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Medical Malpractice Glossary

Medical Malpractice Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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Acetaminophen: A medication effective for relieving mild pain and fever. It is also used as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

Accolate: Medicine prescribed for prophylaxis and treatment of chronic asthma in patients 12 years and older. Has shown to cause liver dysfunction, particularly in females.

Accutane: A brand of prescription medicine used to treat severe nodular acne that has not responded to other treatments such as antibiotics. Accutane may cause serious side effects, including birth defects and mental disorders.

Addiction: A physiological and psychological compulsion for a habit-forming substance. In extreme cases, an addiction may become an overwhelming obsession.

Adjudicate: To decide a legal case.

Affidavit: A voluntary statement or declaration of facts that has been written down and confirmed under oath.

Agonist Opioid: A powerful type of narcotic that works by blocking signals to pain receptors in the brain. This process also raises the level of dopamine in the brain, creating a feeling of euphoria.

Allegation: A statement made in a pleading by one of the parties to the action and tells what that party intends to prove.

Analgesic: Generic term for medications that relieve pain. Some analgesics like aspirin have a low pain-relieving threshold, whereas others like Oxycodone have a much higher ceiling.

Anesthesia Injury: An injury sustained from incorrectly administered anesthetics.

Answer: Written response in which the defendant admits or denies the allegations contained in the complaint.

Antidepressants: A type of drug used to control or reduce depression. Some antidepressants have been found to have serious side effects.

Apgar Score: When a child is born, a physician will take note of his or her activity – muscle tone, pulse, grimace, reflex irritability, appearance, skin color, and respiration. These observations are made once immediately following birth and once five minutes later. A score of zero to ten is then calculated. A low score alerts a doctor that resuscitation may be necessary and a high score reassures a doctor that the baby is healthy.

Arava: An oral medicine prescribed to slow the progress of rheumatoid arthritis. Arava® may cause liver dysfunction and birth defects.

Arbitration: A process for deciding a legal dispute without having to go to court.

Assumption of Risk: A defendant’s allegation that the injured plaintiff recognized the danger of the plaintiff’s course of action but, nonetheless, willingly chose to risk such danger.

Asbestos: A fibrous silicate mineral that was once commonly used in construction. People who have been exposed to asbestos over a period of time may develop asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestosis: A disease that afflicts people who have been exposed asbestos fibers. Scar tissue builds up in the lungs, causing breathing difficulty and an increased risk of infection.

Ataxia: Jerky, uncoordinated movements.

Athetosis: Involuntary movements – uncontrolled/unwanted movements.

- B -

Baxter Dialysis Filter: A filter for dialysis machines produced by Baxter International, Inc. The manufacturer has recalled certain filters that were found to be defective.

Baycol: Originally prescribed to lower cholesterol, Baycol has been voluntarily recalled by Bayer Pharmaceuticals because it was linked to habdomyolysis, which can be fatal.

Benzene: A chemical that is frequently used in manufacturing and present in industrial fumes. Benzene exposure can cause cancer and other health complications.

Birth Injury: A physical injury suffered by a baby during delivery. Birth injuries may be related to pre-existing maternal or fetal health problems, or related to negligence by a health care professional such as a doctor or another member of the professional medical staff. These injuries may cause permanent disabilities or even death.

Brain Damage: During pregnancy or birth, brain damage to a child may cause cerebral palsy. The following problems may result in brain damage: Rh incompatibility, a lack of oxygen to the baby, a mother’s urinary tract infection, bleeding within the infant’s brain or poisoning due to the mother’s use of alcohol and drugs.

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Cancer: A disease manifested by the presence of a malignant tumor. This tumor must be characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of malignant cells, the invasion of tissue or leukemia.

Cancer Misdiagnosis: Caused by medical negligence when a medical specialist fails to follow the acceptable standards of care required of his/her professional capacity. Cancer misdiagnosis related to medical negligence can occur when a medical professional fails to do any of the following: pay attention or respond to a patient’s complaints or symptoms, order the proper tests that would lead to correct diagnosis, refer a patient to a specialist in a timely manner, or treat a patient in the appropriate manner given their medical condition.

Carcinogen: A substance or agent that causes cancer.

Case Law: Law based on previous decisions of appellate courts.

Celebrex: A brand of medication used to relieve the signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis in adults. Celebrex use can result in stomach bleeding and liver damage.

