A 55-year-old woman from Washington State had polyps on her vocal cords for which she had surgery using a laser. A breathing tube had been inserted into her throat as part of the surgical procedure and oxygen was flowing at the time the laser started a fire in her throat. The laser surgery fire was caused by the laser burning the tube which ignited in the presence of oxygen. The injuries were so severe that the woman had to be airlifted to another hospital for intensive and continuous treatment.
She has had nearly 100 additional surgeries since her original surgery in February 2012. The woman has been in the hospital or a nursing home since the fire in her throat, and she uses a ventilator for breathing but reportedly is able to swallow and her mental faculties were not affected.
A Washington State medical malpractice jury recently awarded the woman $18 million, which is in addition to the $12 million that the hospital in which the surgery was performed paid in order to settle the medical malpractice claim against it.
On December 6, 2013, the CEO of the health care system that now operates the hospital publicly apologized for the incident, stating, “I really want to give our incredible and heartfelt sorrow that this happened to this woman. This is not anything that any of us would ever want to see happen to anyone. We have to acknowledge it occurred, express our sorrows and figure out how and what we can do to improve our processes so this does not ever happen again.”
In a press release issued by the hospital on December 6, 2013, the CEO stated, “On behalf of Confluence Health, and all of our physicians and staff, I want to make a very personal apology to the patient and her family for the permanent damage we caused her. When we come to work each day, our intent is never to harm our patients. We must learn from this tragedy and do everything in our power to ensure that in the future no patient is harmed while in our care.”
One initiative referenced in the December 6, 2013 press release that was undertaken by the hospital after the laser surgical fire incident was “Modifying our surgical checklist to include routine assessment of fire risk prior to every surgery.” It is unfortunate for the woman, and costly for the hospital and the other medical malpractice defendants, that the initiative was not implemented before the woman’s tragic injuries suffered during laser surgery.
If you or a family member suffered unexpected harm during surgery, your injuries may be due to medical negligence for which the surgeon, operating room personnel, and/or the surgical facility and others may be responsible to fairly compensate you for your losses.
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