On March 27, 2013, an Atlanta medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $17.5 million against a local hospital for the brain injury suffered by a patient undergoing routine surgery. The now 25-year-old man was an innocent bystander when he was shot in his face outside of a Walmart on April 9, 2008. His injury was not too serious but his physicians nonetheless decided it would be appropriate treatment to wire his jaw shut so that he could recover from his wound properly.
The routine surgery to wire his jaw shut was successful until his physicians attempted to wake him from anesthesia. As he emerged from anesthesia, the hospital claimed that the man was violent, fighting with his medical providers and pulling out his breathing tube. The man did not receive oxygen for seven or eight minutes during the episode, resulting in a severe brain injury. The man’s mother had to take off from work for about nine months in order to take care of her son, who needed round-the-clock care. His parents described him as being like an infant after his brain injury and he still has problems with his speech and he is unable to write, despite making progress every day.
The hospital blamed the man for his part in causing his own injuries. The medical malpractice plaintiffs alleged that the hospital failed to follow its own protocols regarding the administration of anesthesia in not having sufficient staff on hand to care for the man and by waking the man from anesthesia too quickly.
The defendant hospital has stated that it disagrees with the medical malpractice jury’s verdict and that it plans to appeal the verdict.
In a 2006 study that analyzed injuries and liability for monitored anesthesia care compared to general and regional anesthesia by reviewing the closed malpractice claims in the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Database since 1990, the researchers found that more than 40% of claims associated with monitored anesthesia care involved death or permanent brain damage, which was similar for general anesthesia claims. The most common claim in monitored anesthesia care claims was respiratory depression following overdose of sedative or opioid drugs, of which almost one-half were determined to have been preventable by better monitoring, including capnography, improved vigilance, or audible alarms.
There are an estimated 35,000 to 45,000 operating rooms in the United States with more than 40 million surgeries performed each year, nearly equally divided between hospitals and outpatient facilities. Inpatient surgeries increased from 22.6 million in 1994 to 23.2 million in 2000. As of 2009, there were 41,693 anesthesiologists and approximately 44,000 nurse anesthetists (which includes certified registered nurse anesthetists and student nurse anesthetists) practicing in the United States. Forty seven percent of hospitals reported a shutdown or reduction in operation room hours due to a shortage of anesthesia providers; 54.1% of U.S. states have a current shortage of anesthesiologists.
There were 8,954 claims contained in the American Society of Anesthesiologists Closed Claims Database from the 1980s through December 31, 2008. Drug administration errors accounted for about 4% of the cases. In a 1995 survey, 89% of respondents acknowledged a drug error. During the past 20 years, anesthesia-related deaths have decreased from 1 in 10,000 anesthetics delivered to 1 in 400,000 for outpatient procedures.
Anesthesia malpractice is currently the 12th highest medical specialty when it comes to the percentage of physicians in the specialty who have paid claims for malpractice. System errors contributed to 30% of settled claims between 2004 and 2006, medication-related errors accounted for 32%, communication errors accounted for 27%, healthcare associated infections for 18%, medical records errors for 13%, and identification or wrong site surgery 5%.
If you or a family member suffered injuries as a result of anesthesia in Georgia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Georgia medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your possible anesthesiologist malpractice claim for you and represent you in an anesthesiology malpractice claim, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with Georgia medical malpractice lawyers or medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to assist you with your anesthesia malpractice claim.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.