Category Archives: Medical Information

440,000 People Die from Medical Errors in Hospitals Every Year

I’ve been doing this long enough that articles like this one from Consumer Reports don’t surprise me anymore.

The number of deaths from preventable medical errors is astonishing. That’s why we do what we do. Quite frankly, we all want better medical care in this country. One small way to go about it is by holding physicians responsible for their medical malpractice. Hopefully the number of people killed will start to drop.

(Howard Zimmerle is a medical malpractice attorney in Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] 


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Washington Post – Wrong Site Surgery Happens 40 Times a Week

Holy crap… that’s about all I can say about that. This article is amazing. You would think that wrong site/wrong person surgery could be prevented (and it can), but it still happens. A lot.

All sorts of problems still happen with regularity. Surgery based on test results given to the wrong person. Flipped x-rays (really? even in the digital age where all x-rays are on a computer?). Marking the wrong side of the body or the wrong vertebra.

Several years ago, the National Quality Forum coined the term “never events” to describe medical errors that are almost entirely preventable. These include:

  • wrong site/wrong patient surgeries,
  • medication errors,
  • wrong procedures,
  • retained objects after surgery (clamps, sponges, etc),
  • pressure ulcers or bedsores,
  • injury due to incompatible blood or blood products,
  • death or serious injury due to hypoglycemia
and several other very preventable but very serious errors. You can read more about them here.
The bottom line is that medical errors – even dumb ones – keep happening at a higher rate than they should. Even the staunch tort-reformers would have difficulty arguing that someone who is injured or the family of someone who dies from wrong site surgery or another one of these “never events” doesn’t deserve fair and full compensation. That’s where we come in.
(Howard Zimmerle is a medical malpractice and nursing home negligence lawyer practicing in Illinois and Iowa. He can be reached at hzimmerle [at] or 309-794-1660). 

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Here’s an Uplifting Story About Medicine for Once

I spend a lot of time on this blog and elsewhere lamenting failures in medicine. Of course I do. My job is to hold the medical field accountable and fight for the safety of patients. I want the system to work, and I love it when it does.

Here’s an example of the medical system working.

Kevin Neff (a family member of mine) lost his voice years ago. He saw doctor after doctor, including the Mayo Clinic, and no one could help. Finally, he saw a doctor in Cleveland, and within an hour, without surgery, he had his voice back.

Here’s a full article on this.

It’s a neat story, and is uplifting even if it is off-topic.

(Howard Zimmerle is a lawyer in the Quad Cities, with offices in Rock Island and Davenport. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]




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Tip for Illinois Nursing Home Attorneys – Don’t Forget the Administrative Code!

One of the key jobs of any attorney who sues a nursing home for abuse, neglect, bad patient care, etc, is to establish the proper standard of care. All good nursing home malpractice attorneys know to look for the nursing home’s own procedures, as well as the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and the federal OBRA regulations. Yet some forget that the State of Illinois has many specific regulations in the Administrative Code – Title 77, Chapter I, Part 300. I’d recommend taking a look at that before filing a nursing home case and discussing some of the relevant regulations with your experts.

(Howard Zimmerle is an attorney in Rock Island Illinois, who practices in the entire Quad Cities and surrounding area. He often handles cases against nursing homes and long term care facilities. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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Washington Post Article – “Focus on Patient Safety Hasn’t Succeeded”

Here’s an interesting, short article written by a doctor about the continuing problem of preventable errors and preventable deaths in hospitals.

The main point of the article is that too many preventable injuries/deaths are still happening in hospitals and that hospitals need to “build a culture in which patient safety is the priority” for everyone involved.

Very true.

One of the interesting things in the article is a discussion of the continued efforts to prevent hospital-acquired infections – the article states that “nearly all can be eliminated.” The amazing thing is that it has been over 160 years since Semmelweis figured out that doctors should wash their hands in between handling cadavers and delivering babies, yet some methods of preventing infection are still being ironed out. (And as an aside, doctors still don’t always wash their hands).

