On March 30, 2012, a Michigan medical malpractice jury returned a verdict in the amount of $1.23 million in favor of the family of a 66 year old woman who suffered severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen to her brain during surgery in 2008. The medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against an anesthesiologist and a local hospital, but the hospital was dismissed from the medical malpractice case before trial.
Trial had begun on March 21, 2012 and ended with the medical malpractice jury’s finding after three days of deliberations that the anesthesiologist committed medical malpractice and that the medical malpractice was the cause of the woman’s injuries. The damages awarded included $34,274 in economic damages and $1.2 in noneconomic damages (mental suffering, mental anguish, etc.) to the woman’s surviving son.
What Happened During Surgery?
On August 11, 2008, the woman entered the hospital to have surgery to remove her thyroid and parathyroid glands in her neck. Because the surgery involved the administration of general anesthesia that makes it impossible to breath without assistance, the woman needed to be intubated (endotracheal intubation involves the placement of a breathing tube through the mouth or nose into the trachea (the windpipe) to open the airway to provide oxygen, anesthesia, and/or medication, to remove blockages from the airway, to provide protection to a patient’s lungs under certain circumstances, and/or to provide a better view of the patient’s upper airway).
The anesthesiologist allegedly failed to observe that the breathing tube had moved during the surgery, preventing the woman from breathing, and allegedly failed to treat the woman’s dangerously low blood pressure, which resulted in the lack of oxygen to the woman’s brain. The woman never awoke after her surgery — she died eleven days later. Medical testing determined that the woman had suffered a devastating brain injury due to lack of oxygen during her surgery. The woman died from her brain injury, which was confirmed by an autopsy.
When you enter a hospital or outpatient surgical center for elective or necessary surgery and general anesthesia is used, you are totally at the mercy and subject to the training, experience, and competence of the medical personnel who must provide the necessary medical care and medical monitoring to insure that you receive the necessary oxygen and medical care during and after the surgical procedure and that you wake up after the surgery without suffering injuries during the surgery.
While injuries or death may occur during surgery without the cause being medical malpractice, the cause of surgical injuries or death may be due to medical negligence. Because the patient is often unconscious and totally unaware of what is occurring during surgery (especially if general anesthesia is used), the patient and the patient’s family will probably have no idea of what occurred during the surgery that caused the injuries or death. That’s when the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney may be essential to investigate and determine the cause(s) of the surgical patient’s “bad outcome” and to determine if medical malpractice may have occurred.
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