Anesthesia is an important part of medical care, ensuring that patients are comfortable with everything from minor procedures to hours-long surgeries. While anesthesiologists are some of the most highly trained physicians in the field, thousands of patients still suffer from complications during surgery due to mistakes. These mistakes are rare but can result in permanent injury or death.
Various forms of anesthesia have been in use for thousands of years, and modern methods are finely tuned for maximum comfort during surgery. The drugs used must be administered precisely and carefully, and must be constantly monitored in the operating room to ensure effective levels are maintained. There are three main forms of anesthesia in current medical use:
While it is possible to suffer injury or damage when receiving local or regional anesthesia, the majority of drastic accidents happen during surgeries when general anesthesia is in use. At this level, there are many coordinating factors that must be perfectly and constantly balanced to keep a patient stable throughout the procedure. A patient must be in good enough health for the surgery, the doctors must select the correct procedure to perform, and all participating staff must be working to the best of their ability in the operating room. If even one of these components goes wrong, disastrous consequences can occur.
Physicians who enter the field of anesthesiology complete many more years of education than general physicians. Their work involves constantly recalculating their chemical equations to keep a patient relaxed and pain-free during surgery. Nonetheless, despite their extensive training and regular review, they are people who work long hours, may make mistakes, or get distracted.
An anesthesiologist must be skilled in working out highly detailed calculations that take into account the patient’s health and vital statistics (weight, age, blood oxygen, illness, etc.), the type of procedure, the length of the procedure, and many more factors. All of these considerations must be carefully plotted, and a plan made for administering the various anesthesia drugs required.
The types of medications used during general anesthesia fall into three main categories:
When mistakes are made using these drugs, horrific consequences can occur. If too little of the hypnotics are used, a patient may awaken during the surgery but be unable to move or speak due to the relaxants. Too much of the hypnotic medication could cause long-term effects, such as brain damage. If too little pain medication is administered, a patient could feel pain but be unable to let anyone know.
Anesthesia errors do not only happen in the operating room. Before a patient enters surgery, they are often started on an initial intravenous medication to calm and prepare them for the other drugs. After the surgery, a patient may experience allergic or other reactions, such as vomiting or hallucinations, if the anesthesiologist failed to select the most compatible options for the patient’s unique needs.
Preoperative anesthesia errors include:
Anesthesia errors that happen during a procedure carry a much higher risk of causing catastrophic injury, and include:
Even when the surgery is completed, and the patient can be revived, errors can still cause complications. If a patient is left sedated for too long or is left unattended while they wake up from the anesthesia, tremendous problems can arise within minutes. Likewise, patients who do not receive adequate post-operative instructions can be subject to dizziness, clumsiness, and other conditions that could cause them to experience serious injuries.
When anesthesia-related problems occur that result in illness, injury, or death, the victim and their family may wish to hire a lawyer skilled in litigating anesthesia errors cases. While it would seem the anesthesiologist is solely to blame, mistakes can be made by doctors, nurses, and others who are part of the medical team working on the patient during their procedure. In these situations, it may be appropriate to pursue a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim against one or more parties.
Demonstrating liability in these claims requires knowledge of two major areas: laws regarding medical malpractice in the state where the incident occurred and how to gather sufficient evidence to prove the medical practitioner is at fault. These skills are best handled by an experienced anesthesia errors attorney who can draw on their professional legal team to put together the strongest case.
Medical providers, and the hospitals and organizations they work for, will rarely admit guilt or negligence. They usually possess sufficient financial and legal resources to aggressively argue against their liability. The plaintiff and their attorney must meet a higher burden of proof and compile a multitude of documents and testimony to convince the court. For example, they must prove the following:
The victim is responsible for clearly proving how the doctor or other provider failed to follow the recommended standard of care. This can be done using receipts, medical records, evidence regarding the standard of care, and any contemporaneous records the plaintiff’s lawyer can obtain.
Oklahoma law states that any medical malpractice, medical negligence, personal injury, or wrongful death lawsuits are governed by a 2-year filing window. The suit must be filed within two years following the date of the anesthesia error or within two years from the date when the victim first became aware that an anesthesia error caused their injury or illness. While this may seem like a long time, the effort of gathering evidence and building a sufficient case while recovering from trauma caused by the mistake can be hugely stressful for a victim and their family. The assistance of a qualified anesthesia errors attorney can reduce the burden while guiding the plaintiff to winning the maximum compensation for their suffering.
The injury, illness, or death that follows an anesthesia error can dramatically alter the lives of a victim and their loved ones. Instead of recovering and going on with life, a plaintiff may face overwhelming medical costs and lifelong disabilities because of someone else’s negligence. While some damages are non-economic, like pain and suffering, others are economic and are easily quantifiable, like medical bills and lost wages.
A competent anesthesia errors attorney can help the patient build a list of all appropriate damages to seek in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Oklahoma Statutes section 23-61.2 describes no upper limit for economic expenses but does cap non-economic ones at $350,000 in total, no matter how many defendants there are in a case.
Damages sought in an anesthesia errors lawsuit can include:
When you or a loved one has been wronged by a mistake in the operating room, choose the experienced anesthesia errors attorneys at the law offices of Graves McLain. We will work diligently to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation today online or by phone at 918-359-6600.
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