Anesthesia error takes father’s life, jury finds for family

In surgery it is common for patients to be “put under” by anesthetics, and we expect surgeons and anesthesiologists to know the effects of these drugs and to administer them properly. An overdose of anesthetics can be potentially fatal, and an underdose can cause patients extreme pain.

Consider the case of a man whose family was awarded $2.1 million in a medical negligence lawsuit.

The 63-year-old patient was made unconscious by anesthetics administered for a face-lift procedure. The surgeon completed the operation, and he and the anesthesiologist left the clinic before the patient fully woke up. A nurse remained in the building to resuscitate him.

Sadly, the man, who was a lawyer and a father, suffered a respiratory arrest and died.

Witnesses who testified in the family’s lawsuit said that the anesthesiologist was aware that the nurse had problems in the past when trying to resuscitate patients. Yet the anesthesiologist and surgeon left her alone with the patient anyway.

A jury found that the nurse was 55 percent responsible for the man’s death, while the surgeon was 25 percent responsible and the anesthesiologist was 20 percent at fault.

Of the three, the anesthesiologist was the only one who opted to go to trial. He appealed the jury’s compensation ruling but lost, and now, by law in California, where this case was heard, he will have to pay the family the full $2.1 million in compensation.

Although this lawsuit was handled in another state, Pennsylvania residents also have the right to seek justice in the event that medical negligence leads to injuries or death. These lawsuits not only seek some measure of compensation for the victims or their families; medical malpractice claims have the potential to protect patients who would otherwise be harmed by a medical professional’s failure to provide proper care.

Source:, “$2.1 million in damages upheld in S.F. surgery death,” Bob Egelko, July 11, 2013

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