Cerebral Palsy: A medical condition caused by a permanent brain injury that occurs before, during or shortly after birth. The effect of Cerebral Palsy is characterized by lack of muscle control and body movement. The Cerebral Palsy diagnosis is usually made shortly after birth, but may show up later in childhood.

Central Nervous System: The brain and the spinal cord. Receives sensory impulses from the rest of the nervous system and then controls the body’s response to those impulses.

Civil: Generally pertains to disputes, not involving crimes, including family matters, contracts, medical malpractice, collection of debts and compensation for personal injury or property loss.

Civil Lawsuit: A lawsuit in which one does not need to prove criminal liability.

Cognitive Functions: The skills of the brain including memory, attention, and concentration.

Collateral Source Rule: Under this rule, compensation awarded to an injured party shall not be reduced by the amount of compensation available to him from his insurance company or other independent sources.

Common Law: Law that derives its authority solely from usages and customs of the past.

Comparative Negligence: The doctrine of comparing degrees of fault among the responsible parties.

Compensation: Monetary award transferred from defendant to plaintiff to make up for some wrong, damage or injury caused by the defendant’s actions or inaction.

Complainant: Also known as the plaintiff.

Civil Complaint: The first pleading in a civil case filed by the plaintiff. It alleges the material facts and legal theories to support the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant.

Contingency Fee: A fee arrangement in which the plaintiff and his or her attorney agree that the fees due to the attorney will be determined by the amount of the judgment granted if in the favor of the plaintiff.

Continuance: A delay of a scheduled session of a court.

Cox-2 Inhibitor: A drug designed to treat chronic pain without irritating the stomach and stomach lining.

Cross-examination: The questioning of a witness of one party by the opposing party during a trial, hearing or deposition.

CT Scan: A “computed tomography” scan may be used to determine the cause of Cerebral Palsy in a child. This test scans the brain, looking for abnormalities and areas that have not properly developed.

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DES: Diethylstilbestrol (DES) used to be prescribed to pregnant women believed to need more estrogen to maintain their pregnancies. Some of the daughters of these women, who were exposed in the womb to DES, developed a rare form of vaginal cancer.

Damages: Monetary compensation claimed by a person who has suffered a loss or injury to his person, property or rights as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another.

Decedent: A dead person.

Decree: An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully disposes of the litigation.

Default: Failure of either party to file required documents or appear in a civil case within a certain period of time.

Defendant: The person or party sued in a civil case or accused in a criminal case.

Deposition: The testimony of a witness, taken out of court and usually prior to trial.

Direct Examination: Questioning of a witness by the party who calls the witness.

Directed Verdict: A judgment entered by the judge without allowing the jury to participate.

Disciplinary Hearing: A hearing or professional review conducted by any state or federal administrative agency, licensing or regulatory authority responsible for regulating professional conduct.

Discovery: The pre-trial process in which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon at trial by the opposing party.

Dismemberment: Loss of sight means total loss of sight which cannot be restored by surgical or other means; loss of hand means that a hand is permanently severed at or above the wrist; and loss of foot means that a foot is permanently severed at or above the ankle.

Dismissal with Prejudice: An order to dismiss a case in which the court bars the plaintiff from suing again on the same cause of action.

Dismissal without Prejudice: An order to dismiss a case in which the court preserves the plaintiff’s right to sue again on the same cause of action.

Duract: A brand of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), Duract was recalled after rare cases of severe hepatitis and liver failure were reported in people who took the drug longer than directed.

Dysarthria: A speech disorder that often affects people with cerebral palsy, caused by a weakness in the muscles that produce speech. In mild cases, there may only be a slight slurring of speech; in more severe cases, the person may depend upon a voice output system to speak.

Dystonia: Involuntary, slow, sustained muscle contractions resulting in abnormal postures and twisting motions of arms, legs and trunk.

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Eligible Survivor: A lawful spouse if living on the date a benefit payment is due. If the spouse is not living, the term means dependent children.

Enbrel: Medication for reducing signs and symptoms and delaying structural damage in patients with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis. Some patients treated with Enbrel® are reported to have developed serious infections.

Ephedra: Once used in a number of over-the-counter dietary supplements, Ephedra contains ephedrine, which acts as a stimulant and bronchodilator. While it may help those with asthma breathe, ephedrine poses significant health risks for the casual user. Ephedrine has been reported to contribute to heart attack, stroke, seizures, psychosis and death.

