It’s considered medical malpractice if a healthcare professional acts – or fails to act – negligently and this results in the injury or death of a patient. Medical malpractice lawsuits have attracted increased attention over the last few decades, with media coverage of high-profile cases and huge settlements paid out for medical mistakes.
Dr. Ricketson and the Screwdriver
One of the most notorious medical malpractice cases is that of Dr. Robert Ricketson and the screwdriver he left in the spine of his patient, 73-year old Arturo Iturralde. Mark Davis, the attorney who represented the Iturralde family, called it the most egregious case of malpractice he’d ever seen.
During spinal corrective surgery, Arturo Iturralde began to lose a lot of blood, due to a then undiagnosed blood condition. Ricketson then discovered that two titanium rods he had planned to insert in the patient’s spine were missing from the surgical kit in the operating theatre. So instead, he used a hacksaw to cut the shaft off a stainless steel screwdriver and inserted the steel part of the screwdriver in the patient’s spine. Days later, the screwdriver snapped in half. This led to further surgeries and complications, and the patient died within two years. After a lengthy trial, the plaintiffs were granted over $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Zyprexa and Diabetes
Zyprexa is an anti-psychotic drug approved for use in treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In 2009, Eli Lilly and Company, which manufactures the drug, was accused of marketing it for unapproved uses. It was also charged with failing to reveal information linking the drug to potentially severe weight gain and diabetes.
Eli Lilly and Company paid out a colossal total of $1.42 billion, to settle civil lawsuits and end a criminal investigation. Although the company didn’t explicitly acknowledge any wrongdoing in the case, it pleaded guilty to a violation of the US Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
GlaxoSmithKline – The Bigger they are, the Harder they Fall
In one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements in history, British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline paid out over $3 billion to settle lawsuits associated with its marketing of drugs such as the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin, and the diabetes drug, Avandia.
GlaxoSmithKline admitted to misbranding the antidepressants and to marketing the drugs for uses that hadn’t been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of these unapproved uses include the treatment of depression in children, as well as ailments that aren’t affected by the drugs at all, such as anxiety, obesity and ADHD.