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$265,000 Settlement in California Medical Malpractice Case Shows the Tragedy of Arbitrary Mandated Settlement Limits

In March of 2012, the family of a 10-year-old California girl took her to Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Park Medical Center because she was suffering from a fever, vomiting and shortness of breath. A day later, after being examined and released by a doctor following a brief examination at the urgent care center, she died.

Now, almost two years after the tragic death of the girl, Daniela Zelig, her family reached a miniscule $265,000 settlement with Kaiser Permanente to end legal proceedings surrounding their daughter’s care, according to a Jan. 14 story in The San Gabriel Valley Tribune newspaper.

Daniela apparently died of undiagnosed pneumonia after the doctor in the urgent care center failed to adequately evaluate her worsening condition, her family’s attorneys told the paper.

A stock image of a lawsuit form, along with a stethoscope on a desk.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/courtneyk

In such a case, a plaintiff could sue for medical malpractice and collect an appropriate award based on the factors in the case, the medical treatment that was or was not performed and the failure of the medical staff to provide accepted and proper medical treatment to a patient in distress.

In this case, however, and in many cases like it, miniscule settlements that do not properly punish errant doctors and medical centers are now reached because of arbitrary, unfair and insensitive laws that limit the amount of damages that patients and their families can collect after they are harmed.

That’s what happened in the case of Daniela’s family.

One of her family’s attorneys told the paper that the girl was one of the very last patients in the urgent care center on the night that her mother took her in for treatment, and that she was given “a very cursory examination. She was basically told she had a viral flu and that they didn’t need to have any antibiotics.”

The attorney “suspects the doctor did not give Zelig the proper examination because of the late hour,” the paper reported. Instead of immediately reacting to the apparent severity of her condition, Daniela “was discharged with a high fever, unstable vital signs and a life-threatening infection,” the attorney told the paper. Her condition worsened overnight and she was taken to an emergency room elsewhere the next morning, where the girl died. The cause of her death was listed as pneumonia, the attorney told the paper.

The tragedy didn’t end there, however. The girl’s family sued Kaiser Permanente over her care but ran up against California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which sets an arbitrary recovery limit of $250,000 in medical malpractice cases.

“The family fought with Kaiser until December when they finally accepted the settlement agreement” because of the cap, the paper reported.

That’s an outright travesty of justice for this family, and it’s also a sad fact that this kind of arbitrary cap on damages that can be received by a plaintiff in the United States is becoming more common in many states.

The lawyer for the family “called the payout a ‘pittance’ for Kaiser,” The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported. “The family feels as if Kaiser is really not experiencing any true consequence by virtue of what happened to their daughter,” the lawyer said. “To them, it is just the cost of doing business.”

These arbitrary caps have been adopted around the nation by legislators and legislatures who accepted huge political campaign donations from doctors and medical facilities and then unleashed new laws that protect bad doctors and bad medicine at the expense of harming families and patients who receive sub-standard care.

This case is an absolute embarrassment.

What incentive does Kaiser Permanente have to police themselves in future incidents – and there will certainly be future cases like this one again – when the consequence of their sloppy behavior is really meaningless to them?

And what do we as a society say to the family who has lost a child in this kind of case? Here is a mere $265,000 for your incredible loss? OK, go and have a good day?

Most medical care today is delivered by corporations – well-endowed, well-insured corporations. This image of the mom and pop practitioner is a thing of the past.

And in cases like this, with arbitrary medical malpractice recovery limits, these corporations virtually get away scot-free when something goes very wrong with their patient care. They often overwork their medical staffs and these are the consequences. And the result is that patients are getting poor medical care, with limited abilities to sue for adequate damages when all hell breaks loose.

All Americans need to be enraged about such arbitrary medical malpractice recovery limits. We must all call our legislators and other government officials and tell them of our disgust with these kinds of back-door deals that are being made in courthouses across the nation that are hurting victims and their families. Unfair and arbitrary settlement caps are simply bad for victims and their families and futures.

The heartbreaking case involving young Daniela Zelig is a somber reminder of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in doctor’s offices, hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of inadequate or incorrect procedures. Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Berks County Jury Awards $1.7 Million Verdict to Family of Infant Who Died After A Medical Misdiagnosis

When the family of a three-month-old girl brought her into the emergency room of Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Reading, Berks County, on Dec. 16, 2007, the baby was suffering from a 103-degree fever.

The infant, Emma Takacs, was seen by a doctor who diagnosed her with a middle-ear infection, prescribed an antibiotic and discharged her, according to a June 25 story in The Legal Intelligencer.

