City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Tweets That She Has High-Risk HPV

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City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito used Twitter Sunday night to announce that she's been diagnosed with high-risk human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection. The speaker added that she needs to undergo a biopsy to test for cervical cancer. The announcement immediately generated a wave of headlines, with the Daily News describing it as a "health bombshell".

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Clinic Not Liable For Nurse Telling Sister About Boyfriend's STD, High Court Rules

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New York State Court of Appeals in Albany.
In July 2010, a man entered the Guthrie Clinic in Coning, New York to receive treatment for a sexually transmitted disease. As it happened, a nurse at the clinic knew the man, identified only as "John Doe" in court documents. Doe was the boyfriend of the nurse's sister-in-law.

So the nurse texted her sister-in-law to inform her that Doe had an STD. The sister-in-law then forwarded the message to Doe, who filed a complaint with the clinic. Guthrie acknowledged the misconduct and fired the nurse. Doe sued the Guthrie Clinic, charging that the institution is liable for the disclosure of his personal information.

Last week, however, the state's highest court ruled against Doe, clearing Guthrie of legal liability. The clinic should not be held responsible for a worker's action that "is not within the scope of employment," the New York State Court of Appeals stated in a majority decision.

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Type Miscast: Why Arlene Mercado's Punitive Damages Might Have Been Higher Had Her Patient Survived

Ellen Weinstein
In July, as we detailed in last week's cover story, a Queens jury ordered Dr. Arlene Mercado to pay $8 million in damages for the death of her patient, six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor. Mercado, jurors concluded, was fully liable for the girl's death because she misdiagnosed her with type 2 diabetes when the girl actually had type 1.

The award is not final. Mercado's defense team filed a motion asking the judge to decrease the punitive portion of the payout and the judge is currently contemplating it.

It's a sizable sum--much higher than what malpractice insurance providers cover.Yet it seems small when compared to nine-figure medical malpractice awards that make headlines. In April, for instance, a New York jury doled out a $130 million award.

Why was the award in Mercado's case so much lower?

Because her patient died.

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Type Miscast: Researchers See Potential Cure for Diabetes in Near Future

Categories: Health Care

Ellen Weinstein
"I believe it won't be long before we can cure diabetes with a number of different therapies depending on the needs of the patient," Dr. Paolo Fiorina of Boston Children's Hospital said this summer. "Then, if the right screening techniques for diabetes could be developed, it would be entirely possible in many cases that we could prevent the disease from ever developing in children."

Diabetes can be fatal. The death of Queens six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor, which we detailed in this week's cover story, illustrated how a child can go from seemingly healthy to intensive care in a matter of weeks if the condition is not properly treated.

As Fiorina declared, though, research is quickly gaining ground on the disease. His optimism is rooted in a discovery he and his colleagues published earlier this year: They pinpointed the specific mechanism that causes diabetes.

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Type Miscast: Misdiagnosis Is Most Common Cause of Medical Malpractice Payouts

Categories: Health Care

Ellen Weinstein
A misdiagnosis led to the death of Queens six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor.
As we detailed in this week's cover story, six-year-old Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor died from complications related to her type 1 diabetes. When she arrived at the hospital after a night of nausea and fatigue, her blood sugar was five times the normal level. Her body had needed insulin to process that glucose. but she did not get insulin because her doctor, pediatric endocrinologist Arlene Mercado, appeared to have diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes, which is not as urgent and can be fixed through diet, exercise, and medication.

The misdiagnosis was both tragic and confounding. Type 2 diabetes is extremely rare in kids under 10. Children's diabetes expert Craig Alter testified in court that if a six-year-old has diabetes, there's a "99.99 percent" chance it's type 1. The jury found Mercado 100 percent liable for Claudialee's death.

The case speaks to a greater trend. With all the national focus on health care policy and making sure everyone has access to treatment, it's easy to forget about one of the industry's most fundamental yet complicated issues: accurate diagnosis.

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Type Miscast: The Reasoning Behind Jury's $7.5 Million Punitive Award After Tragic Diabetes Misdiagnosis

Categories: Health Care

Ellen Weinstein
This week's feature tells the story of a diabetic six-year-old girl who died after her doctor misdiagnosed her disease. A New York jury found the doctor, Arlene Mercado, 100 percent liable for the death. And on top of the $500,000 in damages awarded the girl's mother, the jury hit Mercado with a $7.5 million punitive fee.

The damages were intended as compensation--in this case, $400,000 for the girl's pain and suffering, and $100,000 for the family's future economic loss. The $7.5 million, however, was pure deterrent, a punishment that jurors calibrated in proportion to the outrageousness of the malpractice.

So what did jurors see and hear before deciding to make it that high?

Evidence of a cover-up.

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A Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty to Involvement in $13 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Categories: Fraud, Health Care

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A Brooklyn resident pleaded guilty to fraud charges in federal court on Friday. Gregory Konoplya, 57, will now face sentencing for his part in an elaborate kickback scheme that funneled $13 million in fraudulent claims from Medicare and Medicaid into a Brooklyn medical clinic.

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Thanks to a Restraining Order, Long Island College Hospital (Barely) Made It Through the Weekend

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It's a meme now!
On Friday, Long Island College Hospital looked to be at death's door, with doctors at the Cobble Hill hospital reporting that they'd received orders to immediately start transferring their remaining patients to other facilities. That was despite a temporary restraining order that should have kept the hospital open and fully operational. Parent company SUNY Downstate denied the closure was imminent, calling it "a rumor" and "patently false." Then SUNY added, almost as an afterthought, that there were only 18 patients left in the hospital, that it was definitely going to be closed by July 28, and in the meantime it would also continue diverting ambulances away from the emergency room.

That's when Public Advocate, mayoral candidate, and Sam the Eagle dead-ringer Bill de Blasio got mad.

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Man Hit by Train Weeks After Telling Hospital That "Voices" Told Him to Jump in Front of Train, Suit Claims

On February 8, Mario Malena checked into a public hospital in Harlem, explaining to staff that he had been hearing voices that told him to jump in front of a train. A few weeks later, he was discharged from another public hospital, in the Bronx.

On the same day Malena walked out of that facility, he was hit by a subway train. He would die from the injuries.

His family claims that the city's public hospital system failed Molina and should be held accountable. And on Wednesday, his daughter, Maryanne Malena, filed paperwork seeking to sue the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, the body that oversees public healthcare in the five boroughs.

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Should Health Insurance Providers Pay For Sex-Change Operations?

Yesterday, the group Transgender Legal Defense & Education announced that an insurance company has agreed to a settlement that will require it to pay for a sex-change operation for a transgender person.

Ida Hammer, 34, was born a man but has been living as a woman for the past several years. According to the TLD&E, MVP Health Care has finally agreed to pay for Hammer's sex-change operation following threats of litigation. 

"My insurance company should not be second-guessing my doctors," Hammer says in a press release. "I'm relieved that it is finally treating me fairly and covering the health care I need."

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