The numerous lawsuits filed by former professional football players against the NFL over the last few years have certainly taught us one thing – in scores of incidents, the health of football players has not been the NFL’s top concern. One 2014 lawsuit filed by eight retired players, including three veterans of the world champion 1985 Chicago Bears, charges that team doctors administered painkillers without prescriptions to mask injuries and keep the players on the field, resulting in long-term health problems. The conflict of interest is clear. A physician’s principal obligation is to his or her patient, but when the same organization employs both, the line can get blurred. In some cases in the past, the teams and the league haven’t cared what it takes to keep players on the field. Team doctors are tempted to prescribe a treatment that will put the player on the field by game day, whether or not that treatment is actually in the player’s best long-term health interests.
This is not to suggest in any way that NFL team doctors are intentionally unethical or that they consciously favor the interests of their teams over the health of their patients. It doesn’t matter. Doctors should never be placed in situations where they have to consider anything but their patients’ health care needs. Take the case of former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley. Several years ago, Wiley was hospitalized after he was unable to get out of his car because of debilitating muscle cramps. After three days of tests and treatment, doctors told Wiley that he had acute renal failure. Wiley has worked out and maintained healthy habits since he retired. He was 39 years old when he received the renal failure diagnosis. How did he end up suffering kidney problems? Wiley investigated some of the drugs he and his teammates were given during his playing days, in particular Vioxx and Toradol.
DO FINANCIAL INTERESTS COME FIRST?
Vioxx was an FDA-approved pain reliever that was removed from the market in 2004, when a study linked Vioxx use to heart attacks and strokes. Tens of millions in the United States received Vioxx prescriptions. Merck, the manufacturer of Vioxx, eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges and paid nearly a billion dollars in fines over fraudulent marketing. Toradol is an injectable pain reliever and blood thinner that’s still extremely popular with sports doctors. It replaced cortisone as the favored painkiller when cortisone was discovered to cause tissue damage and bone degeneration, but Toradol has been also linked to joint damage as well as kidney disease. Many NFL players receive Toradol injections on a daily basis. Wiley’s doctors informed him that prolonged Toradol use combined with his history of asthma – a history known to his team doctors – likely caused his renal failure.
Big pharmaceutical companies are not entirely to blame for the Vioxx and Toradol misuse. The FDA is also responsible for allowing some drugs to remain on the market. Vioxx, for instance, was pulled from pharmacies not by the FDA but by its manufacturer and only after a massive public outcry. Mostly, however, responsibility falls on the doctors who routinely and continually administered a dangerous drug with a warning label that clearly states it’s meant exclusively for short-term use. The NFL is built on the ideal of masculine toughness. Playing through pain is a sign of honor, but it also serves everyone’s financial interests to ignore individual health issues and to bypass proper medical procedures – even if renal failure is the consequence.
THE NEED FOR VIGILANCE
If you’re not an NFL player but you nevertheless suffer from kidney disease, you are joined by about twenty million other kidney disease patients in the United States, and you need to be vigilant about the possibility of medical malpractice. The experience of many patients is that kidney disease at first is frequently undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Undiagnosed kidney disease means vital treatment is delayed, but a misdiagnosis can lead to prescriptions for the wrong drugs – and possibly even more damage to your kidneys. If you are a kidney disease patient who has experienced a misdiagnosis, or if you were prescribed improper medication, you are the victim of medical malpractice and the law entitles you to monetary compensation.
When someone suffers with kidney disease, medical malpractice is probably the worst thing that can happen. Kidney disease cannot be cured, but if it is detected and treated at an early stage, it can often be properly managed with the right medicines. Misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose kidney disease, improper treatment, or the failure to refer a patient to the right specialist may constitute medical malpractice. Far too many patients with kidney disease have suffered medical malpractice, so rather than getting better, the health of those patients has declined. If you or someone that you love has been victimized by medical malpractice related to kidney disease, speak as quickly as possible to someone who can advocate for justice on your behalf. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney who focuses exclusively on helping kidney disease patients after they’ve suffered medical malpractice.
A GROWING PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN
How many people in the United States are at risk for kidney disease? A study in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases reports that more than half of the middle-aged adults in the U.S. are at risk for developing chronic kidney disease (CKD). As the disease progresses, the kidneys are less effective at removing wastes and excess water from the blood, so the wastes and water accumulate. The result can be anemia, high blood pressure, bone weakness, and nerve damage. If untreated or wrongly treated, chronic kidney disease patients may experience kidney failure – end-stage renal disease – and the kidneys stop functioning entirely. Dialysis or a kidney transplant are at that point the only remaining options.
The World Health Organization reports that CKD is the twelfth leading cause of death in the world today and increases by eight percent every year. CKD a growing international public health concern. It can almost always be easily detected with readily available, inexpensive testing. If a doctor fails to diagnose CKD, delayed treatment could exacerbate your medical condition and lead to severe medical complications. If you are the victim of a kidney disease misdiagnosis, discuss your legal rights and options – including a possible medical malpractice claim – as quickly as possible with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. If fact, you can make the call right now, from anywhere in the country.
For good health, healthy kidneys are essential. When the kidneys do not function as they are supposed to because of kidney disease, you are additionally at risk for other serious medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and infertility. A precise, early diagnosis can minimize the effects of kidney disease and keep the disease manageable without progressing to end-stage kidney failure. As the disease spreads, testing is now recommended for anyone over sixty or anyone with a history of kidney disease in his or her family. Hispanics, Native Americans, and African-Americans are also at especially high risk for chronic kidney disease. Physical injuries, high cholesterol, and other factors can add to the risk. Kidney disease is slow, and its initial symptoms aren’t that different from the symptoms associated with scores of other conditions. It’s a subtle, insidious, and incrementally progressing disease, so many people do not even realize that they have it.
IF YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION
If your doctor fails to see the indications of kidney disease that would have been clear to most doctors, you may choose to file a medical malpractice claim after consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. If your health deteriorated due to a failed or faulty kidney disease diagnosis, you are entitled to compensation, but that compensation doesn’t just magically appear in your bank account. You have to fight for it with your attorney’s help, and you have to prove both that the malpractice both happened and that it is the reason for your declining health condition.
The law precisely defines medical malpractice. It is any breach of the “reasonable standard of care” provided by most doctors, but unless you are a doctor yourself, it is genuinely difficult to know if you are a victim. Every malpractice case is unique, and every allegation must be thoroughly examined from both the legal and the medical perspectives. General practitioners are not required to have a specialist’s detailed knowledge, but they should know when a patient needs to be seen by a kidney specialist. If a urine test indicates that protein and blood are present in your urine, you should be retested after a short interval. If a retest also indicates blood and protein in the urine, you should be referred at once to a nephrologist.
Research recently published by the National Academy of Sciences says that five percent of U.S. medical patients – or approximately twelve million adults – are misdiagnosed every year. That’s almost 33,000 patients a day. If you are fighting kidney disease and you have been misdiagnosed at any point since you began seeking medical treatment, speak right away with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who focuses on helping the victims of kidney disease. When you are victimized twice – first by kidney disease, and then by medical malpractice – do not wait to contact an attorney who will fight aggressively for the compensation you need and the justice that you deserve.