As common as the application and usage of anesthesia is, it still causes frequent and serious problems. Malpractice lawsuits can be filed against anesthesiologists. Although anesthesia malpractice only happens in two percent of cases, the effects can be devastating when malpractice does occur.
Anesthesia Malpractice Causes
Anesthesia errors can lead to brain damage are usually a result of negligence or malpractice by anesthesiologists. These actions and situations can lead to brain damage from anesthesia:
- Patient isn’t intubated correctly
- Neglecting to notice that the patient vomited during surgery
- Blood flow to the brain isn’t monitored
- Failure to monitor patients after surgery
Awards and Settlements for Anesthesia Malpractice
Take a look at some past cases to see how they have played 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 the anesthetic, and she 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 that 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 12 years was sent into surgery for an operation on his femur. His representatives later contended 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 citing anesthesia failures, they countered that the child 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 by 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 caused 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 airway. 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 gave 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 routine sinus surgery when she developed complications due 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 surgery center’s 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, they thought. But 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.