Medical Malpractice: The Intersection of Medicine and the Law

by: Julianna Merback Burdo

Julianna Merback BurdoI was always envious during my youth of multi-talented people. Those who could sing and play an instrument, for example. That just was not me, or so I thought. No, no – I loved animals and so I initially aimed to become a veterinarian. That plight ended once I learned that understanding complex mathematics was needed to succeed in the field of animal medicine. Fast forward in life. The legal profession is for me… great! But I was a finance and real estate major in undergraduate school, so what type of law am I suited for? Enter the practice of personal injury law where my career started working on cases that stemmed from automobile accidents, fall down incidents and defective product use.

What did all PI cases have in common? They all resulted in an injury to a body part or system that the body depends upon to function. Along with each injured body part or disease came the consequent medical treatments and modalities. I became entrenched as I learned case by case about each area of medicine.

The cases were challenging. One that I recall involved a defective firearm that discharged accidentally, shooting a bullet through my client’s popliteal artery and causing him to exsanguinate alone in a remote location. The questions were endless: what caused the gun to fire, where was it in relation to the bullet trajectory, and how long did it once the popliteal artery – what I learned to be among the largest vessels of blood flow in the body – was lacerated for my client to expire? The answers flowed from a combined exploration of medicine, scientific principals and the law.

In the early 2000s, my practice turned its concentration almost exclusively to cases involving medical and dental errors, and along with that came a vast expansion of my medical knowledge. My cases were no longer limited in the medical context to the injury (harm) itself but instead extended into issues involving what is known as the standard of care, that is, the level of care required by a licensed medical provider in the field of medicine at issue. Standard of care medical issues are too numerous to list, but include medical standards which apply to areas such as clinical consultations and recommended treatment plans, acute and long-term care, differential diagnoses, informed consent and known surgical risk and alternative considerations, medical documentation, pre/intra/post operative care, diagnostic versus screening radiology imaging, and assessment of an individual’s prior medical history/co-morbidities.

I have gained extensive knowledge with the assistance of many exceptional medical experts in areas of medicine including dentistry, cardiology, surgery and post-operative care, oncology, emergency room and paramedic care, home nursing errors, obstetrical malpractice (labor and delivery errors, stillborn and shoulder dystocia cases, IVF and high-risk pregnancy complications). I am particularly passionate about women’s health issues and frequently handle cases in the areas of obstetrics, gynecology, maternal fetal medicine, reproductive rights, pregnancy management during unrelated specialty care, and breast imaging.

In every case, we are called upon to apply the facts to the medicine at issue and how it intersects with the applicable law. Our medical malpractice team spends 100% of everyday advancing our client’s interests through this multi-factorial prism. If you believe that you or your loved one may have been a victim of a medical or dental error, call us at (215) 569-0900 for a free consultation.