Medical Malpractice Involving Bedsores (Podcasts) May 22, 2024.

Medical Malpractice Involving Bedsores (Podcasts)

Bedsores occur when medical staff do not turn a patient or make other efforts to prevent them from getting bedsores. This skin infection can spread to the bone. It's painful and hard to treat. Listen as Christopher Mellino, founding attorney of the Mellino Law Firm, explains medical malpractice suits in relation to bedsores.

John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher and I'm here today with Christopher Mellino, founding attorney of the Mellino Law Firm, a personal injury law firm in Cleveland, Ohio, with a focus on medical malpractice. Chris has over 40 years of experience in handling medical malpractice cases and has been involved in several landmark cases in Ohio. He's also received verdicts against every hospital system in Cleveland. Welcome Chris.

Chris Mellino: Hi, John. How are you today?

Standard of Care for Preventing Bedsores

John: Good, thanks. So Chris, we're talking about medical malpractice involving bedsores today. Bedsores are often preventable. Can you explain the standard of care that medical facilities have to prevent bedsores in patients?

Chris Mellino: Sure. I'd start by saying that they're almost always preventable and the way they're preventable, I mean, I don't know how familiar people are with never events, but Medicare has determined that there's certain things that happen in healthcare settings that they call never events, which means they should never happen, and if they do happen Medicare's not paying for them.

And the reason is because in the case of bedsores is that they're preventable and shouldn't happen to patients. The reason is because there are lots of ways to avoid them. I mean, the first thing is to make sure that a patient's turning, gets out of bed, is not laying in the same place for hours and hours because that's how bedsores form. And if for some reason the patient's immobile, like a paralyzed patient for example, it's important that the healthcare providers either turn the patient periodically or there's also padding that they can place underneath the patient so they're not in constant contact with the bed. So yeah, they're very preventable.

How Does Medical Negligence Lead to Bedsores?

John: So some people might not realize that bedsores then could be a sign of medical negligence or medical malpractice. When might a bedsore develop due to negligence by a healthcare provider?

Chris: Well, like I said, almost always if there's a bedsore there's something that could have been done to prevent it.

John: And so the hospitals generally will, like you said, make sure that they're turning the person from their left side to their right side once every hour or two or something like that in order to prevent it. So if bedsores are appearing, then it's a sign that maybe that type of care was not happening.

Chris: Right, or they have special boots they can put on people because most bedsores happen on the heel, on the back of the leg or on the buttocks. So there's, like I said, padding that can be done. There's special mattresses that can be used to prevent these bedsores from forming.

Although most bedsores occur in nursing homes, rehab places, and not as much in hospitals because hospitals have nurses who are trained to turn patients and periodically check in on patients, whereas most of the time they occur from understaffing or poor training of the staff in these types of facilities that I mentioned because they're not turning patients. Or, they don't have the availability, let's say, of the special boots or the mattresses because those cost money. So those are the factors that really go into causing people to have bed sores.

John: So if they're at a nursing home and they're understaffed and they're only checking in on the patient or only able to check in on the patient once every few hours or something like that, then they're not turning them enough to prevent bed sores.
Chris: Exactly.

Side Effects and Consequences of Bedsores

John: Bedsores can actually lead to other significant health problems. What are some of the potential consequences of bed sores besides just the sores themselves if they're not properly cared for?

Chris: Well, two things really. Infection, because the sores, as they get worse, I mean, there's four different stages of a bed sore, but it's just rotting flesh after a while which is causing severe infection and it can go from the skin to the bone. The other thing is just a lack of mobility, even after once the wound is healed, it can still cause problems with scarring or lack of mobility. And also once you get a bedsore past stage one, it takes an extensive amount of treatment just to get it to heal. So there's a lot of medical care in that treatment.

What to Do If Your Loved One Develops Bedsores

John: So if someone believes that their loved one developed bed sores due to negligence in a healthcare facility, what evidence should they be looking for to start to build a case?

Chris: Well, just the existence of the bed sore. It is important for the family to document the bed sore, document the skin, because a lot of times in medical records it doesn't get documented. And so just to have a day by day record of the evolution of the bed sore is very helpful.

John: What's the best way to do that? Should people be taking pictures of their loved one?

Chris: Yeah, with your cell phone.

John: Right, and that's helpful these days that everybody has a camera on their cell phone. Years ago that would've been much more difficult to make that kind of documentation.

Chris: Right, and like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So that's the best evidence in a bedsore case is kind of to show the evolution of that. And honestly, some of these bed sores are pretty gruesome, and to see the pictures of them even for somebody who's done this for 40 years, to see some of these bedsores still makes you wince.

John: Is there other evidence that people should be looking for or that you as an attorney would look to try to collect?

Chris: Well, I mean the other thing is going to be in the records of either the hospital or facility that they were in. I mean, they're required to document every time they turn the patient, whatever measures they say that they use to prevent the bedsore, which most of the time is going to be lacking in the record which is the proof.

Legal Challenges in Bedsore Malpractice Cases

John: Do you have any legal challenges that you need to face as an attorney when you're involved in pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit that's centered on bedsores?

Chris: The biggest challenge is that most of the people that get bed sores are, if they're in a nursing home or in a facility, they were in the end of life or not in their best health in the first place so it's hard. This is one particular malpractice where it's hard for the caregivers to defend their care, so they try to just defend the damages, so to speak, or the harms and losses and say that the person wasn't that healthy in the first place or they weren't going to live that much longer. To most people that don't seem like much of an offense but that's what they try to do.

John: I'd imagine it's difficult too, in some cases it may be difficult for you to, say, interview the patient and say like, "Hey, how often did the doctors come and check on you?" Whatever. They might not be, like you said, at the end of their life in a place where they're able to give you accurate information about their own care.

Chris: Right, that's true. And in those cases we just have to rely on the family. Most of the time the family's been there every day or kind of seeing what's going on so we have to rely on that, their testimony. But you're exactly right, most of the time these people, the injured party themselves, aren't able to verbalize what happened or the complaints that they made to the caregivers telling them their symptoms or "Hey, my heel hurts," or "The skin is breaking down," things like that.

John: Right, they might not be aware of that.

Chris: Exactly.

John: But a family member who is there, maybe they're there for the entire afternoon and they never saw somebody come in and rotate the patient or something like that, they'd be able to know that and say, "Yeah, I was there from noon till five and I never once saw them come in and move them around."

Chris: That's exactly what we hear in most of these cases.

Contact the Mellino Law Firm to Talk About Your Options

John: Okay. All right, well, that's really great information, Chris. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Chris: You're welcome.

John: And for more information, you can visit the Mellino Law Firm website at mellinolaw.com or call 440- 333-3800.