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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Surgeon Admits Error; Insurer's Attorneys Balk

  Caroline Carcerano went to Tufts Medical Center last November (2013) for what she hoped would be a brief procedure to relieve back pain. She died instead. The surgical team inserted a dye into her spine that is not supposed to be injected in the spine, and Caroline died the following day.

Caroline's surgeon was candid and apologetic, telling Caroline's sons that "a mistake was made....we gave her the wrong dye," according to the Boston Globe. But, then, eight months later -- eight months! -- Caroline's sons received a letter from the attorneys representing Tufts' insurer saying the surgeons and pharmacists were not negligent. The Boston Globe reported the following: "Her sons, Michael and Stephen Carcerano, found the letters baffling. 'A mistake was admitted, and now they're saying it's not their fault,'' Stephen Carcerano said. The brothers filed a lawsuit three weeks ago in Suffolk Superior Court against the hospital and 12 pharmacists, nurses, and surgeons. The insurer made a settlement offer soon after the Globe inquired about the case, said William Thompson of Lubin & Meyer in Boston, which is representing the family."

The Boston Globe article is linked below, and it's pretty clear that medical errors did indeed occur. The Globe article discusses numerous safety measures enacted by the hospital in the wake of this tragedy. But, it took eight months after the initial disclosure -- eight months! -- to contact the sons again, and the contact came in the form a letter from some attorneys saying, "Nah, we didn't kill your Mom," only to quickly settle the case after a newspaper starts poking around?

Clearly, we need to do better.

This is the MAJOR break down area for many hospitals and insurers. The bedside and initial disclosure efforts are good and sincere, then everything gets gummed up. Things drag out, nobody stays in touch with the patient or family, the investigation or review takes forever and does not involve the family, and sometimes even clear cut cases of error are handled by defense attorneys or claims managers who were taught to never throw in the towel. Weeks and months pass, families become angry all over again, and they start plotting revenge in the form of lawsuits, complaints to regulatory authorities, and tips to reporters and bloggers.

Look, the time to talk about how events will be handled is long before any event happens. Talk with your insurer(s), defense counsel, and risk and claims managers. Get them all in the same room and discuss several different scenarios. The best disclosure training seminars have all of these people in the room. Get everyone on the same page, and, if someone refuses to join the party fire them. There are still many "old school" defense attorneys and claims managers who were literally taught to never throw in the towel, and they will kill your disclosure program. So, put them out of your misery and develop your disclosure program with the right people.

Caroline Carcerano's case could have been resolved in a few weeks, but to do so requires a functioning disclosure program. To help develop your disclosure program, remember the Train the Trainer webinar being held at 1pm EST/10am PST on Thursday, November 13th. For more information, see this link.

And here is the link for the Boston Globe article.