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Monthly Archives: April 2010

Immunities for faulty medical devices drive up costs

Faulty medical devices are costing taxpayers billions of dollars that should be paid by the manufacturer, but because of the complete immunity status device manufacturers enjoy from a Supreme Court decision, taxpayers are left with the bill. While many medical professionals argue that lawsuits have been driving up healthcare costs, the truth remains that it is this lack of legal accountability which is actually taxing consumers.

A new study, prepared by Professor Dennis Tolley, a consulting actuary and statistician revealed that one such device, the Sprint Fidelis defibrillator lead, caused Medicare to pay up to $1 billion in additional claims. These expenses would be paid by the manufacturer had the U.S. Supreme Court, through the Riegel v. Medtronic decision, not provided complete immunity from liability to medical device manufacturers of Class III devices. You can read the complete research report by clicking here.

Medtronic’s Sprint Fidelis defibrillator lead, a wire that connects the defibrillator to the heart, was recalled in 2007 because it is prone to fracture and send electric shocks throughout the body. You can obtain more information about the recall by clicking here. More than a quarter of a million Sprint Fidelis leads were implanted worldwide, 150,000 in the United States. The video below shows how several consumers have been impacted by the device. It further urges action by Congress to repair the damage.

The Medical Device Safety Act (S. 540/H.R. 1346) has been introduced to restore injured patients access to the courts. Congress must pass the Medical Device Safety Act (MDSA), legislation that would restore the right of patients to hold manufacturers of medical devices accountable in court when their devices have malfunctioned.

Even the New England Journal of Medicine has urged passage of this bill, noting that patients and physicians deserve to be fully informed about the benefits and risks of medical devices, and the companies making the devices should be held accountable if they fail to achieve this standard. Click here to read the editorial from the April 9, 2009 journal.

Five minute defense verdict upheld

How much time should it take a jury to render a decision in a medical malpractice case? There is no set rule, but according to one appellate court, five minutes was enough time for a jury to reach its verdict in favor of a Manhattan ophthalmologist who had been sued.

The plaintiff had sought to appeal a decision issued in December by the Appellate Division, First Department, which had also ruled the jury’s quick deliberation had not undermined the plaintiff’s right to a fair trial. Citing Lopez v New York City Transit Authority, 60AD3d 529 (2009) and other cases, the state appeals court found that “the verdict was based on a fair interpretation of the evidence,” and that the jury could reasonably have concluded, based on the evidence and testimony presented, that the “defendant had not departed from acceptable standards of care and treatment” in his area of medical specialty.

“The brevity of the jury’s deliberations alone did not undermine plaintiff’s right to a fair trial,” the court stated in its decision. “We reject plaintiff’s contention that the judgment is inconsistent with the evidence.”

For more on this case, click here.