When Are Anesthesia Errors Considered Medical Malpractice?

Medical Malpractice On Friday, March 15, 2024

Anesthesia is a key component of millions of surgeries that are performed in the United States each year. In many situations, anesthesia makes an operation possible. However, there are cases where anesthesia errors cause patient injuries and even deaths. If the circumstances surrounding an anesthesia error constitute a breach of the professional standard of care, an injured patient has the right to file a medical malpractice claim in Connecticut.

Types of Anesthesia

There are three types of anesthesia:

  1. Local
  2. Regional
  3. General

Local and regional anesthesia are used to numb specific parts of the body (small and large areas, respectively). These types of anesthesia do not render the patient unconscious. General anesthesia results in the patient losing consciousness so major procedures can be performed without the patient being awake or feeling pain.

Examples of Anesthesia Errors

Specially trained medical professionals known as anesthesiologists mix and administer anesthesia drugs to patients during procedures. Various mistakes can be made by anesthesiologists, but they can also be made by surgeons, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff members who are part of the patient’s care team.

Anesthesia errors can include:

  • Administering too little anesthesia, which could cause anesthesia awareness (where the patient is awake and can feel pain but cannot move).
  • Administering too much anesthesia, which can lead to an overdose with consequences such as permanent brain damage or death.
  • Delaying the administration of anesthesia or administering the wrong type of anesthesia for the patient or surgery.
  • Making mistakes while intubating a patient, leading to an improper administration of oxygen during the procedure and a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) that can be fatal.
  • Failing to monitor a patient’s vital signs while under anesthesia or leaving a patient who is still anesthetized unattended.

Anesthesia errors can occur before, during or shortly after a procedure. It is critical for all medical professionals involved in the anesthetizing of a patient to take proper care in the execution of their tasks. One misstep or mistake could inflict permanent damage.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

The definition of medical malpractice is a health care provider failing to adhere to the accepted standards of care, resulting in injury or harm to a patient. It describes professional negligence committed by a medical practitioner in any health care setting that causes injury, disability or death to a patient.

Medical malpractice consists of four elements.

  1. The first is a duty of care created by a doctor-patient relationship.
  2. The second is a practitioner’s failure to meet the expected standard of care for the circumstances.
  3. The third is a direct causal connection between the breach of duty and the patient’s injury.
  4. The fourth element is specific damages suffered by the patient as a result of the negligence.

Anesthesia Errors and Medical Malpractice Claims

Anesthesia errors can be considered medical malpractice when they fulfill all four elements of a claim, as listed above. If an anesthesia error arises out of an example of professional negligence, it constitutes medical malpractice and can give the injured patient the right to file a claim in pursuit of compensation for related injuries and losses.

A medical malpractice claim can arise out of any anesthesia error that involves violations of the appropriate standard of care, such as the failure to properly assess a patient, informed consent issues, errors in anesthesia dosage or administration, failure to monitor the patient, inappropriate response to complications or emergencies, communication errors, and inadequate post-anesthesia care.

While not all adverse patient outcomes associated with anesthesia constitute medical malpractice, any errors that arise due to a breach of the standard of care could give the victim grounds for a civil claim in Connecticut. Request a free consultation to learn more about your specific case when you contact Loughlin FitzGerald, P.C.

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