Case Description: Robert M. needed surgical repair of an abdominal hernia. He was examined,
and it was deemed to not be “urgent”. Therefore, Robert waited
several weeks until his retirement so that he would not have to miss work
through his recovery. Eventually he was admitted for surgery. Robert had
some acid reflux (GERD) and other issues that required his anesthesia
to be “Rapid Sequence”. It was alleged that, not only did
the anesthesiologist fail to properly perform the Rapid Sequence Induction,
but he failed to recognize that Robert had aspirated (regurgitated and
inhaled contents of his stomach/bile into his lungs). The allegations
also included criticism that the anesthesiologist failed to place a Naso-Gastric
Tube (NG Tube) prior to intubation to remove stomach contents/bile.
The anesthesiologist is in a critical position with regard to patients
in certain procedures. At times, as with rapid sequence inductions, the
anesthesiologist is depriving the patient of the ability to protect their
own airway. The doctor has to be responsible to protect the airway and
breathe for the patient until the intubation is complete and until the
patient (or the machines) is breathing on his own. Aspiration can be viewed
as a “known complication” or and “excepted risk”
of some intubations. However, action must be taken to guard against it
and the anesthesiologist must be monitoring the patient closely.
Had an NG tube been placed—even in the situation of an aspiration—stomach
acid nor bile would have been inhaled into Robert’s lungs (or, at
least, substantially less acid/bile). Had the proper medicine (anesthetics/paralytics)
been used in sufficient quantities, it was argued, Robert’s gag
reflex would have been neutralized and he would not have regurgitated
(which is the first step in an aspiration).
Negligence was also alleged in that the anesthesiologist did not properly
monitor Robert to recognize the problem and take steps to mitigate (or
lessen) the damage. The anesthesiologist failed to alert the surgeon and
failed to alert the nurses in the recovery room. Eventually the nurses
noted Robert’s respiratory distress and took action. Unfortunately,
as it turned out, the delay was too great.
Injuries and Treatment: After a valiant battle, Robert lost his life several days of the aspiration.
Damages: This case presented a challenge, both from the “conscious pain
and suffering” standpoint as well as the “income loss”
standpoint. Robert was in his 60s and had recently retired, although he
did have the potential to do some consulting work. Additionally, the injuries
from inhaling the stomach acid, etc, were so significant that he was not
conscious for many minutes between the injury and his ultimate death.
Plaintiff Demographics: Robert was married with 2 adult children and was looking forward to his
retirement with his wife.
Results: Brett Oppenheimer and his team settled this case for $1,100,000.00.