Anesthesia Malpractice

Anesthesia is a critical part of medical care. Anesthetic drugs can be used for minor procedures such as receiving stitches or to fully sedate patients for more invasive surgeries. While anesthesia is common and usually trustworthy, severe illness or injury could result when a provider is negligent. If you have been hurt by this kind of mistake, you need a lawyer who is skilled in handling anesthesia malpractice. At Lopez McHugh LLP, we stand ready to help you hold hospitals and other healthcare providers accountable for the harm they have caused you. We offer free initial consultations to help you understand your options for seeking compensation.

How Does Anesthesia Work?

Modern anesthesia methods are administered precisely and carefully. The anesthesiologist and their assistant must constantly monitor their equipment and the drugs used to maintain effective levels of sedation. People commonly assume that most anesthesia errors occur during the preoperative stage only; however, issues can arise in all stages and with all uses of anesthesia.

Most providers use three main forms of anesthesia:

  • Local: Numbs a specific body part.
  • Regional: Numbs a larger part of the body while leaving the patient awake. Examples include spinal or epidural blocks.
  • General: Makes the patient unconscious, so they do not move or perceive pain.

The majority of anesthesia malpractice problems occur during the use of general anesthesia for invasive surgeries. Anesthesiologists obtain additional and more specialized education than other physicians. They manage many patient-specific elements to ensure the person remains free of pain, asleep, and in stable condition throughout the surgery. If even one part of the situation goes wrong, it can cascade into a catastrophic event that causes significant injury, illness, or death.

Causes of Anesthesia Errors

Just like any other medication, there are numerous ways anesthesia drugs can affect patients. While it is possible for the drug itself to cause injury or death to a patient, more times than not, errors occur due to the negligence of medical professionals. Some of the common causes of anesthesia errors include the following:

  • Administering the wrong anesthesia drug
  • Giving an overdose of one or more anesthesia drugs
  • Providing too little of one or more anesthesia drugs, leading to anesthesia awareness, or where the patient is aware of and feels the entire surgery
  • Dispersing anesthesia drugs to a patient with known allergies
  • Using defective or dirty medical devices and equipment during the administration of anesthesia drugs
  • Delaying the delivery of anesthesia drugs
  • Failure to properly administer oxygen during surgery
  • Failing to properly monitor the patient under anesthesia
  • Not preventing anesthesia interactions with prescription medication drugs
  • Not properly instructing patients prior to anesthesia
  • Failure to follow up with appropriate post-surgical care

It is absolutely crucial that the anesthesiologist administering the medications does so in a safe way that is in line with safety standards and duty of care responsibilities.

Before, during, and after the surgery, the anesthesiologist must properly monitor and assess the patient’s vital signs. Levels of heartrate and rhythm, breathing, body temperature, and blood pressure indicate whether the patient is in distress at any time. Constant monitoring and recalculation allow medical professionals to react quickly when there is a problem.

Issues can even arise after the patient is revived. Patients who are left sedated for too long or who are unattended when they wake up can experience major problems. They may vomit or panic if no one is there to calm them. If they are under sedation for too much time, they may suffer cognitive or physical problems that leave them incapacitated.

Common Anesthesia Malpractice Injuries

When one or more of the above happens, the consequences for a patient can be dire. Minor complications resulting from anesthesia errors typically resolve themselves. These complications can include dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Unfortunately, many anesthesia errors are significant, inflicting much more than discomfort.

When significant negligence occurs at the hands of an anesthesiologist, a patient could suffer from adverse effects for the rest of their life. Anesthesia errors can cause a heart attack or stroke. If these conditions are not fatal, they may cause major complications later on if the patient recovers. This means a patient will have to undergo medical treatments and checkups more frequently than before. They may even have to make restricting life changes as a result of the medical error.

Anesthesia errors can also inflict serious spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries commonly occur when anesthesia is not administered or monitored correctly. Errors with the administration of anesthesia can cause a patient to lose blood and fluids, which could result in a loss of blood flow to the brain, causing brain damage that may be irreversible.

Epidurals and spinal anesthesia are shots given either into or around the spine. The sensitivity of the spine puts the patient at risk of spinal cord injuries when puncturing the area. The spinal cord can become infected, leading to abscesses or meningitis, both of which can be fatal. Additional spinal cord injuries can result in bleeding around the spinal column or nerve damage that causes paralysis and even seizures.

What To Do if You Suspect Anesthesia Malpractice

If a patient experiences one or more of the above injuries after surgery, it may be due to an anesthesia error. It is vital that the patient is seen right away, diagnosed, and treated. Any physician or hospital staff member that fails to do so can be liable for medical malpractice.

Reporting a concern to a doctor or appropriate agency can help, but it can also cause the responsible healthcare provider to “cover their tracks.” With the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney, a patient who has suffered injuries from an anesthesia error can collect evidence, file an anesthesiology malpractice claim, and receive financial compensation.

Gathering the relevant evidence must be done quickly to ensure it is not lost or misplaced. Your lawyer will need this information to demonstrate medical negligence, which is more complicated than negligence in other personal injury cases. Your lawyer must prove that:

  1. There was an established patient-doctor relationship
  2. The medical provider owed you a duty of care to avoid errors
  3. The provider breached or failed in this duty in some way
  4. You suffered injuries or illness as a direct result of their failure
  5. You have expenses that are a result of your injuries or illness

A medical duty of care means the healthcare practitioner must adhere to the recognized and accepted standards of care for your condition at your age and health. Like all doctors, anesthesiologists must uphold the Hippocratic Oath that they will “do no harm.” When they fail, it is time to contact a Lopez McHugh anesthesia malpractice attorney.

You Have the Right to Compensation for an Anesthesia Error

A routine surgery can quickly become life-threatening when someone makes an anesthesia mistake that causes injury or illness. Victims can suffer permanent paralysis, brain damage, or organ failure. In the worst cases, patients may pass away from their injuries.

No matter how you have been harmed by a practitioner’s negligence, you have the right to seek financial compensation for your damages in a court of law. By pursuing a medical malpractice claim, you can hold the party or parties to blame accountable and secure the financial restitution you need to pay for potential lifelong care.

Compensatory damages fall into two categories: economic (having a fixed monetary value) and non-economic (your pain and suffering). Your anesthesia malpractice lawyer will help you create a fair and appropriate estimate of all your damages, which may include:

Medical Expenses

The largest portion of your economic losses will likely be medical expenses related to dealing with the damage caused by the anesthesia error. You may need lengthy physical therapy or lifelong in-home care. ICU and specialized treatments are extremely expensive. You may even suffer permanent paralysis.

You can claim travel costs for treatment, home renovations to accommodate your injuries, medications, mobility aids, and in-home private nursing care.

Lost Income and Future Earnings

If you are disabled from your injury for any length of time, you will likely lose income. If you are hurt badly enough, you may no longer be able to perform your job, or you could be unable to earn promotions and raises. You can claim your lost wages and the potential earnings you can no longer make. You can also claim the cost of benefits, paying insurance premiums, and other work-related expenses.

Non-Economic Losses

Non-economic losses cover the ways your life has been affected by your injury. These rarely have a specific price tag but are no less devastating. You may develop depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD, among other mental health conditions. You could also experience a significant reduction in your enjoyment of life. Each case is unique, and your losses in this category may be different from someone else, and they must be compensated accordingly.

Common non-economic damages include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Isolation and loss of society
  • Loss of care and guidance for your family members
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of personal or professional reputation
  • Mental anguish
  • Permanent disability

You deserve to have every penny reimbursed for all your past, present, and future expenses that result from the anesthesia error that caused your suffering. You and your family will face burdens that would not have occurred otherwise. If your injuries are so catastrophic that you pass away, your family can seek restitution through a wrongful death lawsuit for all the above losses, plus the costs of your funeral and burial.

Contact an Anesthesia Malpractice Lawyer Today

Undergoing any type of procedure or surgery can be stressful for patients and their loved ones. With so much to worry about already, the last thing a patient should have to fear is anesthesia being administered incorrectly, causing further injury or even a wrongful death.

Patients trust that all medical professionals involved in their procedures or surgeries, as well as their recovery, will act in their best interest by following safety protocols. When anesthesiologists and other medical professionals act negligently, and their wrongdoing results in injury or death, patients and their families may be entitled to compensation.

If you or a loved one believes an anesthesia error occurred during your surgery or procedure, do not wait any longer. Contact a Philadelphia anesthesia malpractice lawyer at Lopez McHugh, LLP for a free consultation today.


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