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Celebrities and Medical Malpractice

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Michael Bonamarte circle blog reviewed by

Content Reviewed by:
Michael F. Bonamarte, IV

Content Reviewed by: Michael F. Bonamarte, IV

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Since 2005, Michael Bonamarte IV has been a passionate advocate for victims of negligent conduct, corporate malfeasance, and medical malpractice. He has won numerous awards and recognitions, including Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers’ Rising Star. He has presented for the American Association for Justice, the AAJ Nursing Home Litigation Group, the John Marshall Law School, and numerous other legal associations. He regularly lectures at Chicago-area aging organizations about nursing home abuse. His writings have been published by the American Bar Association, the Chicago Daily Bulletin, and numerous other prestigious publications.

The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D), a consumer rights group out of New York Law School, has shared their list of 22 famous figures who have been harmed and even killed by medical malpractice.

Most of us are familiar with the high profile drug-related tragedies of Michael Jackson (2009) and Prince (2016) and even Judy Garland (1969) and Marilyn Monroe (1962). Some of us are familiar with the details surrounding the death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during an endoscopy at a New York City clinic.  But it was surprising even to us to read the details of medical neglect in cases involving other beloved celebrities. As CJ&D pointed out in their report, no one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even celebrities with all the money and resources in the world at their fingertips. The report also shared several findings that now have become well known to the public. Among them, that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Each of the 22 cases highlighted in the report has resulted in a settlement or verdict (or is pending) and in many of them, grieving loved ones or the victims themselves have said that it’s not about money, but instead about enforcing a sense of right vs. wrong in the face of injustice.

Below are 5 celebrity malpractice cases from the report that we found to be especially noteworthy:

  1.  Julie Andrews
    In 1997, Dame Julie Andrews went to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York for removal of benign growths on the left side of her throat. Ms. Andrews was left with an inability to sing and with permanent hoarseness. In a lawsuit against the hospital, she alleged that she wasn’t fully informed of the risks associated with the procedure and that her doctor had operated on both the left and right side of her throat, which was never discussed. The case settled.
  2. Dana Carvey
    42-year-old Dana Carvey went to Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California in 1998 for a scheduled double-bypass surgery to clear an arterial blockage. His doctor operated on the wrong artery, a mistake which wasn’t discovered until several months later. As a result, he had to undergo an emergency angioplasty that resulted in 6 months of rehabilitation. He sued the doctor and the case settled in 2000. Carvey donated the entire settlement to charity.In an interview with People Magazine, Carvey says “I didn’t want to go to court, and I don’t seek this kind of publicity, but I felt this was a matter of right and wrong. There was no letter of apology or explanation, no phone call. I wanted to be satisfied that the surgeon would not be hurting someone else and would acknowledge his error.”
  3. Maurice Gibb
    In January 2003, Maurice Gibb went to the ER at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach complaining of stomach pain. He was admitted and throughout the day, suffered while blood flow was slowly restricted to his stomach due to a twisted bowel and intestine. He went into cardiac arrest that night and died 3 days later. In a lawsuit against the hospital, his family alleges that the hospital missed the signs of Mr. Gibb’s twisted intestine and was unprepared for a medical event requiring resuscitation. According to the lawsuit, it took medical staff 10 minutes to locate resuscitation equipment when Mr. Gibb went into cardiac arrest. The Gibbs settled with the hospital.
  4. Dennis Quaid’s twins, Thomas & Zoe Quaid
    In 2007, Dennis Quaid’s wife, Kimberly, gave birth to their twins, Thomas and Zoe. After their birth, they each were given not one, but two overdoses of the blood thinning drug Heparin at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Instead of 10 units per milliliter, the twins were injected with 10,000 units per milliliter at 11:30 am and 5:30 p.m., causing their blood to turn into the consistency of water and seep from the injection sites. The twins were given drugs to reverse the effects, but for almost 3 days they suffered from excessive bleeding and pain. The babies ultimately recovered, but the long term effects are still unknown.The Quaids sued Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter Health Care Corp., the makers of Heparin, for their  confusing labeling of the product, which ultimately allowed nurses and pharmacists at the hospital to make the mistake. It has been revealed that the same incident had happened to other pediatric patients, furthering the Quaid’s quest for a change in packaging. The Quaid’s settled with Baxter and Cedars Sinai.
  5. John Ritter
    In September 2003, John Ritter was at work on the set of his show 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter when he began having chest pains and collapsed. He was taken to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, CA and treated for a heart attack. While his symptoms (chest pain, nausea, dizziness) seemed like classic heart attack symptoms, doctors failed to consider another possible diagnosis: an aortic dissection (tear). Ritter died that night after doctors missed his true condition. His wife and 4 children sued the hospital for medical malpractice and the hospital settled in 2006.

Medical Errors are Actually Quite Common
A 2016 study by Johns Hopkins revealed that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., trailing only heart attacks and cancer. The study estimates that at least 250,000 Americans a year are lost due to medical error. Celebrities are no different than us when it comes to being a patient. Every person who sees a medical provider is hoping for a successful outcome. CJ&D’s list proves that medical errors can happen to anyone at any time, no matter who they are or where they’re treated.

For nearly 30 years  the medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti have successfully fought on behalf of families like yours who have been devastated by an act of medical malpractice or nursing home abuse and neglect. We have recovered over half a billion dollars for our clients, including a $12 million verdict in July for the family of a woman whose early stage lung cancer was missed, leading to a years-long delay in diagnosis that ultimately cost our client her life.

If you or someone you love has been harmed by any sort of medical error or negligent or abusive care, please call the medical malpractice attorneys at Chicago’s Levin & Perconti. Please, call toll-free 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago (312) 332-2872 or complete our online case evaluation form for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys.

CJ&D’s full celebrity malpractice list and report can be found here.

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Steven M Levin

Steven M. Levin

Founder and Senior Partner
Since 1976, Steve Levin has been dedicated to helping people injured by others’ negligence. He is one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to prosecute nursing homes for abuse and negligence. He's also helped write new legislation that governs the operation of nursing homes, including the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Moreover, Levin & Perconti has obtained the top three jury verdicts in nursing home negligence cases in Illinois.