‘Gel’ biomaterials may help treat spinal cord injuries

Researchers at the University of British Columbia are leading an international effort to develop a new way to treat spinal cord injuries which they hope will lead to increased motor function and a better quality of life for patients.

They’re looking at the use of biomaterials, or soft gels, to repair the gap that’s created when a person’s spine is injured.

The high-tech gel would be injected into the site of the injury, which can be a few centimetres wide, and conform to the shape of the area while acting as a bridge for growing nerve fibres.

Canada research chair in spinal cord injury and UBC orthopaedics professor Dr. Brian Kwon said spine surgeons are treating newly paralyzed patients every week in Vancouver and across the country.

“It’s one of the hardest things we do as spine surgeons, is to talk to patients that have had a spinal cord injury about the fact that we really don’t have treatments to improve their neurological function,” he said. “We want a therapy that has the least chance of causing any damage, because these are patients that have had a catastrophic injury in the first place. We want to make it as safe as possible.”

Insurance Companies Pay $43MM To Oppose Fairness for Injured Patients Act

Insurance companies who profit by denying fair compensation to patients injured or killed by medical malpractice have put up $27.8 million to oppose the Fairness for Injured Patients Act. Insurance money accounts for two-thirds of the $43.8 million raised to oppose the Fairness Act, a measure that seeks to restore accountability for injured patients on the November 2022 California ballot.   

“California insurance companies will spend whatever it takes to protect their golden goose – California’s cap on compensation for those injured, maimed or killed by medical malpractice that prevents many patients from ever seeking justice,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “The $250,000 cap on damages for a person’s lost quality of life, disability and death hasn’t gone up a dime since 1975, and that means insurance companies never have to compensate patients who are harmed or killed in a medical facility they trusted to make them better. The cap is a gold mine for insurance companies and the Fairness Act will level the playing field for injured patients who have been denied justice for too long.”

The Fairness for Injured Patients Act would index California’s $250,000 cap on compensation for malpractice victims’ lost quality of life, disability or death, and allow judges or juries to decide fair compensation in cases of catastrophic injury. The cap has not increased since it was enacted in 1975, and is worth just $50,000 in today’s dollars. 

Sarah Hitchcock-Glover’s son Adam was just twelve years old when his physician’s failure to order simple lab tests after surgery caused her to miss clear signs of septic shock and cost Adam his life. His parents went to court to prevent this from happening to another family, and quickly learned how the law stacks the deck against patients. 

“We brought suit to hold the surgeon accountable for the errors that led to Adam’s death, but her insurance company did everything they could to delay and drag out the case. As we neared trial, the money available to pursue the case ran out because California caps recovery for a child’s death at $250,000. We were devastated that the cap forced us to abandon the case, so close to getting answers and accountability, because of costs. The insurance company paid nothing and no one was never held responsible. Nothing changed,” said Hitchcock-Glover, of Los Gatos, California. 

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