As common as the application and usage of anesthesia is, it still causes frequent and serious problems. Take a look at some of these cases to see how they play out in litigation in Illinois and other jurisdictions.
2004; Illinois; $1,000,000 Jury Award:
A woman in her early forties was admitted to a hospital for surgery on her nose. Doctors and nurses prepared her for the procedure as they would any other patient, and that included the administration of anesthesia.
Unfortunately, they did not check to see whether or not she was allergic to it and she in fact suffered an allergic reaction once it was administered. The incident left her with a substantial loss of vision. Naturally, she sued the providers for malpractice.
Her suit alleged they were negligent in failing to check her allergies, administering the drug, and not monitoring her deteriorating condition. The defendants replied that this was an unforeseeable situation that they could not control. The jury did not buy this defense. They awarded the woman $1,000,000 for her injuries.
2014; Illinois; $10,500,000 Jury Award:
In this incident, a child of just twelve years was sent into surgery for operation on his femur. His representatives later contented that the procedure was unnecessary and that the doctors administering anesthesia did so improperly. As a result, he sustained a hypoxic brain injury that would require constant medical attention for the foreseeable future.
The defendants flatly rejected this argument. Instead of anesthesia failures, they countered that the kid developed fat embolism syndrome and that was to blame for his injuries. Fat embolism syndrome is when fat molecules in the blood vessels interrupt the body’s oxygenation process. However, the jury was more convinced with the plaintiff’s version of events and awarded the 12-year-old $10,500,000 in compensatory, medical, and non-economic damages.
2009; Illinois; $2,200,000 Settlement:
The patient in this case was prescribed a course of surgery because she was suffering from endometriosis. This is a condition affecting the lining of the uterus. There were two anesthesiologists present and they were the ones responsible for the misconduct in question here.
While trying to put the woman under, they accidentally punctured her body and left her without oxygen for almost five minutes. This left her with extraordinary brain damage that reduced her to a vegetative state for the rest of her life. Her representatives sued the doctors and hospital for medical malpractice. Since they were obviously at fault, the defendants sought to settle and the plaintiffs consented for $2,200,000.
2014; Michigan; $7,896,538 Jury Award:
Here, a 24-year-old single mother was rushed to the hospital when she started experiencing nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, and other symptoms. Doctors thought that she might have developed a dilated bile duct so they began surgery to confirm and handle the problem.
Unfortunately, instead of using general anesthesia, the doctors used an IV sedation solution; also, as plaintiffs later contended, they did not properly maintain her airways. In their opinion, this resulted in liver failure, renal failure, cardiac arrest, and her subsequent death. The defendant doctors and hospital alleged that she died from a pulmonary embolism that caused a heart attack. The jury thought that the negligence of the defendants was to blame and game the decedent’s estate $7,896,538 for economic and non-economic damages.
2014; Pennsylvania; $1,100,000 Settlement:
A 38-year-old woman went in for a standard sinus surgery when she developed complications to the anesthesia and died. Apparently, doctors failed to adequately run a pre-operative history on her.
If they did, they would have discovered that she had sleep apnea. Also, her estate later contended that doctors failed to appreciate her body type when administering the anesthesia. These failures led to the complications that killed her. Without admitting any fault, the defendants decided to settle for $1,100,000.
2013; New Jersey; $1,240,000 Settlement:
This case involved a rather large man who needed shoulder surgery. Because the medical staff was having a hard time intubating him, they sent him to a hospital for the procedure.
There the anesthesiologists tried to put him under but it took several attempts. Finally, they were successful-at least they thought so. For an extended period of time, he actually was not receiving any air at all while he was under general anesthesia.
This gave him a severe brain injury and necessitated long-term medical care. There was really nothing the defendants could say to defend this obvious misconduct. Both sides settled out of court for $1,240,000.