Established customary standard of care: Degree of care and skill that the average qualified doctor would provide to a patient who sought medical care for similar symptoms and circumstances.

Evidence: A fact presented in court through the testimony of a witness, an object or written documents.

Exhibit: A document or object that is offered into evidence during a trial or hearing.

- F -

Failure to Diagnose: A form of medical malpractice committed on behalf of a medical doctor. Failure to diagnose has the potential to cause serious damage and even death to patients who do not receive prompt and adequate medical care as needed because of medical malpractice.

Fen-Phen: Short for fenfluramine phentermine, a drug combination used for weight loss purposes. Fen-Phen has been linked to heart valve disease in numerous cases, prompting the FDA to request that manufacturers recall the drug.

Fraud: Intentional deception resulting in damage to another, whether to his or her person, rights, property or reputation. Fraud usually consists of a misrepresentation, concealment or non-disclosure of a material fact. Can also be misleading conduct, devices or contrivance.

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Gait: How an individual walks. Normal gait requires the proper functioning of the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system.

- H -

Hemiplegia: One side of the body affected. Arm and leg may be equally or unequally affected.

Herceptin: A medical agent indicated for the treatment of certain breast cancer patients. Herceptin® injection can cause fatal pulmonary effects in patients with preexisting lung conditions.

Hospital Malpractice: Occurs when a patient suffers damages as a result of a medical professional’s failure to follow the standards of care set forth for his/her medical field. Hospital malpractice can be the result of an intentional act or negligence which causes injury to a patient. Hospital malpractice is often the result of a heath care provider failing to prevent injury or illness to a patient as a similarly situated medical professional would have done.

Hypertonia: Increased postural tone; ‘stiffness’ of muscles.

Hypotonia: Reduced postural tone; ‘floppiness’ of muscles.

- I -

Incompetence: The inability or lack of legal qualification or fitness to discharge the required duty.

Illness Period: For insurance purposes, this normally begins when covered expenses are incurred.

Intention Tremors: As a person with ataxic cerebral palsy reaches for an object or attempts to perform an act (such as putting on a shoe), the body part that he or she is moving may begin to tremble. Intention tremors become stronger as the person reaches the object.

Involuntary Movement: Movement that is not under the control of the brain. The movement is caused by electrical stimulation of the muscle, and in individuals with cerebral palsy, the involuntary movement happens so often that it interferes with their ability to function.

Indemnity: An agreement wherein one party financially protects another against an anticipated loss.

Interrogatories: A form of discovery in which one party submits a series of written questions to the other party and to which the latter is bound to answer under oath.

- J -

Judgment: The official decision by a court.

Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict: A judgment entered by order of the court for one party, although there has been a jury verdict for the other party.

- K -

Kava: An herb used in dietary supplements intended to promote relaxation and stress relief. Kava has been linked to an increased risk of liver toxicity.

- L -

Lamictal: An epilepsy medicine. There are reports of dispensing errors involving Lamictal and Lamisil, a medication for the treatment of toenail fungus. Patients receiving Lamisil instead of Lamictal would be inadequately treated for epilepsy.

Lamisil: A medication for the treatment of toenail fungus. There are reports of dispensing errors involving Lamisil and Lamictal, an epilepsy medicine. Patients receiving Lamictal instead of Lamisil could experience adverse side effects.

Leukemia: A type of cancer that forms in the bone marrow, causing abnormal white blood cell development. Leukemia can be caused by exposure to certain carcinogenic substances.

Liability: A legal responsibility or obligation.

Liability Risk: Liability loss or exposure where negligent acts may occur for which an organization may be held responsible. The act must be injury to or property damage of others. Insurance coverage for this type of risk is called, “third party insurance.”

Lien: An encumbrance, upon real or personal property, that secures the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty.

Litigant: One of the parties involved in a legal action.

Litigation: The process of settling a dispute through the court system.

Locum Tenens: A healthcare provider who is serving as a temporary relief or substitute.

Lotronex: A drug used to treat irritable bowel syndrome in women. The manufacturer voluntarily withdrew Lotronex® from the market after it was associated with reports of serious side effects such as intestinal damage, severely obstructed or ruptured bowels and death.

Lymphoma: A type of cancer that forms in the lymph nodes. Lymphoma can be caused by exposure to certain carcinogenic substances.

- M -

Medical Incident: Any act, error or omission during the providing of professional services.

Medical Lien: The right of a hospital, doctor or health care provider to assert an interest in personal injury recoveries to the extent of the cost of the treatment or service provided.

