Jury: Doctor did not cause fire that burned woman during C-section

There are many risks Chicago patients face when they undergo any type of surgical procedure. But as we have mentioned before on our medical malpractice law blog, these risks can also be significantly reduced when hospitals and doctors focus on patient safety and providing quality medical care.

One type of surgical error that is entirely preventable is an operating room fire. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has even developed specific guidelines hospitals should follow and enforce in order to avoid causing a fire while using surgical tools and other equipment during operations. Because operating room fires should never happen, hospitals and other medical professionals could be held accountable for these mistakes.

Earlier this year, one U.S. hospital agreed to compensate a patient who had suffered burn injuries during a Cesarean-section that had been performed at the hospital. The hospital did take responsibility for the incident, but the patient also wanted her surgeon to take partial responsibility for not preventing the surgical fire. After reaching a settlement with the hospital, the patient proceeded with a lawsuit against the surgeon.

Last week, a jury concluded that the woman’s doctor was not responsible for the fire that occurred during the patient’s C-section. Although the woman’s baby was not harmed when her abdomen caught fire during the C-section, the woman suffered severe and painful burn injuries. The woman believes that the settlement she reached with the hospital earlier this year only makes up for about half of the damages from the operation. She had hoped that the doctor would be required to compensate her for the remaining damages from the C-section.

According to the lawsuit, hospital staff failed to follow important instructions when using an alcohol-based antiseptic to prep the woman for her surgery. The nurses who had prepped the patient later claimed that they were never trained in fire prevention in the operating room, and as a result, the woman’s nurses did not realize that the alcohol-based antiseptic could catch fire when coming into contact with heated surgical tools.

When the doctor made the first incision for the C-section, the woman’s abdomen caught on fire. The doctor claimed that he was not responsible for the fire because he was not responsible for prepping the patient for her surgery.

Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard, “Jury sides with doctor in lawsuit by woman set on fire during C-section,” John O’Brien, Oct. 26, 2012

Hospital Negligence


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