Medical Malpractice - Wrongful Death

Philip Russotti, Senior Partner of WRS, obtained a $2,050,000 Million settlement for the family of a man who entered the hospital for surgical repair of an anal fissure and who died because of the negligence of the anesthesiologist. The decedent suffered anoxic/ischemic encephalopathy; anoxia; hypoxia; bradycardia; esophageal and vocal cord ulcers; seizures; deep vein thrombosis; need for mechanical ventilatory support; pneumonia; need for NGT; hyperglycemia; fever; need for steroid therapy; pulmonary emboli; pain; suffering; emotional distress; loss of enjoyment of life.

Plaintiff contended that the defendant anesthesiologist negligently failed to wait a sufficient period after administering an epidural anesthetic into the spine before having the patient lie down while a surgical repair of anal fissures was performed. The plaintiff contended that as a result, the anesthetic agent prevented the nerves which allow for breathing to function and caused respiratory arrest. The patient died several days later because of the injuries. The decedent was collecting social security disability because of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

The surgery lasted ten minutes. Prior to the arrival of the non-party surgeon, the defendant anesthesiologist had administered an epidural injection of the anesthetic agent. The agent is denser than spinal fluid, and therefore takes a few minutes to descend to the area that innervates the surgical field. The surgery is then performed with the patient prone on his front. The plaintiff maintained that the patient was prematurely placed in the prone position and covered with surgical drapes with the operative area protruding. The plaintiff contended that when the surgery was completed and the drapes removed, it was noted that the patient was cyanotic. A code was called and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.

The plaintiff contended that failing to wait for the anesthetic agent to descend to the operative field constituted a deviation. The plaintiff also maintained that the defendant's records did not reflect that he realized there were any difficulties before the surgical drapes were removed and contended that with proper monitoring, the defendant would have realized that the patient required immediate intubation.

The defendant contended that he did ascertain that the patient could not breathe and that he made immediate attempts to place a mask on the patient and administer oxygen by bag, but that the plaintiff could not be revived. The plaintiff maintained that even if such attempts were made, the defendant was clearly negligent because the chances of successfully administering oxygen with a bag and mask while the patient was face-down were very low.

The decedent left a wife, daughter and a son. The plaintiff contended that a note in the decedent's record made by the respiratory therapist which mentioned the patient resisting when the respiratory therapist attempted to change his mask the following day, proved that the decedent experienced some conscious pain and suffering.

The evidence disclosed that the decedent had been declared disabled by the Social Security Administration some years earlier because of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff contended that the death occasioned approximately $215,000 in reduced benefits. The plaintiff would have also made a claim for approximately $180,000 in loss of pension benefits.

The plaintiff contended that the decedent was very close with his family and that the loss of parental nurture and guidance by the daughter and son was extensive. The son would have testified that he and his father were avid fishermen, and described the manner in which they would fish for different types at different times of the year.

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