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The Wisconsin Law Journal reports that a new type of medical malpractice lawsuits are on the rise. These suits allege hospital negligence in failing to prevent hospital acquired infections. Multi-million dollar awards have been reported in these types of cases. Last month, a jury awarded a $13.5 million verdict involving a Massachusetts woman who died from a flesh eating bacterial infection she acquired while undergoing cancer treatment. A Utah woman also entered into a confidential $16 million settlement last month to resolve a lawsuit she filed alleging that a hospital failed to catch a flesh-eating bacteria that caused her to lose three limbs and several organs.

Lawyers and the medical community are debunking the myth that these infections are not preventable. The Centers for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC) estimates that over 2 million hospital acquired infections occur annually and are responsbile for 90,000 deaths. While not all these infections are necessarily the resut of negligence, the founder and chair of the non-profit patient safety organization Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, Betsy McCaughy, has explained that "the evidence is overwhelming that nearly all infections are preventable."

The standard of care governing prevention of these infections is evolving. The CDC has published guidelines for preventing these infections. Another non-profit that evalutes and accredits health care programs, the Joint Commission, has released its own set of strategies for preventing infections. As Ms. McCaughy puts it, "hospitals that don’t follow the proven protocols are inviting lawsuits."

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