York – $1,100,000; Pennsylvania – $1,000,000; Texas – $880,000 (average, not median which makes a big difference) Indiana – $750,000; Missouri – $694,000; West Virginia – $1,100,000 (average) North Carolina – $500,000.

Keep in mind, these comparisons are out of context. The publication dates, in particular, vary wildly for the states I picked, and the methodology probably varies but I still think this provides an interesting means of comparison for medical malpractice lawyers.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences. The site has multiple atlas images, including sectional and MRI images, of the brain and spinal cord. (I found this link via the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog.