According to California health regulators, the long-term nursing unit of a California hospital was responsible for the negligent medical treatment and death of an 81-year-old woman in June, 2011, who had a breathing tube in her throat. The investigative report determined that the nurse who was changing the woman’s breathing tube failed to remove the cap on the new breathing tube, which caused the woman to die by suffocation because she could not get any air into her lungs.
The hospital was fined $100,000 by the State of California (the maximum allowable fine) for its alleged failure to have procedures in place for replacing patients’ breathing tubes. The hospital has indicated its plan to appeal the fine.
There are about 1,300 nursing homes in California. About 20 of them are fined the maximum amount each year.
The woman had been in a vegetative state for about one year after suffering a stroke. She was able to open her eyes but she could not communicate with others or follow directions. While she was able to breath on her own, the breathing tube was used for medical treatments.
One can only imagine if the woman was aware of her dire circumstances while she suffocated to death. One would hope that she was not. Can anyone imagine the pain and anguish that the woman would have felt if she was aware that she could not breath and that she could not resolve her breathing problem on her own?
When a patient must rely completely and solely on the care of others who are supposed to be professionally trained in providing medical care that is required in order to sustain life, even a seemingly small oversight such as failing to remove the end cap of a new breathing tube after replacing an old breathing tube may result in catastrophic and irreversible injuries or death.
While it may be safely assumed that the nurse who failed to remove the cap on the woman’s breathing tube had no intention of making that medical mistake, and many people may empathize with the nurse’s probable reaction and feelings when she discovered that her medical error caused her patient to suffocate to death, one must not lose sight of the fact that a person died a horrible and unnecessary death as a result of medical negligence.
The extent of the harm caused by negligent medical care is not always directly related to the egregiousness of the negligent act or omission that was the cause of the injuries suffered. The smallest mistake may result in the ultimate injury — death. A moment’s lapse in judgment or the slightest distraction when providing necessary medical care is all that is needed to set in motion the chain of events that forever impact a patient’s enjoyment of life. An unconscious patient or a patient otherwise unaware of a medical provider’s mistake or error is most at risk for suffering the consequences of medical malpractice. Many patients are not even aware that medical malpractice was the cause of their “bad medical outcome”; they only know that they suffered unintended or unexpected results from their medical treatment.
Compounding the problem of discovering whether medical malpractice was the cause of a patient’s injuries is the fact that the very medical providers who may have committed medical malpractice are the ones who write and create the medical records that often fail to reveal the full extent of the medical errors or mistakes that caused the harm to the patients.
If the medical malpractice of a medical provider such as a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, doctor, nurse, medical aide, or other caregiver has caused you or a family member to suffer pain, injuries, or death, the legal services of medical malpractice attorneys in your local area may be helpful in filing a medical malpractice claim for compensation for your losses.
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