Learn when an error made during surgery may qualify as medical malpractice
Anesthesia is the blockage of pain and other sensations during medical procedures. Despite the popular image of patients “going under” beneath a mask, there are multiple types of anesthesia, and they can be administered in different ways, including through an epidural or intravenous (IV) line.
The misuse or misapplication of anesthesia can be a contributing factor in medical malpractice lawsuits. In the most extreme cases, patients can suffer death from anesthesia overdose.
Anesthesia death statistics
It’s estimated that an average of 7 patients out of every million die during full anesthesia, which is almost double the rate of the 1980s.
Part of the reason for the rise is the increased rate of older adults undergoing surgeries and other medical procedures requiring anesthesia. They’re more likely to suffer complications, including fatal ones, because they often have pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure.
Most frequent anesthesiologist errors
Anesthesiologists have a complex specialty, and this can result in life-threatening mistakes for patients. Here are just a few of the most frequent causes of lawsuits related to anesthesia:
- Incorrect dosage
- Incorrect medication
- Improper use of anesthesia equipment
- Leaving the patient unattended while under the influence of anesthesia
- Not checking the patient’s medical history
- Failure to monitor vital signs in reaction to anesthesia
- Failure to follow the instructions of the surgeon
- Failure to instruct the patient not to eat or drink before surgery
- Failure to recognize allergic reactions or other signs of complications
Procedurally, anesthesiologist mistakes can range from improperly intubating the patient to accidentally turning off their oximeter (a device that measures oxygen levels). Anesthesiologists can also make pre- and post-operative mistakes that include things like failing to provide adequate instructions and failing to properly warn patients about the risks associated with anesthesia.
Potential complications from anesthesia errors
Anesthesia can have side effects even in the best of cases, but when those side effects exceed the bounds of normal recovery, they become symptoms of a larger issue.
Common complications from anesthesia include the following:
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Brain damage
- Respiratory issues
- Heart attack
- Paralysis and other spinal cord injuries
Death can occur because of the direct administration of anesthesia or because of complications that arise in its aftermath.
When is an anesthesia error considered medical malpractice?
Legally speaking, medical malpractice is defined as an act of negligence from a healthcare professional that results in patient injury. This negligence can take many forms, including a failure to follow proper protocols or a failure to perform the due diligence required by the job.
To prove medical negligence, you’ll need to satisfy 4 requirements:
- Proving that your anesthesiologist owed you a duty of care
- Proving that they breached this duty
- Establishing that you were injured as a result of their negligence
- Establishing that your injury led to damages (i.e., health problems)
Can the hospital be held legally responsible for an anesthesia error that leads to wrongful death?
Hospitals aren’t always liable for the actions of their anesthesiologists. If the anesthesiologist is an independent contractor, for example, rather than an employee, the hospital isn’t considered legally responsible for them.
You might still be able to sue the hospital if you can prove that their hiring practices were negligent. You can also sue them if the anesthesiologist’s mistake was caused by a malfunction of their equipment or a flaw in their surgical protocols.
Long story short, there are many complexities in the law surrounding anesthesia deaths, so it’s a good idea to hire a wrongful death attorney to help you navigate it.
What damages are available in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit?
If you can prove that medical negligence resulted in your loved one’s death, you might be entitled to wrongful death benefits. They’re calculated in several ways during settlement arrangements.
Here are a few factors that can influence how much you receive:
- Medical costs/hospital bills
- Funeral costs
- Loss of future income
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of support services
- Pain and suffering
You can also seek something known as punitive damages if you can prove that your loved one’s death was the result of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
What is the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases related to medical malpractice in Florida?
Under Florida law, you have 2 years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although some exceptions may apply, in most cases, failure to file a lawsuit within this timeframe will prevent you from recovering any compensation.
How can a wrongful death attorney help after an anesthesia error that leads to wrongful death?
If you’ve lost a loved one to an anesthesia overdose or any other kind of medical malpractice, a wrongful death attorney can be a valuable asset when you’re seeking compensation. They’ll be familiar with the complexities surrounding both wrongful death and medical malpractice laws, so they’ll have the skills to navigate deadlines, exploit loopholes and argue precedents.
They’ll also be able to assist you with everything from filing paperwork to making court appearances. Additionally, wrongful death attorneys will have an intrinsic understanding of the value of your case. This will allow them to maximize your benefits by fighting back against the hospitals and insurance companies that are trying to undercut you.
A recent plastic surgery death in Florida
In 2022, a young mother died while under anesthesia at a plastic surgery clinic in Tampa. Her death was the result of an unqualified doctor administering her anesthesia. The doctor was a former OB-GYN who’d been restricted from her practice due to another complaint. The victim’s family is expected to file a wrongful death claim.
Contact an experienced Tampa wrongful death attorney
If your loved one died after undergoing anesthesia and you believe negligence may have been involved, contact the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo. While we know that no amount of money can truly compensate for the loss of someone you love, it can help you begin the recovery process and get your loved one the justice they deserve. Our injury attorneys are ready to help you hold the negligent parties responsible.