As patients, we are at our most vulnerable on the operating table, when anesthesia places us into deep unconsciousness. In this unguarded position we’re completely incapable of participating in our own medical care, but instead place all of our trust into the hands of the doctors tasked with our care. Though the majority of surgical procedures proceed smoothly without a negative event, an error with the very medication that keeps us in this vulnerable sleep state can cause great harm or even death. We’d like to think that frightening mistakes like these cannot occur, thanks to safety procedures and protocols, but a study conducted between 2013 and 2018 revealed 586 claims for damages in anesthesia error cases. In fact, studies show that while the frequency of medical mistakes in other clinical specialties has declined in the last 14 years, the rate of anesthesia errors has remained the same despite clinical practice guidelines designed by the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation.
If you or a close family member suffered an injury from an anesthesia error, you may have serious questions about how to prove your case in a medical malpractice claim.
Today’s high level of care in life-saving modern medicine wouldn’t be possible without anesthesia—first used in its earliest form in 1846 at a Boston hospital. Anesthetics are medications used to prevent pain during surgeries and other medical procedures by numbing a specific body part, blocking sensation from an entire region of the body, or by inducing a deep sleep state. The medical industry categorizes anesthesia into three types:
Though anesthesia is a life-saving medication that makes complex surgical procedures possible, it also poses significant risks, especially general anesthesia.
An anesthesia error can cause harm to the patient ranging from mild and temporary to catastrophic or deadly. Common injuries in anesthesia mistake cases include the following:
An anesthesia error can be devastating to the patient and may have negative impacts on the patient’s family and finances.
An anesthesia error can have grave or even deadly consequences. Common errors with anesthesia include the following:
Any of the above errors is an egregious medical mistake, leaving the anesthesiologist, doctor, surgical facility, hospital, or other provider liable for damages in a medical malpractice claim. “Damages” in an injury claim or lawsuit is the court’s way of describing the economic and non-economic consequences of an injury caused by negligence.
All civil claims for damages place the burden of proving liability on the victim. In a medical malpractice claim, the injury victim or their surviving loved ones must first prove that an injury occurred and then show evidence of negligence and liability on the part of the provider at fault for the injury. Liability could also lie with the facility itself if the anesthesiologist or other provider is an employee rather than an independent contractor.
Proving an anesthesia error can be complicated since it involves medical, technical, and legal knowledge. Typically, a skilled New Haven medical malpractice attorney does the following:
Once the evidence thoroughly supports the fact that an anesthesia mistake caused the victim’s symptoms or condition, the next step is proving that a provider’s negligence caused the mistake and that they meet the conditions for legal liability in a medical malpractice claim.
Doctors have a special duty to their patients to treat them at the standard of care that’s accepted by the medical community. Proving liability in a malpractice claim requires demonstrating the following facts through documented evidence in the case:
Once a claim meets the above burden of proof, a skilled malpractice attorney can make a compelling case for damages. Compensation for damages comes from the provider’s medical malpractice insurance.
The impacts of an anesthesia error can be profound, with life-altering impacts. If the injury causes death, the case becomes a wrongful death case. Most anesthesia error malpractice cases make claims for compensation for damages including the following:
Serious injuries quickly become costly, especially if they require many procedures, ongoing care plans, and loss of income. Some anesthesia errors cause disability and cognitive impairment. A successful claim for compensation cannot erase the injury but it relieves financial hardship caused by the injury and provides a sense of justice.