Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Medication error following surgery takes woman's life

A 45-year old woman underwent successful cardiac bypass surgery. However, that evening the woman was administered anesthesia called Propofol by a nurse as a follow-up to the surgery, and the patient then died of a cardiac arrest within an hour after the medication was given.

A jury returned a $15 million verdict in the medical malpractice case that followed. The jury concluded that the nurse was not qualified to administer the anesthesia. It was also thought that the nurse made a number of medical errors while administering the Propofol.

The nurse was considered a newcomer to the Cardiac Recovery Unit of the hospital. As soon as the Propofol was administered by her, the patient fell into an immediate coma. Apparently, the patient was given an anesthetic dose of the Propofol rather than the light sedation that was ordered by her physician.

The nurse also failed to provide mechanical ventilation to the patient, which was required when such a powerful anesthetic was administered. It is alleged that she was not trained in the use of the drug, and that she also was not supervised when the administration took place. Finally, she failed to call for the assistance of a physician when she recognized that the vital sign readings of the patient were abnormal.

It is also alleged that the nurse attempted to cover up what occurred by making changes to medical records charting the patient's vital signs. There was also evidence that the hospital also participated in the cover-up, as copies of medical records produced were different from the same medical records that were earlier produced.

This case didn't occur in Pennsylvania, but there have been cases in our state where untrained individuals have been placed in charge of conducting tasks for which they are not qualified. If patients or family members suspect something similar to this, it would be a good idea to contact a medical malpractice attorney. Only by holding hospitals accountable for not adequately supervising medical staff can such errors be prevented in the future.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Mobile Jury Returns $15 Million Verdict for Wrongful Death at Springhill Memorial Hospital," June 29, 2012

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