A Michigan medical malpractice jury recently determined that a Michigan hospital, an anesthesiologist practice, and a physician should pay $7.9 million in compensatory damages to the survivors of a woman who allegedly died due to medical malpractice. The defendant hospital immediately expressed its intention to file an appeal of the medical malpractice jury’s award.
The Underlying Facts
The medical malpractice lawsuit was filed by the woman’s family, alleging that the 24-year-old mother, who was 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 270 pounds, was complaining of abdominal and stomach pains that were suspected to be due to a gall bladder problem for which she was admitted to the defendant hospital for a procedure in which an endoscope (tube) is inserted through the mouth, down the throat, and into the stomach to explore for what may be causing the symptoms.
During the procedure that took place on September 23, 2009, the woman was not intubated, which the plaintiff’s experts testified was a breach of the standard of care. The woman was given Propofol (Diprivan), the same drug involved with Michael Jackson’s death, to relax her before and during general anesthesia for the medical procedure. However, the woman awoke during the procedure and reportedly began thrashing about. For 20 to 30 seconds, the woman screamed in pain and gasped for air before she became unconscious. She then suffered respiratory failure and had to be revived.
The following day, the woman was airlifted to another Michigan hospital, where she went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. She suffered a second incident of cardiac arrest on September 28, 2009, from which she could not be revived and died that day.
Propofol Use In Endoscopy
The most commonly used agents for sedation are benzodiazepines, in combination with opioids, but the use of propofol is increasing worldwide. One reason for the increased use of propofol may be that propofol is equally well tolerated as benzodiazepines but has a substantially shorter wake-up time, thereby allowing more patients to be treated because of the shorter recovery time. A study of the use of propofol in colonoscopies showed that propofol was associated with significantly fewer adverse effects as compared to the use of benzodiazepines.
Other studies have shown that the use of propofol by non-anesthesiologists has a satisfactory safety profile – one study of endoscopist-directed administration of propofol found that the mortality rate was 1 in 161,515 cases, which is a lower mortality rate than for the use of benzodiazepines for sedation (the mortality rate for propofol was not higher than the mortality rate for general anesthesia administered by anesthesiologists).
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury (or worse) due to the use of sedation or anesthesia during a medical procedure in the United States, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your anesthesia claim or sedation claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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