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Malpractice Liability for Anesthesia Errors

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2019 | Medical Malpractice |

Many surgeries require patients to go under anesthesia. Anesthetics reduce and prevent pain during surgery. Because anesthesia is a risky part of any surgery, an anesthesiologist is required to administer the medication and monitor the effect on the patient.

Before any medical procedure requiring anesthesia begins, a specialist will review the patient’s medical record. They must also review the patient’s history, prior medications, and allergies. Finally, they have to review the time requirements of the operation in order to determine the best dose of anesthesia. 

Three Main Types of Anesthesia

  • General anesthesia is a combination of medications that put you in a sleep-like state before surgery or other medical procedure. During surgery, the patient is completely unconscious.
  • Regional anesthesia is where only a part of the body is anesthetized, such as an arm or leg.  Your anesthesiologist injects medication near a cluster of nerves to numb only the area of your body that requires surgery. Patients typically lose consciousness or remain partially awake. Which treatment you receive depends on which surgery you need and other factors.
  • Local anesthesia is used to numb the feelings in one small part of the body. Local anesthesia only lasts a short time. As a result, its main use is for minor outpatient procedures, where the patient can leave on the same day

When a medical professional fails to provide a proper standard of care, the doctor or anesthesiologist can be held liable for any resulting injuries. Common administration complications from anesthesia include: 

  • Administering the wrong type of anesthesia
  • Intubating the patient improperly
  • Dosage error
  • Delayed delivery of anesthesia
  • Patient monitoring failures
  • Dangerously prolonged sedation
  • Failure to recognize and respond to anesthesia complications
  • Failure to properly inform a patient of instructions for before, during, or after the procedure
  • Defective equipment or medical devices used during anesthesia.

The results of anesthesia errors depend on the medical mistake made and the response from the medical team. The most common injuries caused by anesthesia mistakes include heart attack or stroke, seizures, spinal cord injuries, suffocation, damage to the trachea, brain damage, coma, and death. As you can see, anesthesia errors can take many different forms, most of which are due to medical negligence which can result in a malpractice claim.

Proving Negligence for Anesthesia Errors

The court defines medical negligence when a doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence could be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management. To prove that an anesthesiologist was negligent, your lawyer will hire an expert medical witness to try to figure out what happened during the surgery. 

Generally, hospitals take liability for healthcare providers they employ, and not usually for providers they do not employ.. In these cases, determining whether the hospital has any legal responsibility requires obtaining and reviewing the employment contract between the hospital and the anesthesiologist.

The type of contract between an anesthesiologist and a hospital determines the liability of the case. In certain cases, liability rests with both parties.

Liability of the Anesthesiologist

Hospitals usually take liability if an employed anesthesiologist commits medical negligence. A hospital may also be held liable for the negligent hiring of an anesthesiologist who was acting as an independent contractor. If the failure of the anesthesia equipment caused the patient’s injuries, the hospital can also be held liable for not properly maintaining or repairing the equipment. In many other situations, the anesthesiologist can be held liable independently for medical negligence.

At Galligan Law, potential medical malpractice cases go through a careful, multi-stage review process. This process involves our attorneys, staff, nurse reviewers, and sometimes medical experts. Together we determine if a case has merit and meets our case selection criteria. Our case review process is deliberate, thorough, and rigorous because medical malpractice cases are the most complex, expensive, and difficult cases to pursue and win in court. Galligan Law takes very seriously our obligation to our clients to not take them through the difficult legal process unless we believe we can achieve a successful result.

Contact Our Highly Respected, Experienced Iowa Medical Negligence Attorneys

Whenever anesthesia errors cause harm to a patient, the victim will need to prove it was caused by negligence. Surviving patients may pursue a personal injury claim. Alternatively, surviving family members of victims of these errors may make a wrongful death claim.

Our Iowa medical malpractice attorneys bring broad experience, expertise, care and commitment to each medical malpractice case. If you or a loved one have suffered serious harm or death as the result of anesthesia malpractice, please contact us and request a free consultation with an experienced Iowa medical malpractice attorney today.