Medical Malpractice: Improper or negligent treatment of a person under a medical professional’s care, which results in injury or death.

Medical Negligence: Failure of a physician or other medical personnel to meet the standards of conduct for duties relating to the medical profession. Those standards are based on what a reasonable person with the requisite knowledge and skills would or would not do.

Mellaril: An antipsychotic drug for schizophrenics. Mellaril has been associated with causing cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.

Meridia: A prescription diet drug containing Sibutramine. Sibutramine has been associated with adverse cardiovascular effects and, in some instances, death.

Mesothelioma: A type of cancer found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma can occur in the lining of the lungs or abdomen, and it has no known cure.

Misdiagnosis: A medical professional’s failure to properly identify and diagnose a patient’s medical condition. A doctor can be held liable for any damages that result from a misdiagnosis if the medical mistake was a result of negligence. Medical negligence (a subtype of medical malpractice) is defined as a medical professional’s failure to exact the degree of care, skill, and prudence that a reasonable medical professional would in a similar situation.

Mistrial: An erroneous invalid trial that cannot stand in law.

- N -

Negligence: Failure to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances. When that failure causes another person to suffer an injury or financial loss, that person may be entitled to just compensation through our civil justice system.

Nevirapine: A drug prescribed for use in combination with other anti-HIV drugs. Nevirapine can cause a severe rash in some patients. Reports have also associated Nevirapine with Hepatotoxicity, a condition which can result in liver damage and death.

Norplant: A contraceptive device that is implanted in the patient, and provides birth control by releasing active agents over time. Norplant has been associated with side effects such as irregular menstrual bleeding, headache, nervousness, depression, nausea, dizziness, skin rash, acne, change of appetite, breast tenderness, weight gain, enlargement of the ovaries and excessive growth of body or facial hair.

Nursing Malpractice: An intentional act or negligence committed by a member of the nursing profession that causes physical, financial, cognitive, emotional or psychosocial damage to a patient under their care. Cases of nursing malpractice commonly involve cases of nursing negligence. This type of nursing malpractice is defined as a nursing professional’s failure to exact the degree of care, skill and prudence that a reasonable professional would under similar conditions.

Nursing Home Malpractice: Any intentional act or negligence committed by a nursing home professional which causes injury to residents.

- O -

Occupational therapy: Therapy designed to enable the individual to work with their arms and hands.

Oxycodone Hydrochloride: This drug is categorized as an agonist opioid, a powerful group of analgesics that work by blocking signals to pain receptors in the brain. A synthetic narcotic derived from opium-producing poppy plants, oxycodone HCL has properties similar to morphine and is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means that it can be legally prescribed but has a high potential for abuse. Oxycodone HCL is also an active ingredient in the following drugs: Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox.

Oxycontin: A powerful prescription pain reliever prescribed for patients suffering from moderate to severe chronic pain. Oxycontin tablets contain anywhere from 10-160mg of oxycodone hydrochloride, an agonist opioid that blocks signals to pain receptors in the brain. Oxycontin pills are manufactured with a controlled release mechanism that extends pain relief for up to twelve hours.

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Percocet: A prescription pain reliever containing oxycodone and acetaminophen. Classified in the same category as Oxycontin, Percocet contains no more than 5mg of oxycodone.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A type of cancer found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the peritoneum, a sac lining the abdomen, and has no known cure.

Prescription Error: A form of medical malpractice that occurs when a patient does not receive the appropriate medication, at the right dose, at the right time. A prescription error can often cause harm to a patient, and in some circumstances, can even lead to death. A prescription error is considered medical malpractice when a medical professional’s negligence or mistake led to patient harm.

Physical Dependence: A physiological need for a substance, the absence of which leads to withdrawal. Physical dependence is distinguishable from addiction in that addiction also involves mental fixation.

Physical Therapy: Therapy designed to improve mobility and keep muscles stretched.

Plaintiff: The party who initiates a legal action; in a personal injury lawsuit, the person who alleges that he or she has suffered monetary damages due the negligence of another party.

Pleadings: Written documents stating the allegations and claims of the opposing parties in a legal dispute.

Pleural Mesothelioma: A type of cancer found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Occurs in the pleura, a sac lining the lungs, and has no known cure.

PPA: Short for Phenylpropanolamine, a drug which was used in many over-the-counter cold medicines and weight loss drugs. The FDA issued a recall of PPA after a study linked it to a higher risk of hemhorragic stroke.

