Five patients who were undergoing cataract surgery at a facility in Massachusetts during a single morning in May 2014 suffered blindness when a contracted anesthesiologist, on his first day at the facility, allegedly placed the eye block injections into the patients’ eyes instead of the muscles surrounding their eyes. All five patients experienced pain during the injections and all five patients were found to be blind in the eye that was operated on when they appeared for their follow-up appointment after their cataract surgery.
The five blinded patients were part of the 45 patients that underwent cataract surgery by the same surgeon on the same day at the same surgery center. Four of the five blinded cataract patients were blinded within a 30-minute period on the same day. The cataract surgery center where they were treated had contracted with an anesthesiology “broker” to supply anesthesiologists on an as-needed basis, such as when the regular anesthesiologist was unavailable due to sickness, vacation, etc. On this particular occasion, the regular anesthesiologist was present at the facility and was supposedly prepping and discharging patients when the injuries occurred.
The cataract surgery center alleged that its regular anesthesiologist, who was also a contracted anesthesiologist supplied by the same anesthesiologist broker, had observed the new contracted anesthesiologist perform his duties on the first three patients and determined the contracted anesthesiologist to be competent, which the regular anesthesiologist reportedly disputed during his deposition in one of the two medical malpractice lawsuits that have already been filed by injured patients.
Some patients who were treated at the cataract surgery center reportedly were not provided with an alternative to the eye-block injection, such as numbing drops that are widely used throughout the United States for cataract surgery patients.
An investigation into the incidents also raised the issue whether the contracted anesthesiologist was properly qualified and screened by the cataract surgery facility before he was allowed to perform eye blocks on its patients (the contracted anesthesiologist reportedly had last performed an eye block prior to the May 2014 cataract procedures, in July 2013). The cataract surgery center reportedly wrote a letter in July 2014 to one of the blinded patients in which it stated that her eye injury may have been caused by an error during anesthesia but her injury was “not preventable” because the contracted anesthesiologist “had extensive prior experience.”
The contracted anesthesiologist has reportedly reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine to not perform eye block procedures while the cases are being investigated. However, the contracted anesthesiologist’s agreement with the Board does not preclude him from practicing anesthesiology.
If you or a loved one were injured by an anesthesiologist in Massachusetts or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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