Medical malpractice is an area of law that has to do with physician errors during a medical procedure such as an operation. This includes the job of a doctor administering anesthesia. There are three major types of anesthesia.
Local anesthesia numbs the patient so that minor surgical procedures may proceed without the patient feeling the pain. General anesthesia is a drug designed to render the patient unconscious so that surgeons may safely operate on the patient. Regional anesthesia may be used to numb specific areas of the body.
Who Administers Anesthesia?
An anesthesiologist is a licensed doctor who specializes in administering anesthesia. It generally takes an anesthesiologist a full 12 years after high school to become board certified. These types of medical professionals practice one of the most difficult and highly-paid forms of medicine. Anesthesiology can also be one of the most dangerous fields, since complications of administering anesthesia can lead to paralysis, coma, and death.
Although anesthesiologists are most likely to administer anesthesia, other surgical procedures may require the use of anesthesia. Regional anesthesia can be used to ease infant delivery. Likewise, local anesthesia is often used to numb patients before extracting teeth.
What are Anesthesiologists Responsible For?
One of the most important duties of an anesthesiologist is monitoring the unconscious patient during an operation. An anesthesiologist must look for early warning signs of any changes adversely affecting the patient’s body. If the anesthesiologist is careless in her monitoring, or forgets to do so, this may constitute medical malpractice.
An anesthesiologist must also update the anesthesia record. It is important that all anesthetic events be documented, because this record is the only time-dependent trail of what happened over the course of the operation. If the anesthesiologist does not accurately update this record, and future injury results because another doctor did not have access to accurate information, then the anesthesiologist will be responsible for damages.
An anesthesiologist also needs to be aware of any allergies or negative reactions that the patient experienced with past anesthesia. Anesthesiologists need to keep abreast of new medical discoveries and phenomena.
For example, she would need to know the truth about "anesthesia awareness," where the patient is fully conscious and feels the excruciating pain of the operation, yet is completely paralyzed and cannot move a muscle.
What are the Most Common Anesthesia Errors?
The most common types of anesthesia errors are:
- Failure to obtain patient’s consent to administer anesthesia;
- Failure to check whether a patient is allergic to the anesthesia administered;
- Inserting the medication into the wrong location;
- Failure to check the patient’s breathing while the patient is under general anesthesia;
- Using the wrong type of drug or the wrong amount of drug; and/or
- Administering an inadequate amount of drug.
What are Some Common Injuries Resulting from Anesthesia Errors?
Anesthesia errors can result in injuries that range from minor to very serious and in some cases, life-threatening. Some common injuries that are caused by anesthesia errors may include:
- Feelings of discomfort (either localized or general feelings);
- Dizziness and nausea;
- Stomach and digestion issues;
- Effects on heart rate, breathing, and other vital signs;
- Temporary or permanent brain damage or loss of certain brain functions; and/or
- Unconsciousness or coma.
In some cases, anesthesia errors can also result in fatalities, especially for general anesthesias where the error has affected the person’s vital signs. In such cases, a wrongful death claim may follow as well.
What are the Legal Remedies in an Anesthesia Error Lawsuit?
Anesthesia errors may require legal action to resolve any disputes or issues associated with the error and injury. In such lawsuits, the legal remedy will usually be a comprised of a monetary damages award that is issued to the injured party.
The damages may cover costs and losses such as: additional medications, medical and hospital bills, any lost wages caused by the error (often due to missing work during recovery), pain and suffering, and other costs.
As mentioned, cases involving a fatality may also involve damages to cover wrongful death costs. Also, in cases involving particularly negligent or reckless conduct, or intentional conduct, punitive damages may also be awarded on top of the other damages.
Each state may have different laws when it comes to damage amounts and limitations on the awards. For instance, many jurisdictions place a cap on medical malpractice awards in general.
Should I Consult a Lawyer About an Anesthesia Error?
Anesthesia errors are often traumatic, if not outright fatal, for the patient. An overdose of anesthesia can, at the very least, cause permanent brain damage. Anesthesia awareness can also be a major problem. If the patient is not given enough anesthesias, the patient can be emotionally and mentally traumatized. If you or a loved one have been injured by an anesthesia error, an experienced personal injury attorney can represent you.