Prempro®: A type of hormone replacement therapy that combines estrogen and progestin. A study that sought to determine the effectiveness of long-term Prempro® use was halted when researchers discovered that it led to an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots.

Preponderance of Evidence: The relative weight, credit and value of the evidence presented by adversaries in a trial. In a civil trial, the jury is charged with reaching a verdict based on this standard, as opposed to the “reasonable doubt” standard in a criminal trial.

Professional Services: Services for which a person is licensed, trained and qualified to perform in the capacity of a healthcare provider.

Propulsid: A prescription heartburn medication used to relieve the symptoms of nighttime heartburn associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Propulsid was recalled by the FDA after a report linked it to heart rhythm abnormalities and some deaths.

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RH Incompatibility: Results when the blood type of the fetus, or developing child, differs from the blood type of the mother.

Rebuttal: Evidence that attempts to explain, counteract or disprove facts given in evidence by the other party.

Re-direct Examination: Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after one’s evidence has been subject to cross-examination.

Relenza: A medicine used to treat the flu. Some patients have had serious breathing problems while using Relenza, and it is no longer recommended for those with chronic respiratory disease.

Retainer: Advance payment of fees, or fees and costs, made by a client to an attorney when the client retains the attorney to act for him or her.

Rezulin: A prescription diabetes drug that was used to control Type 2 diabetes in combination with insulin or sulfonylurea. Rezulin was recalled by the FDA because it was linked to liver failure.

RhoGAM: A medicine which was injected into pregnant women to avoid specific pregnancy complications. RhoGAM used to contain thimerosal, which some suspect is related to the development of autism.

- S -

Seizures: A person having a seizure may abruptly “freeze,” fall and shake violently or simply fall down. Seizures affect about half of all people with cerebral palsy but are usually not harmful.

Serentil: An antipsychotic drug for schizophrenics. Serentil® has been associated with other drugs that may cause cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.

Serzone: A prescription medication used to treat depression. Cases of life-threatening liver failure have been reported in patients treated with Serzone. This medication has been related to liver dysfunction.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A form of cerebral palsy that causes tightness in the muscles. Because of this tightness, spastic cerebral palsy patients have a difficult time controlling their movement.

Speech therapy: Therapy used to increase communication skills. It may also include teaching sign language or using a communication device.

Stipulation: An agreement, admission or concession made in a judicial proceeding by the parties or their attorneys, thus relieving a party of its obligation to produce evidence in support of an argument or allegation.

Subpoena: A legal document issued by the court ordering a person to appear as specified and give testimony and/or produce evidence.

Subrogation: A process by which a third party is put in the place of a creditor so that the rights and securities of the creditor pass to that third person.

- T -

Tasmar: A drug used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease. There have been reports of fatal liver injury associated with use of Tasmar.

Terminal Illness: A medical condition which is expected to result in a person’s death within six (6) months; no recovery expected.

Thalidomide: A medicine that was used as a sleep aid and for treatment of morning sickness during pregnancy. It was later discovered that thalidomide causes birth defects and fetal death.

Thimerosal: A preservative that was used in many vaccines. It is suspected that an ingredient in Thimerosal may cause mercury poisoining.

Tort: A civil wrong, giving rise to a cause of action, independent of contract.

Transcript: The official verbatim record of court proceedings.

Trial: A formal presentation of facts to a court or jury in order to reach a legal resolution.

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Viagra: Medicine intended to treat sexual impotence in men (erectile dysfunction). Patients taking VIAGRA have experienced heart attack, sudden death, irregular heart rhythm, stroke, chest pain and increased blood pressure.

Vicodin: A prescription pain reliever containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Classified in the same category as Oxycontin, Vicodin contains 5-10mg of hydrocodone.

Videx/EC: A medication used to treat HIV. There have been reports linking VIDEX® EC with fatal lactic acidosis and pancreatitis.

Vioxx: A brand of medication used to relieve the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in adults. Vioxx use can result in stomach bleeding and liver damage.

- W -

Withdrawal: Discontinuation of the use of an addictive substance, which may be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bone pain, hot or cold flashes, shaking, irritability, etc.

Wrongful Death: A death that occurs because of someone else’s malice, negligence or recklessness.

- Z -

Zerit: A medication used to treat HIV. There have been reports linking Zerit with fatal lactic acidosis and pancreatitis.