The next morning, the baby was found to be “pale, cool to the touch and lethargic” and was rushed to her pediatrician’s office and then transferred to Lehigh Valley Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis, hypoxic brain injury and hydrocephalus, according to the story. Some 21 months later, on Sept. 15, 2009, the baby “died of respiratory complications related to the infection.”

A Berks County jury awarded a $1.7 million verdict to the parents of an infant who died after her illness was misdiagnosed by a physician. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/stuartbur

On June 14, following a week-long trial, a Berks County jury ruled in favor of the infant’s parents in a medical malpractice case against the original emergency room physician, Dr. Duane D. Siberski, and Reading Hospital. The surviving family was awarded $1.7 million in damages in the case, according to the Intelligencer.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation. “Pneumococcal meningitis occurs when the bacteria that have invaded the bloodstream move across to infect the ‘meninges’ (the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord).” A hypoxic brain injury occurs when a patient’s brain does not get enough oxygen. And hydrocephalus is a condition where a patient suffers from an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The 10-2 jury verdict sided with the family’s claims that the doctor “failed to diagnose a bacterial meningitis infection” which was making the baby seriously ill, according to the story. The infant’s parents are Anna and Charles Takacs.

“The plaintiffs argued in their memorandum that the applicable standard of care required Siberski to order, at minimum, a blood count and urinalysis to rule out the possibility of bacteremia and meningitis, regardless of the presence of an ear infection,” the story reported. “Those test results would have been abnormal, prompting further blood testing and possibly a lumbar puncture, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.”

The plaintiffs also argued that Siberski erred by not scheduling a follow-up visit within 24 to 48 hours of the first emergency room visit when he treated the baby, the story stated. Instead, the doctor had “discharged Takacs with the instruction that her parents bring her back for a follow-up ”as needed,’” which did not meet the standard of care he should have maintained, the story said.

“Dr. Danny Benjamin, the plaintiffs’ infectious diseases expert, opined that had Siberski complied with the standard of care, Takacs would have been diagnosed and treated for an infection before a catastrophic brain injury occurred, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum,” reported the Intelligencer.

The jury awarded the family $860,000 for their infant daughter’s future lost earnings and $860,000 for her pain and suffering, the report stated.

This tragic case is a somber reminder of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of inadequate or incorrect procedures.

Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Failed Colon Surgery Results in Woman’s Death and a $19.5 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict

During a routine colonoscopy in 2008, a non-cancerous polyp was found inside the colon of a Bucks County, Pa., woman.

But instead of removing the polyp through a minimally-invasive colonoscopy or an endoscopic procedure, her doctor performed a colon re-section, removing 2.5 feet of her colon and then surgically putting the remainder back together, according to a recent story in The Legal Intelligencer.

The problem, though, occurred when the more-invasive surgical re-section failed and leaked her fecal matter into her bloodstream and body, leading to a septic infection that kept the woman in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for 305 days, the story said.

Eleven days after her failed first surgery, Mariann Pomroy required a second surgery and was fitted with a colostomy bag. But her medical problems still were far from over.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/djgunner

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/djgunner

“When Pomroy was finally released home, she was confined to a hospital bed, dependent upon oxygen and needed kidney dialysis,” reported The Legal Intelligencer. Three hundred and sixty-four days later, on Aug. 12, 2010, Pomroy died, the victim of a medical malpractice tragedy.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

The procedure was supposed to be a routine removal of a non-cancerous, abnormal growth of tissue.

Instead, Pomroy, who had undergone four previous abdominal surgeries, suffered severe complications that contributed to her eventual death. She was 57 when she died.

The two sides disagreed in court about how a decision was reached regarding the procedure she would eventually undergo.

Her surgeon, Dr. Ernest F. Rosato, “said that he recommended a colonoscopy to Pomroy but she opted for the surgery out of fear of having perforations,” according to the story. ” However, Pomroy’s husband [George], who attended the appointment with her, said that the advice was for Pomroy to have a colon resection, and he brought up if there was an easier way to remove the polyp.”

After her death, Pomroy’s family sued the doctor and the hospital, alleging serious medical errors were made in providing her care.

On Feb. 26, a Philadelphia jury awarded her family $19.5 million in damages by an 11-1 verdict, reported The Legal Intelligencer. The verdict included $10.5 million in wrongful death damages and $9 million in survival damages.

This tragic case is a somber reminder of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of overzealous, inadequate or incorrect procedures.

Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Medical Malpractice: Death of 17-Year-Old Girl After Tonsillectomy Highlights Dangers of Surgical Procedures

It was to be a routine tonsillectomy, just like most of the more than half-million such procedures done each year in the United States.

