At the Chicago law firm of Cirignani Heller & Harman, LLP, we represent clients throughout Illinois in medical malpractice cases related to oxygen deprivation. Many of the people we help had loved ones who were seriously injured, paralyzed or killed while under general anesthesia.
Each case our attorneys handle is different and involves different types of harm. Doctors often fail to take patients’ medical histories into account; they fail to properly monitor patients or to effectively treat side effects when they occur.
Failure to Breathe for a Patient Under Anesthesia
During surgery in which general anesthesia is used, doctors must monitor heart rate and respiratory function. They must use an endotracheal tube to maintain an open air passage and to deliver oxygen to the lungs.
Proper placement of the endotracheal tube is critical. If it is misplaced — often in the esophagus instead of the trachea — the tube can cause major injury or wrongful death due to fatal oxygen deprivation.
The most serious cases of anesthesia medical malpractice are caused by anesthesiologists using general anesthesia that leads to injuries that include aspiration pneumonia, hypoxic brain damage, coma or death.
General Anesthesia Injury Claim
When using general anesthesia the doctor (or sometimes a nurse) must breathe for the patient. It is negligence when a doctor fails to make sure the patient is breathing — or otherwise getting enough oxygen — during anesthesia. Because oxygen deprivation can lead to brain damage within a matter of minutes, this particular form of anesthesia malpractice can have devastating effects. Patients go into surgery and find their lives permanently changed or ended by a doctor’s negligence.
At Cirignani Heller & Harman, LLP, we are dedicated to holding doctors accountable for mistakes in the use of anesthetics. Our goal is to help injured patients and their families recover compensation for the harm they have suffered. While this compensation gives victims the resources to move forward after an injury, it also serves another important objective: preventing the same harm from happening to others in the future.
By filing lawsuits claiming negligent medical care in Illinois courts, we send a clear message to anesthesiologists, hospitals and health care providers. We let them know that the health and safety of patients is incontrovertible. It should be given the highest priority at all times, and failure to do so is a grave mistake.
Overmedication of patients by doctors can also lead to oxygen deprivation, paralysis and wrongful death. Many sedatives and narcotics are, in excessive doses, essentially anesthetic agents. Indeed some drugs in these categories have been and can be used as anesthetic agents. When the airway control that is part of general anesthesia is absent, if excessive doses of sedatives and/or narcotics are given, respiratory and cardiac arrest can occur, causing brain injury and death. There are many ways that overmedication (essentially a drug overdose) can happen:
- Doctors prescribe multiple medications that have additive effects
- Doctors prescribe multiple medications that interfere with each other’s elimination or inactivation by the body
- Doctors prescribe medications without taking a patient’s kidney or liver disease into consideration
- Doctors prescribe the wrong amount of medication
- Doctors prescribe medications that interact with each other
- Nurses and health care providers administer the wrong dosage of medication
- Nurses administer the wrong type of medication
- Health care providers fail to monitor the patient’s response to a medication
- Defective medical equipment administers the wrong amount of medication
These errors can occur with many different types of narcotics, including the narcotic fentanyl (which is administered in the form of a Duragesic patch), as well as Vicodin, OxyContin, Versed and Morphine (which can be administered with a morphine pump).