Perhaps you lost a spouse while he was undergoing a surgery under anesthesia
at your local hospital; you’re wondering whether careless or negligent
care might have been to blame. Or maybe you woke up during a recent dental
procedure or surgery and experienced terrible pain, which traumatized
you. Or maybe anesthesia caused a terrible allergic reaction.
Anesthesia errors, fortunately, have become less frequent over the past 30 years, thanks
in part to better science and also to better hospital processes. Still,
thousands of patients every year suffer needless trauma and injury due
to anesthesia accidents. Here are four possible explanations for why your
disaster might have occurred:
1. An untrained or under-trained individuals might have monitored (or even
participated) in aspects of the anesthesia process.
If a doctor uses more anesthesia than necessary, the patient can die or
fall into a coma. Conversely, if she uses less than necessary, the patient
can awaken during surgery. Given these dire possible outcomes, you might
think that a skilled technician would always be at the helm. However,
in many cases, the process — or at least parts of the process —
falls into the hands of non-doctors, such as nurses or even completely
unqualified hospital staff who may not know how to read instruments properly
or react in an emergency.
2. A chart mix-up or other clerical error lead to disaster.
To titrate the appropriate cocktail of medicines, the anesthesiologist
needs accurate and precise information about the patient’s history,
prognosis and current care. For instance, if you are on a drug for high
cholesterol or a beta-blocker — and that information does not appear
on your chart — the anesthesiologist could prescribe you drugs that
could interact harmfully with your medicines.
3. A problem with the anesthesia medicine or equipment caused harm.
Sometimes, the hospital staff does everything correctly, but the machines
designed to monitor or titrate the drugs can fail. A machine failure can
result from a failure to calibrate or clean the equipment. Or the equipment
might be old. Or the equipment might be dogged by fundamental software
or hardware problems.
4. Fatigue, drugs, alcohol or other “human factors” might have
contributed to the error.
For instance, an overworked nurse — sleep-deprived from a very long
shift — might have not have noticed signs that your husband was
exhibiting signs of distress while under anesthesia. In such a case, the
nurse as well as the hospital in charge of monitoring her sleep schedule
and/or training her could be liable for the injuries and damages.
To get to the root of your anesthesia error case, please call our compassionate
and strategic attorneys for a free consultation now.