On June 24, 2013, a Washington State medical malpractice jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding in favor of the defendant anesthesiologist in a medical malpractice lawsuit that alleged that the anesthesiologist was negligent in his care of a 66-year-old patient following minor surgery that resulted in the man’s death. The medical malpractice trial lasted more than two weeks. The man’s surviving spouse was seeking compensatory damages in the amount of $12 million for her husband’s death.
The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the defendant anesthesiologist was responsible for maintaining the man’s airway during and immediately after a kidney stone operation that took place in 2010. When the man awoke in the recovery room after the procedure, the breathing tube placed during the surgical procedure was removed. The man then allegedly had a spasm that blocked his airway and, according to the medical malpractice plaintiff, the man was deprived of oxygen for close to eight minutes, resulting in hypoxia and brain damage leading to death. The medical malpractice plaintiff alleged that the anesthesiologist failed to timely and properly respond to the foreseeable event by placing the breathing tube back in the man’s airway sooner.
The defendant anesthesiologist alleged that the man suffered two spasms and that the second spasm was fatal. The anesthesiologist alleged that the man was without oxygen for only two minutes and that the man had died from a heart condition.
The medical malpractice lawsuit also alleged that the heart monitor data from the procedure and its aftermath should have been saved; the defense argued that the machine was not set up to record the data from the heart monitor (the defense also argued that no one knew that the heart monitor machine was capable of saving the data). The medical malpractice plaintiff also alleged that the anesthesiologist went back into his record regarding the procedure and made more than 180 edits in the days following the incident.
This sad case from Washington State is a good example of the dangers and risks associated with surgical procedures even after the surgery is successfully completed and the patient is moved to the recovery room. Recovery room malpractice does occur on occasion when the recovery room staff fails to respond timely and appropriately to serious situations that may arise with regard to still incapacitated patients who cannot fend for themselves.
While an airway spasm following the removal of a breathing tube occurs only rarely, it is a known risk when the breathing tube is removed. An airway spasm can often be dealt with effectively if it is promptly diagnosed with timely and appropriate interventions and protocols implemented.
If you or someone you know suffered serious injuries as a result of the medical negligence of an anesthesiologist or medical negligence that occurred in a recovery room, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may agree to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf, if appropriate.
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