A Closer Look at Anesthesia Negligence

by | May 26, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Anesthesia is an important component of the roughly 60 million surgical procedures which take place in the United States every year. Since anesthesiologists play such a vital role in the surgical care process, they also have a very high duty of care, just like all other doctors have. The anesthesia process contains several components, so there are several points where things could go tragically wrong.

If things go sideways, the aforementioned high duty of care makes it easier for a Lexington personal injury attorney to establish negligence, which is basically a lack of care. As a result, these victims are often entitled to significant compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages help fill the emotional and financial void anesthesia mistakes create. Punitive damages usually convince healthcare providers to change the way they function and put their patients first.

Duty of Care

Patients depend entirely on doctors for all their healthcare needs. The only way to empower patients is to give doctors a fiduciary duty. Physicians must give their patients all the skill, experience, and compassion they have. Nothing matters more than the patient’s welfare. That especially includes making money.

Misdiagnosis is a good example of this duty in action. Statistically, doctors misdiagnose about 20 percent of their patients. Lack of doctor-patient communication is a major factor. To maximize their incomes, doctors schedule so many appointments every day that they have little or no time to deal with individual patients. So, they know very little about a patient’s actual symptoms.

In high school, 80 percent is not only a passing grade. It might be high enough to make the honor role in some cases. But in this context, 80 percent is a failing grade. Simply stated, doctors, including anesthesiologists must do better.

The standard of care often comes into play. Anesthesiologists must thoroughly review patient records, use an appropriate type and amount of medication, and follow through. A breakdown in any area could be a breach of duty.

Breach of Duty

Although anesthesiologists have a high duty of care, a minor slip-up or adverse result does not necessarily constitute a breach of duty. There’s just very little margin for error.

First, let’s look at patient records. Relying exclusively on patient-provided information could be a lack of care, especially if the anesthesiologist doesn’t follow up on obvious red flags. This review should also include a close look at the surgical procedure and the anesthesia needs. 

Doctors must usually conduct this review themselves. Some anesthesiologists purposely over-delegate tasks to nurses or other professionals, so they can then blame these other professionals if something goes wrong.

Usually, there is a textbook type and amount of medication for a particular procedure. A mistake here could mean that the patient doesn’t wake up after the surgery or literally wakes up in the middle of a nightmare. 

But the textbook requirement isn’t always applicable. Some patients cannot tolerate certain medications or certain levels of certain medications. If that’s true, the anesthesiologist must develop a well-thought-out Plan B. There is no winging it.

New anesthesiologists often breach their duty of care in one of these first two areas. More experienced anesthesiologists often have issues in the third area. 

Instead of properly following up with patients, they put things on autopilot. Many anesthesiologists think that if they do steps one and two right, they don’t need to worry about step three. So, they may not be in the operating room, or even in the building, when doctors perform the surgery. Worse yet, some anesthesiologists disable alarms, so they have no idea if something is going wrong.

As mentioned, damages in a medical malpractice claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Victims need and deserve this compensation so they can put their lives back together following a serious anesthesia-related injury. Additional punitive damages are available if there is clear and convincing evidence that the anesthesiologist intentionally disregarded a known risk.

Medical negligence victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers