When you visit a doctor or any other physician for treatment of a condition or illness, you expect that you will get the appropriate treatment and that you will receive the help you deserve. Not only are you making yourself vulnerable to the physicians, but you are also allowing them to have an effect on your body, whether it is through medication, examination, or surgery. Sometimes, however, issues can arise with the diagnosis provided by a physician that can lead to injury to the plaintiff. A patient is no more vulnerable than when he is sedated due to the administration of anesthesia. While few people ever think of the people administering anesthesia, anesthesiologists play a large role in surgical operations, and any errors made can have an even larger effect on a person’s life.
While medical malpractice concerns errors made by doctors, it should be noted that just because a doctor made a mistake, it does not automatically mean that malpractice occurred. While the issue of medical malpractice can be a complex one, Florida fortunately has laws regulating medical malpractice. Florida Statute 766.102, which covers malpractice issues, defines medical negligence as any breach of the professional standard of care for a health care provider. When looking to define what the “professional standard of care” is, courts will look to the level of care, skill, and treatment recognized as acceptable and appropriate by similar health care providers of reasonable prudence.
Unfortunately, under Florida law, patients must have some kind of expert witness in order to go forward with a medical malpractice claim. This is because courts will not accept a claim based solely on the injury as evidence of malpractice, unless the injury is clear evidence of a physician’s negligence.
Out of the myriad of potential forms of medical malpractice, one of the most dangerous can be anesthesia errors. Not only is a person who goes under anesthesia generally unable to monitor his surroundings, but he is also placed fully in the care of the surrounding physicians. Due to this vulnerability, even a slight error can cause serious injuries, such as:
- Memory loss
- Brain injury
- Heart attack
- Unintended intra-operative awareness, where a patient is aware of his surroundings during surgery
- Loss of bodily function
- Collapsed lung(s)
- Birth defects
In addition, the effects of anesthesia errors may not even be noticed until after the operation and recovery of the patient. Some errors can even result in the death of the patient. The reason anesthesia errors have such a serious effect on individuals is due to the nature of the process. Not only would anesthesia provide pain relief for a patient, but the persons administering the anesthesia would have control over a person’s life functions. These functions include breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Not only are anesthesiologists responsible for the safe administration of anesthesia to patients, but they are also responsible for researching the patient and his conditions in order to determine the appropriate dosage of anesthesia. Typically, anesthesiologists will perform a pre-operative evaluation of the patient, in which the anesthesiologist consults with the surgeons as well as post-operative management of the patients to ensure safety. Needless to say, with an anesthesiologist regulating so much of a person’s life functions, even the slightest error can lead to harm or serious injury.
Types of Errors
As mentioned above, anesthesiologists do more than administer anesthesia to patients. Because they are responsible for maintaining the life functions of a patient while they are sedated and because of the necessity of proper administration for surgical purposes, there are a number of ways where errors can occur. Some common errors include, but are not limited to:
- Administering too much or too little anesthesia
- Delaying the delivery of anesthesia
- Failure to avoid preventable allergic reactions
- Complications resulting from drug interactions
- Failure to properly administer oxygen during surgery
- Using defective medical equipment during sedation.
- Needless to say, any one of these errors alone can cause serious injury or trauma to a patient.
Common Causes of Errors
When people entrust themselves into the hands of physicians, they generally expect to receive treatment that will help them, as opposed to injuring them further. While physicians do have a heavy burden, there is still the possibility that errors are made, especially in environments where they face constant stress. There are several causes of anesthesia errors, but some of the most common include:
- Failure to research the patient’s medical history
While there is no way to truly prevent such errors from occurring once you have been administered anesthesia, there are steps you can take to ensure that you get the treatment you deserve. One such way when undergoing elective surgery is to consult with the anesthesiologist beforehand, much in the same way you would consult a variety of doctors before undergoing elective surgery.