If you’ve had surgery, it’s likely you’ve been administered anesthesia. And that’s a very good thing. Anesthesia prevents patients from experiencing pain during medical procedures, but it is not without risk.Your Life is in the Hands of Your Anesthesiologist
The anesthesiologist is responsible for the safe delivery of the anesthesia to the patient. This includes pre-operative care and evaluation, proper monitoring during the operation, and post-operative care. If you are sedated, the anesthesiologist literally has your life in his hands, as he or she often has control over the patient’s life functions. This includes control over breathing, blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate.
So, when anesthesia errors happen, the consequences can be very serious including injury to the brain and other organs and death. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to an anesthesia mistake, you may have a medical malpractice claim. To succeed in a medical malpractice case of anesthesia error, your lawyer will have to prove that defendant doctor was negligent and that the negligence caused injury.Why You Should Choose Sickels, Frei and Mims for Your Anesthesia Error Related Case
Statistics on anesthesia-related lawsuits emphasize just how important is the experience of the plaintiff’s lawyer. A Medscape study of 4,000 anesthesiologists reported that settlement was achieved in around 40 percent of their cases, meaning that the plaintiff did not prevail in 60 percent, or most of the lawsuits. Of the 9 percent of their cases that went to trial, the plaintiff won only 2 percent of their lawsuits.
Our firm has particular expertise in medical malpractice and specifically in anesthesia error malpractice cases. The cases and settlements outlined in case results below were successfully resolved by Partner Gary Mims but are confidential so only limited details may be shared. He said,
Anesthesia Error Cases at Sickels, Frei and Mims
“While this is not always in the best interest of the public, a favorable settlement is in the best interest of our clients. Resolving an anesthesia error-related lawsuit without going to court eliminates risk, is less taxing on the plaintiff and provides compensation for injuries that is certain and faster. However, we prepare every case for trial and we prepare to win every case.”
- Doctor Ignores Sleep Apnea Condition; Patient Dies from Anesthesia Error
- $1 million for Oxygen-Deprivation Brain Damage and Death of 16-year-old plus Policy Changes
- Anesthesiologist skips routine precautions resulting in death of 16-year-old boy in outpatient ACL repair
- Anesthesiologist’s failure to adjust blood pressure for “beach chair” position causes stroke and brain damage
Whether your procedure is done as an in-patient or an out-patient, there will be a number of entities involved. Who is responsible when an error in anesthesia occurs is often very complex. In many of the anesthesia malpractice cases won by Sickels, Frei and Mims, several defendants were found to be responsible. Filing suit will make all of the medical records of your case available to your attorney, who then begins the process of discovery of if and how the anesthesia error occurred and who is responsible.
While the anesthesiologist is responsible for the administration and monitoring of anesthesia, many medical facilities will use anesthetists for the bulk of the tasks involved. An anesthetist is not a medical doctor, but a nurse specially trained in anesthesia, called a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), who works under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, who is a medical doctor. In some medical malpractice cases involving anesthesia, the anesthesiologist might be supervising a number of surgeries at the same time, each being managed by an anesthetist. The anesthesiologist may not even be in the operating room with the patient at all.In-Patient or Out-Patient: Who is at Greater Risk for Anesthesia Errors?
There has been a shift over the past several decades of more procedures conducted at out-patient facilities. Understandably, the number of medical malpractice claims for out-patient procedures has risen and the number for general operating room (OR) procedures has decreased. One study found that compensation payments are both “greater and more likely in non-OR claims than in those coming from the general OR” and that the non-OR cases in the study had a higher mortality rate as well.What Matters: Oximeters, Capnography Monitors, Advanced Airway Devices
The anesthesiologist’s responsibility is to make sure the patient’s organs are receiving adequate oxygen (ventilation), which is delivered by blood (perfusion). Like all doctors, anesthesiologists rely on medical devices to help do their jobs. For example, the anesthesiologist will often attach a clip-like device called a pulse oximeter to measure how much oxygen is in the blood, or the oxygen saturation level. A capnography monitor measures, among other things, the patient’s level of end tidal CO2 (ETCO2), the amount of CO2 that is expelled from the lungs. In an emergency, an advanced airway device may be necessary to create an open airway. The anesthesiologist is responsible for making sure the equipment is available and functioning properly and to recognize if the equipment stops functioning properly.Common Errors in Anesthesia Administration
- Administering the wrong dosage of anesthesia, either too much or too little, or not administering the medicine in a timely manner
- Failing to ensure that the patient is not allergic to the chosen anesthesia
- Failing to prevent or recognize the patient’s adverse reactions to the anesthesia
- Failing to intubate the patient properly or maintain proper intubation
- Failing to monitor the patient properly throughout a procedure
- Failing to recognize and remedy complications as they arise
- Failing to consider the patient’s positioning and its effect on blood pressure as in the “beach chair” position.
If you think that you or someone you know has been injured as a result of anesthesia error, make an appointment to discuss your case with Sickels, Frei and Mims. There is never a fee for a preliminary consultation. The statute of limitations in Virginia for medical malpractice cases is two years from the date the injury was incurred.References
Peckham C. Medscape Malpractice Report 2015: Top Reasons Doctors Get Sued – Anesthesiologiest. January 22, 2016
Vlessides M. Claims Payments and Mortality Higher in Non-OR Settings. Anesthesiology News, November 3, 2015.