Imagine bringing your child to a well-respected teaching hospital for necessary medical care for a life-threatening disease or illness. Imagine finding out later that the medical treatment provided was allegedly inadequate and inappropriate, leading to harms including the death of ill children. That is what some New Mexico parents have been dealing with since 1998 when University of New Mexico Hospital officials first disclosed that pediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia may not have been provided the newest and best drug therapies for their disease from 1989 to October 1996.
Medical malpractice lawsuits were first filed about 11 years ago that alleged that University of New Mexico hospital and one of its cancer doctors failed to provide the proper cancer treatment to about 110 children who were suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia during the seven year period that ended in 1996.
What Is Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia?
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (“ALL”) is a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are found in the bone marrow and other parts of the body. The cancer cells quickly grow and replace normal cells in the bone marrow, which is the soft tissue in the center of bones that helps form blood cells. ALL prevents healthy blood cells from being made and may result in life-threatening symptoms. ALL usually affects children between the ages of 3 and 7 but can also affect adults. ALL is the most common childhood acute leukemia.
ALL increases the likelihood of bleeding and developing infections. Symptoms of ALL include bone and joint pain; easy bruising and bleeding (such as bleeding gums, skin bleeding, nosebleeds, abnormal periods); feeling weak or tired; fever; loss of appetite and weight loss; paleness; pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs; petechiae (pinpoint red spots on the skin); swollen glands in the neck, under arms, and groin; and, night sweats. These symptoms can also occur with other medical conditions.
New Mexico has already paid out about $45 million in settlements to 118 families since 1998. Recently, New Mexico announced that a state-commissioned actuarial study has determined that New Mexico may have to pay as much as $120 million for an estimated 101 new medical malpractice claims, based on New Mexico’s $1.05 million cap per tort claim, that could be part of a potential class action lawsuit that has been pending since 2001 and alleges that the patients and their families were not adequately informed by the University of New Mexico hospital regarding the cancer treatments they were receiving and the risks of treatments proposed, and that they were dissuaded from seeking second opinions.
None of the New Mexico medical malpractice claims filed against the University of New Mexico hospital and its former chief of the pediatric oncology clinic have gone to trial yet. The former chief contends that the treatments she gave to children were medically appropriate and effective, although she was forced to leave the University of New Mexico hospital in 1998 and subsequently retired (she later surrendered her New Mexico medical license).
If you or a family member may have suffered injuries or other harms as a result of medical negligence at a hospital or as a result of the medical negligence of another health care provider, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney to learn about your rights and responsibilities in bringing a claim for medical malpractice.
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