Countless surgeries and medical procedures are effectively performed every day thanks to the use of modern anesthesia. Anesthesiologists may use general anesthesia, local anesthesia, regional anesthesia or spinal anesthesia to sedate the patient and control pain. Deciding on the type of anesthesia is a decision for the surgeon and anesthesiologist.
Anesthesiologists Failing to Monitor Patients During Medical Procedures
As opposed to the type of anesthesia used for the medical procedure, most incidents involving patient injury from anesthesia errors are due to the anesthesia staff failing to monitor the patient before, during or after the procedure. Improper ventilation is an example of one of these mistakes as respiratory problems are one of the leading causes of death or brain damage during anesthesia procedures.
Uncovering What Actually Went During a Medical Procedure
The type of anesthesia error may not be apparent, based on the type of injury sustained by the patient. The Chicago medical negligence attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC works with some of the leading medical experts to review clients’ medical charts to determine what types of errors were made during the anesthesia process.
There are common issues to look at when reviewing an anesthesia error event. Most severe anesthesia incidents have been attributed to respiratory issues. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) compiles data on closed malpractice claims in an attempt to learn and improve anesthesiology standards. This data shows that respiratory events in death and brain damage cases were the most common, making up 45% of the malpractice claims. Cardiac events followed up in the medical malpractice claim category comprising 25% of claims made.
Possibility of Mistakes With Anesthesia
The following conditions have been associated with medication errors and merit further investigation:
- Brain damage
- Broken bones
- Asphyxia (stoppage of breathing)
In a study done at Columbia University, 2,211 deaths related to anesthesia over a six-year period were examined. There was an average of over 300 deaths per year due to anesthesia or as a contributing factor. The main reasons found for the deaths were as follows:
- 46.6% from an overdose of anesthetics
- 42.5% from adverse effects from anesthetics in therapeutic use
- 3.6% during pregnancy and labor
- 7.3% were from other complications
Although fatalities are relatively rare from anesthesia– it does happen. This study showed that the most common cause of death was an overdose, which may have been an error on the part of the administrating anesthesiologist. Those who do survive an incident may be left with brain damage and other disabling conditions.
Sample Anesthesia Malpractice Lawsuit Verdicts & Settlements
$950,000 Settlement; Anesthesia Malpractice Wrongful Death Case; Macon County, Illinois
The victim in this lawsuit was a middle-aged man (40). He had several pre-existing conditions including obesity and problems related to long-term smoking. He entered a hospital in Macon, Illinois to receive treatment for a cyst. Staff put him under with anesthesia, but they used too much. He went into to cardiac arrest and died from the incident. The actual cause of death was an anoxic brain injury. Two siblings and his parents survived him. They brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and treating professionals. It alleged various errors in medical treatment. Both sides settled privately for $950,000.
$4,200,000 Settlement; Anesthesia Malpractice Lawsuit; Chicago Illinois
Plaintiff's attorneys here argued that the defendants improperly used anesthesia and caused the victim to have a stroke from hypoperfusion. The effects were severe for the woman who was 70 at the time of the procedure. She experienced numbness all the way down one side of her body. Also, she had to use a cane in order to walk after the incident. Plus, she racked up nearly one quarter million dollars in medical bills to correct the issue. The defendants countered that the issue arose when plaque broke free from the carotid artery. They maintained this was a necessary effect of their reasonable efforts. Obviously, the plaintiff disagreed. She took the matter to court. The jury awarded her $4.6 million. In post-trial negotiations, the two sides settled the matter for $4.2 million. These negotiations often take place in order to prevent appeals and to end the litigation. The woman's damages were to compensate her for all the legal costs, medical bills, long-term pain, disability, lost sense of normalcy, and related tangible and intangible harms that arose from the anesthesia malpractice.
$2,250,000 Settlement; Anesthesia Malpractice Lawsuit; Cook County, Illinois
The victim in this anesthesia case was a 59-year-old woman. She presented to a Chicago hospital in 2011 for treatment and care. In the end, she passed away from events that transpired while at the facility. Her lawyers argued that doctors gave her a lethal amount of lidocaine. This was used to anesthetize the area. In their narrative, it forced her into cardiac shock. Then, a brain injury followed, and she died. All the while, the woman's estate piled up $450,000 in hospital bills and medical care, not including burial and funeral expenses. Lawyers for the defendants (hospital, anesthesiologists, etc.) offered a different story. They complained that her obesity, arterial blockage, and renal disease were the culprits for her downfall. To these objections, the plaintiff's lawyers countered nicely with clear-cut failures by the medical staff, including the excessive lidocaine usage. This stark error could not be glossed over. The defendants realized this when they refused to try the matter at court. The woman's estate received $2,250,000. The majority of that came from the facility. The rest of the settlement for the anesthesia malpractice action came from the doctors.
$3,000,000 Settlement; Anesthesia Malpractice Case; Cook County
The events of this case took place at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. The victim was a little girl, just seven months old. She was sick. That's why her parents took her to see the doctor. They felt she had a fever and were having a hard time getting her to eat. Doctors examined her. Her providers though she was okay to be discharged and sent home. Yet, before they did that, they wanted to put a G-Tube down her throat so her parents could feed her easier. The medical staff needed to anesthetize the child in order to accomplish this. During the process of doing this, the tube was placed improperly. The child suffered oxygen deprivation and a traumatic brain injury. She slipped out of consciousness and never recovered. She died just a few weeks after this accident. This was a clear case of medical error. The family sued for malpractice and wrongful death. The County Hospital settled for $3 million. This was to cover the family's economic and non-economic damages from the tragedy.
$1,200,000 Jury Award; Anesthesia Malpractice Case; Chicago, Illinois
The woman at the center of this controversy was 64. She needed a carotid endarterectomy. The physician that was to perform that operation did so in conjunction with an anesthesiologist. The woman's later contended that the anesthesiologist performed negligently and caused her to have shock, seizure, and later death. Both sides offered expert testimony as to the appropriateness or inappropriateness of that doctor's actions. Also, they combated over whether the anesthesiologist was to blame for the woman's spiraling health and ultimate passing. The plaintiff's attorneys answered that question affirmatively. As proof of his responsibility, the plaintiff's lawyers claimed he negligently put the anesthesia into the blood stream instead of into the skin. This error would have prevented all of her calamity they reasoned. The defense denied this chain of logic and offered, in the alternative, that a pulmonary embolism was to blame. In the end, both sides could not agree to settle and they took their claims to court. An Illinois jury found for the plaintiffs and awarded each of the surviving three family members $400,000 for lost society.Seeking Legal Representation for Anesthesia Errors at an Illinois Medical Facility?
If your loved one suffered an unexpected injury or death shortly before, after, or during a surgical procedure, our Illinois medical negligence attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC would honor the opportunity to speak with you and begin the process of getting answers to these difficult questions.
Unlike other type of injury cases, cases involving anesthesia errors may not always be apparent. In fact, medical records and operative reports from most anesthesia error cases must be carefully evaluated before a determination can be made. Whether you have the records or not, our lawyers want to help provide you with the answers that you have. Contact us today to get a free case evaluation and to learn about what help may be available to you and your family.