Medical Malpractice Law

Anesthesia Malpractice

When a patient goes through surgery, they are often under anesthesia. Anesthesia helps the doctors during surgery by keeping the patient immobile. The patient can also avoid pain and discomfort during surgery under the effects of anesthesia. However, anesthesia involves powerful drugs that can cause serious injury where there are anesthesiologist errors.

If a loved one suffered injury or death while undergoing surgery, the family needs to get answers. Injury or death of a family member while under anesthesia may have been caused by medical malpractice. If you want to know about anesthesia malpractice, you can talk to a medical malpractice lawyer in a city near you to get legal advice about your case.

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What Is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a medical treatment to prevent patients from feeling pain when undergoing medical procedures. Doctors and anesthesiologists use drugs to provide general and local anesthetic effects. Anesthetic drugs can be administered through injection, gas inhalation, or topical application. Types of anesthesia include:

  • Local anesthesia
  • Regional anesthesia
  • IV/Monitored sedation
  • General anesthesia

Local anesthesia provides localized pain relief and numbness for minor procedures, like skin biopsy and dental procedures. Local anesthesia numbs a limited area where the injection or topical anesthetic is applied. Local anesthetics generally do not cause the patient to lose consciousness.

Regional anesthesia provides relief from feeling pain in areas of the body. For example, an epidural or spinal block can be administered during labor to keep the patient from feeling pain from the waist down in childbirth.

IV/Monitored sedation provides mild sedation, but the patient is generally not unconscious. This can be used in minor surgeries to relieve pain during colonoscopies, endoscopies, and dental procedures. Monitored sedation can be ideal for short surgical procedures where the patient does not have to be immobilized for a more extended period.

General anesthesia will cause the patient to lose consciousness, become immobile, and avoid feeling pain. General anesthesia interrupts the nerve signals to the brain during surgery. A patient under general anesthesia may not remember anything that happened just before, during, and immediately after surgery. General anesthesia can be administered through an IV or by inhaling the gas.

How Can Anesthesia Errors Cause Injury or Death?

The risks of local anesthesia are relatively low. However, general anesthesia involves using powerful drugs that can slow or even stop breathing and heart activity. Anesthesia has to be closely monitored while the patient is under the effects of anesthetic drugs to check the body’s vital signs, including breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature.

General anesthesia can combine strong drugs for pain relief, paralysis, and to keep the patient unconscious during surgical procedures. If the anesthesiologist does not provide enough anesthetics, the patient could react to painful stimuli or even wake up during surgery. If the anesthesiologist uses too much anesthesia, the patient could stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest.

Some of the most common injuries caused by anesthesia involve providing too much of the drugs, causing an overdose. If the patient stops breathing or their heart stops, they cannot get enough oxygen to the brain and vital tissues in the body. After only minutes without oxygen and blood flow, the cells in the body can begin to die. Hypoxia, or not enough oxygen, can cause brain damage and organ damage.

Without proper treatment, too much anesthesia can lead to permanent injury or death. If the patient does recover, they may be left with permanent mental and physical disabilities. If the damage was caused by a negligent anesthesiologist who provided the wrong dose of anesthetics or failed to monitor the patient properly, the patient could have a malpractice claim for damages against the doctor and hospital.

What Are the Risks of Anesthesia?

There are several risks and complications associated with anesthesia. Some risks are minor and temporary, including a sore throat, feeling drowsy, or minor injuries to the mouth and throat. Mouth and throat injuries can be caused by intubation, where the airway is maintained during surgery, with or without assisted breathing. Other risks of anesthesia are caused by the drugs involved, including:

  • Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction)
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Pneumonia
  • Hyperthermia or hypothermia
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hypoxic brain injury
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

As with any surgery, the patient should be informed of the treatment’s risks, possible side effects, and benefits. Doctors are generally required to get patients’ informed consent before performing a medical procedure, like putting a patient under anesthesia during surgery.

As part of informed consent, a patient should be told about the benefits, side effects, treatment alternatives, and risks of not going through treatment. If the patient is not informed of the procedure’s risks, they may have a claim for malpractice because of the lack of informed consent.

How Long Do I Have to File an Anesthesia Malpractice Lawsuit?

There is a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, also known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations provides a time limit for filing medical malpractice claims under state law, and can be different for each state. The time limit may also be different when the injury is not discovered until a later date, or the injury victim is a minor.

For example, if a patient in Philadelphia suffers permanent damage after negligent anesthesia, the patient would generally have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is two years for medical malpractice claims. The time limit can be extended if the patient does not discover the injury until later.

The statute of limitations in Illinois is two years from the date of the injury. The injury victim might have more time if they didn’t reasonably find out about the injury until later. However, in no case can a claim be filed for a Chicago medical malpractice lawsuit more than four years from the date of the medical injury.

Like Pennsylvania and Illinois, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Florida is two years from the date of the injury. However, the time can be extended under the discovery rule to two years from discovering the medical error but no later than four years from the injury.

How Much Is an Anesthesia Malpractice Settlement?

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim seeks “damages” from the negligent doctor. Damages are supposed to compensate the injury victim for their losses. If the case goes to trial, the jury determines how much to award the injury victim. Damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit can include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Future medical care
  • Pain and suffering

The patient can also settle the case with the doctor and hospital before the case goes to the jury. The settlement offer can depend on the extent of the injuries and the strength of your legal case. Ask your medical malpractice attorney about how much you might be able to get in an anesthesia malpractice settlement offer.

How Can an Anesthesia Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

A medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and help you recover money in an anesthesia malpractice lawsuit. Most medical malpractice law firms will offer a free initial case assessment. Malpractice lawyers may also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you won’t owe any money until you win your case or get a settlement. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer in your area to ensure your anesthesia malpractice case is filed in time.

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