But something went very wrong following 17-year-old Mariah Edwards’ surgery on March 20, 2012 at the Abington Surgery Center in Montgomery County, according to a recent story in The Legal Intelligencer.

The teen was apparently left unmonitored in a recovery room following her tonsillectomy, and she went into respiratory distress which was not immediately noticed by the medical staff, the report stated.

Tragically, Mariah Edwards died 15 days after the surgical procedure.

“The case highlighted that there may be more risk for surgical patients in the recovery room than there is during the surgery itself,” her family’s attorney told The Legal Intelligencer.

A surgical team is in the midst of a medical procedure in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/uchar

The teen was given a pain medication after the procedure which depressed her respiratory system, according to the story, and she was left alone for some 20 minutes while medical workers were with another patient. During that time, she “went into respiratory distress and suffered a brain injury that ultimately led to her death,” her attorney told the Intelligencer.

It was later learned “that the monitor placed on Edwards was either not properly set or muted so the nurse could not hear warnings of Edwards’ respiratory distress,” the story reported.

The teen’s family received a $6 million settlement in the medical malpractice case this past December, and several policies and medical procedures were changed at the surgical center to prevent a similar outcome from every happening again, the story reported. Nurses must be present and remain with each patient who comes out of surgery into a recovery room after receiving pain medicines, and patient monitors can no longer be muted by medical staff members, according to the Intelligencer. In addition, “nurses must have clear lines of sight so they can see their patients at all times,” said the report.

Tonsillectomies, in which the tonsils are removed from the back of a patient’s throat, are one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States, with more than 530,000 procedures performed annually in children younger than 15 years, according to a 2011 clinical practice guideline report by the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio.

And usually, it is a very safe procedure, according to a 2010 post on the ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) Blog, maintained by Fauquier Ear Nose & Throat Consultants of Virginia.

“Medical literature places the mortality rate from tonsillectomy between one in 15,000 and one in 35,000 procedures (0.03% – 0.06%), mostly from anesthesia complications, airway loss, and blood loss,” according to the blog post. That means that about 30 deaths occur per year from the procedure. “As such, tonsillectomy should ONLY be performed if they are truly causing a significant health problem such as obstructive sleep apnea or recurrent tonsillar infections and NOT just because ‘they are big.’”

A similar case occurred in Palm Harbor, Fla., in 2010 when a 12-year-old girl died after a tonsillectomy and her family filed a lawsuit alleging medical mistakes in her treatment.

These tragic cases are somber reminders of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of inadequate or incorrect procedures.

Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Meningitis Death Toll from Contamination Steroid Injections Hits 21, New Cases Continue to Surface

After getting routine steroid shots to treat various aches and pains, 21 patients from across the United States have died from fungal meningitis connected to contaminated steroid medications provided by a Boston-area pharmacy.

So far, 268 cases of the fungal meningitis from the contaminated injectable medications have been reported with more continuing to come in, according to a story from Reuters, while ongoing investigations into the outbreak continue.

Now a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of one of the victims of the tragedy against the pharmacy, New England Compounding Center (NECC).

“U.S. health regulators confirmed on Thursday the presence of the deadly Exserohilum fungus in vials of the NECC steroid used for the pain injections,” Reuters reported. “They estimate that as many as 14,000 people may have been exposed to the contaminated medication.”

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Oxford

The outbreak appears to be connected to three potentially contaminated lots of the drug, methylprednisolone, which were shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states, the report stated.

NECC suspended operations earlier this month as the investigation into the outbreak continued, and the company recalled its products, according to a story by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Unlike other forms of meningitis, the fungal meningitis infection in these cases is not contagious, according to the CDC. But left untreated, it can cause serious health problems and is potentially deadly.

Several patients have suffered strokes that are believed to have resulted from their infections, according to the CDC, which other patients have developed fungal infections associated with injections in a peripheral joint, such as a knee, shoulder or ankle.

“CDC and public health officials are referring any patients who have symptoms that suggest possible fungal infection to their physicians, who can evaluate them further,” the agency stated. “Patients who received injections in peripheral joints only are not believed to be at risk for meningitis, but they could be at risk for joint infection.”

As many as 14,000 patients may have received injections using the contaminated steroids, according to the CDC.

“Patients and clinicians need to remain vigilant for onset of symptoms because fungal infections can be slow to develop” the agency reported. “In this outbreak symptoms typically have appeared 1 to 4 weeks following injection, but it’s important to know that longer and shorter periods of time between injection and onset of symptoms have been reported. “

Patients and their doctors should watch closely for symptoms of problems for at least several months following the injection, the CDC recommends.

