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This summer, Washington, D.C’s George Washington (GW) University Hospital has faced a higher number of malpractice lawsuits than any of the last five summers. The hospital has been sued four times in the U.S. District and D.C. Superior courts, three of which allege instances of medical malpractice. Comparatively, the hospital faced just one malpractice case during the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018. Here’s what the malpractice-related lawsuits have alleged:

1) On July 18, plaintiff Kevin Gimlett filed a medical malpractice lawsuit that claims he received improper treatment for an ulcer at the GW Hospital in 2017. According to Gimlett, GW Hospital doctors failed to follow standard care procedures for treating and preventing an ulcer after he was admitted for an inflamed pancreas. The complaint alleges that hospital staff members “failed to timely recognize that wound-staging status changed aggressively with progressive wound deterioration, indicated by a measurable increase in wound dimensions, change in tissue quality, and persistent sustained signs of underlying infection.”

2) In a separate lawsuit also filed on July 18, plaintiff Judith Lunn alleges that three GW Hospital doctors incorrectly placed a stent into her chest in 2016, causing it to migrate to her colon. Just weeks after placement, Lunn was hospitalized for severe abdominal pain and had part of her colon removed because of the stent’s migration. Afterwards, Lunn was forced to undergo multiple additional surgeries to repair her colon. The lawsuit alleges that she “sustained serious and permanent bodily injury, a severe shock to her nervous system, and certain injuries necessitating hospital, medical, rehabilitative, nursing and related care including costs and expenses.”

3) On Aug. 19, a man sued the GW hospital claiming a nurse improperly removed a catheter from his body in 2016. The plaintiff, Robert Marzban, alleges that a piece of the catheter remained lodged inside his body after the improper removal, leaving him to suffer from “abdominal pain, discomfort, and related symptoms.”

Experts say that a number of issues can be attributed to an increase in malpractice suits, which may or may not be attributed to hospital safety. Regardless, hospitals with an uptick in medical malpractice lawsuits should investigate and adjust standardized treatment practices accordingly to reduce the risk of malpractice. According to Jeff Rubin, a health economics professor at Rutgers University, this should include the re-evaluation of routine practices, such as double-checking patients’ medications and vital signs.

It is also important to note that the GW Hospital’s rate of lawsuits per summer remains very low compared to other U.S. hospitals. Even so, as a major hospital in the D.C. metro area that treats 75,000 patients annually in the emergency room alone, it is important for the GW Hospital staff to continuously investigate potential deficits in patient safety.

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