(Howard Zimmerle is a medical malpractice attorney in Rock Island, Illinois. You can reach him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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Wall Street Journal – “What the Doctor Missed”

Interesting new article in the Wall Street Journal today about steps doctors and hospitals are taking to try to reduce the number of serious mistakes. There are some interesting statistics in the articles, including one from a Johns Hopkins study noting that diagnostic errors kill 40,000 to 80,000 hospitalized patients annually.

One of the interesting things I’ve found in articles like this is how so many quotes are couched in terms of “reducing medical malpractice claims” rather than “reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured due to mistakes”. This article has a little of both.

For those who don’t think medical malpractice lawsuits do any good, consider the fact that they seem to be a motivating factor in efforts to reduce medical errors. That’s good!

The entire article is linked here.

(Howard Zimmerle is a medical malpractice and nursing home malpractice attorney in the uad City area, including Rock Island, Moline, Davenport, Bettendorf and surrounding areas. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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The Defense Attorney Wants me to Sign a “HIPAA Protective Order.” Should I Do It?

I assume everyone in Illinois has seen a few purported “HIPAA Protective Orders.” (Especially if you practice in Peoria, for some reason). While I assume a lot of lawyers sign these rather blindly, is it a good idea? Is it necessary?


A lot of the time these agreements are too broad for us to feel comfortable signing. Many of them allow the defense to get all of the plaintiff or decedent’s medical records from birth to death without notice to the plaintiff’s counsel. Not every medical record should be automatically discoverable, and both HIPAA and the Illinois Subpoena procedure contemplate giving the plaintiff’s attorney the right to object.

Another place where these agreements are typically overbroad is in the area of redisclosure. Obviously a defense attorney and staff have to be able to look at the records – yet some propsed agreements allow redisclosure to “consultants”, “insurance companies” and “all others”. You need to reign this in – you don’t want your client’s medical information to end up in the wrong hands.

Finally, some of these go so far as to violate Petrillo. Do not let that happen.


A health care provider needs one of two things before it can disclose records pursuant to a subpoena: either a qualified protective order, or a letter with certain information, as shown below. In other words, a qualified protective order is OK, but there is an easier way to get the job done.

  • A covered entity (health care provider) may disclose health care records pursuant to subpoena, but only if
    • it receives “satisfactory assurance” from the party seeking the information that the (person who the records are about) has been given notice of the request, OR
    • it receives “satisfactory assurance” from the party seeking the information that the party made reasonable efforts to secure a HIPAA qualified protective order. 45 CFR § 164.512(e)(1)(ii) 

So, in other words, a health care provider needs either a qualified protective order, or “satisfactory assurance” that notice was given. This satisfactory assurance means:

  • Written statement with accompanying documentation that:
    • The party requesting the subpoena made a food faith attempt to provide written notice to the (plaintiff);
    • The notice is sufficient to inform the (plaintiff) about the litigation and permit the plaintiff to raise an objection; and either
      • The time for objection has passed with no objection, or
      • A court ruled on any objections in favor of the party seeking the subpoena (45 CFR § 164.512(e)(1)(iii)) 

If a qualified protective order is sought instead, the only requirements are that the order:

  • Prohibits the parties from using or disclosing the protected health information for any purpose other than the litigation or proceeding for which such information was requested. 45 CFR § 164.512(e)(1)(v)(A)
  • Requires the return to the covered entity (health care provider) or destruction of the protected health information (including all copies made) at the end of the litigation or proceeding. 45 CFR § 164.512(e)(1)(v)(B) (not clear if both parties have to do that, or just the party requesting the records.)

Be very careful with these.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in the Quad Cities. You can contact him at hzimmerle [at] or 309-794-1660).


Filed under Illinois Case Law, Illinois law, Medical Information, Medical Malpractice, Traps, Trial Practice, Wrongful Death