What’s particularly worrisome about the outbreak from a legal standpoint is that there is apparently little federal oversight for so-called compounding pharmacies like NECC, which take ingredients and make their own batches of drugs, usually for lower prices than major drug manufacturers, according to a story in The New York Times.

“The Food and Drug Administration has more regulatory authority over a drug factory in China than over a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts,” Kevin Outterson, an associate professor of law at Boston University, told The Times.

At the same time, “many compounding pharmacies perform well, producing formulations of drugs for specialized needs,” The Times reported. “Compounders have also provided hospitals and doctors with cheaper alternatives to F.D.A.-approved drugs.”

In the case of NECC, “the Massachusetts company itself has a troubled past,” The Times reported. “A series of complaints had been lodged against New England Compounding over the past decade. The State Health Department inspected in 2006. According to a warning letter sent by the F.D.A. from that year, the company was accused of illegally producing a standardized anesthetic topical cream, inappropriately repackaging a drug, and telling doctors that using an office staff member’s name was enough to put in an order, even though rules require a prescription for a particular patient.”

For patients who have been receiving steroid injections, all of this is sobering news.

You should talk with your doctor to find out if it is possible that your injections included medications that are involved in the current meningitis outbreak, and you should work out a plan for follow-up care and monitoring to ensure your health and safety.

It is imperative that patients ask lots of questions and demand answers about their medical care from their doctors and other clinicians during every step of their care.

There are so many legal questions that arise in medical treatment cases like the meningitis outbreak. That’s why you and your family should immediately seek professional and compassionate legal advice and assistance so you can quickly learn your legal options to recover damages if you are seriously injured in such a situation.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical injury or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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York County Jury Awards $6 Million in Wrongful Death Case

The family of a 53-year-old woman who died after surgery won a $6 million jury verdict in York County in a recent wrongful death case against the medical team that treated her.

In what is believed to be the largest York County jury award in several years, the jury ruled in favor of the family of the victim, 53-year-old Sherrie Ann Burkhardt, who died Dec. 19, 2007, two days after she underwent emergency surgery at York Hospital, according to a story in The York Daily Record.

Burkhardt, of Seven Valleys, Pa., had been admitted to the hospital complaining of chest pains.

After she arrived at the hospital, a surgeon examined her and performed a cardiac catheterization on the patient, according to a story in The Legal Intelligencer.  The examination found that Burkhardt’s right heart artery was almost completely obstructed and required three stents.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/babyblueut

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/babyblueut

Complications began after the patient was moved to the hospital’s medical surgical intensive care unit following the surgery, according to The Legal Intelligencer.  During court testimony, one of the doctors on Burkhardt’s medical team said he told another doctor about observing abnormal abdominal bleeding in the patient after the surgery.  The other doctor, however, testified that he was “only made aware of a transient drop in blood pressure and would have ordered all the proper tests had he known Burkhardt’s full list of symptoms.”

That poor communication between the doctors was a key part of the Burkhardt family’s case against the medical team and the hospital. “The complaint alleged her death was the post-surgery result of a lack of communication and violation of patient safety rules by doctors at York Hospital and Cardiac Diagnostic Associates,” reported The York Daily Record.

Ultimately, that meant that the victim didn’t receive adequate care following the surgery.

In a pre-trial memorandum, the Burckhardt family alleged that neither doctor “continued to inform any cardiologist, as had been ordered, about the drop in blood pressure and increase in heart rate, nor did they advise of the hallmark symptoms of bleeding, back pain, abdominal pain, distension and tenderness, gray skin pallor, anxiety, agitation and labored respirations,” according to The Legal Intelligencer. “Either way, all the symptoms the plaintiff pled as hallmark signs of internal bleeding were documented in Sherrie Burkhardt’s medical records only 10 minutes after she arrived in the intensive care unit and three hours before she coded and went into cardiac arrest.”

The Burkhardt family was awarded $5 million for wrongful death and $1 million for any treatment injuries that Burkhardt suffered before she died, according to the paper.

This tragic case illustrates the dangers and risks that patients can face when undergoing medical procedures in emergencies. Split-second decisions made by doctors, nurses and other medical staff members can have huge and instant negative impacts on patients when they are most vulnerable during medical emergencies. And poor communication about patients and their ongoing treatment among medical team members can be devastating, and deadly.

That’s why if you or a family member is ever involved in such a situation you should get the best legal advice you can find to learn your legal options so you can recover damages for your injuries and suffering.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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