Posted on 07/30/2021

Can I Sue an Anesthesiologist for Medical Malpractice?

Can I Sue an Anesthesiologist for Medical Malpractice?

With more than 313 million surgical procedures taking place worldwide every year, most people undergo anesthesia sometime during their lifetime. Either through a local injection, like the one your dentist administers before replacing a filling or general anesthesia in preparation for a surgical procedure. 

Anesthesia requires careful, precise measurement and administration to ensure patients get just enough to eliminate any pain or discomfort. 

If an anesthesiologist makes a mistake, gives too much or too little anesthetic, it can result in injury or harm for the patient. 

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Too much anesthesia can cause patients to experience symptoms that include:

  • Nausea
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Muscle aches or pains

Too little anesthesia can cause patients to experience a number of uncomfortable side effects, including:

  • wake up during surgery 
  • experience pain or pressure during the procedure
  • become aware of conversations happening during the surgery

If you have experienced either of these situations, read on to find out the legalities of anesthesiologist medical malpractice.

What Is An Anesthesiologist?

An anesthesiologist is a specialist physician who administers anesthesia to the patient and is a critical member of the surgical team. They are responsible for ensuring you are comfortable and safe during and after your surgery.  

Anesthesiologists have specialized expert knowledge of extremely potent medications used during surgical procedures to ensure you are “under anesthetic” when needed.

Anesthesiologists use their knowledge of medical conditions and medications to provide care for patients at all life stages.

What Types Of Anesthesia Do Anesthesiologists Give Patients?

Anesthesiologists can provide several different types of anesthesia care, including the following.

  • General anesthesia is administered through an IV or an anesthesia mask that puts you “under,” making you lose consciousness in a controlled method. General anesthesia is generally used with major operations, such as heart surgery.
  • IV Sedation (sometimes called “monitored anesthesia”) can deliver different levels of consciousness and generally helps you to feel relaxed. Sedation levels can range from minimal-lightly drowsy but still able to talk, to deep sedation–heavily sedated, and you won’t remember the procedure. 

IV Sedation is commonly used for minor medical procedures such as colonoscopies and can be used in combination with regional or local anesthesia.

  • Regional anesthesia is administered when numbing a large part of the body is required, and it is often administered through an injection. With regional anesthesia, you are awake, but a portion of your body is numbed. An epidural, used during childbirth, is an example of regional anesthesia. 
  • Local anesthetic is typically an injected medication that numbs a small body area, the location of the medical procedure being performed. Local anesthesia will allow you to go through the procedure without experiencing any pain or discomfort, and you will be awake and fully alert. Local anesthesia is generally used for a minor medical procedure such as getting stitches.

How Anesthesia Can Be Administered Wrongly

Anesthesia is essential to successful surgeries, and anesthesiologists must carefully calculate each patient’s correct dosage and unique situation. If a patient suffers an injury as a result of an avoidable mistake, the negligent doctor should have to account for their actions or inaction.

Anesthesiologist medical malpractice happens when negligence occurs. For example, if your anesthesiologist fails to meet the legally obligated standard of care, they could be considered negligent.

Some common anesthesia errors include:

  • Getting too much, or too little, anesthesia
  • Delayed anesthesia delivery
  • Giving the wrong anesthesia type 
  • Failing to recognize allergic reactions or adverse drug reactions
  • Failing to give patients the correct instructions to follow before or after a surgical procedure
  • Failing to properly monitor patient vital signs during surgery
  • Failing to properly monitor oxygen delivery to the patient
  • Using the wrong equipment or equipment that is not functioning properly

What Kind Of Anesthesia Injuries Can Happen?

Anesthesia mistakes can result in a variety of serious physical injuries, including:

  • Brain damage 
  • Blood clots
  • Larynx or tooth damage (from intubation)
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Stroke
  • Post-operative pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Anaphylaxis-severe allergic reaction
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart attack
  • Waking up during surgery

The list of anesthesia complications is lengthy, but while many patients report experiencing many common effects, such as nausea, sore throat, or postoperative pain, the risk of more serious complications remains rare — happening in one out of roughly every 1,000 cases.

In addition to administering anesthesia and monitoring a patient’s vital signs, anesthesiologists have the added responsibility of ensuring patients are moved periodically during long surgeries spanning several hours. 

Anesthesiologists do this to avoid having too much pressure being put on any one part of the patient’s body. For example, if you are in a prone position for a particularly lengthy surgery and you are not moved, your optic nerve can be damaged, resulting in loss of vision or blindness.

Can You Sue An Anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologist medical malpractice can come in a variety of forms. And while each person’s experience is unique, for medical malpractice to be successful, negligence must have happened.

Before deciding to pursue an anesthesiologist medical malpractice lawsuit, it’s important to consider many factors, including any pre-surgical risk factors and the complication rate for the type of anesthesia administered.

When a hospital employs an anesthesiologist, the hospital is automatically liable for any negligence its employee (the anesthesiologist) commits. This is called vicarious liability.

If the hospital works with an anesthesiologist as an independent contractor, the hospital could potentially be responsible. This is called negligent hiring and supervision.

What to Do if You Have Experienced Anesthesiologist Medical Malpractice 

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries following a surgical procedure and believe it was the result of an anesthesiologist’s mistake, contact the Medical Malpractice specialists at Grover Lewis Johnson. 

We put our 25 years of malpractice knowledge and experience to work for our medical malpractice clients. When you reach out to the anesthesiologist medical malpractice experts at Grover Lewis Johnson for your no-cost consultation, we really listen to you. 

The medical malpractice specialists at Grover Lewis Johnson work on a contingency fee basis. That means we don’t get paid until we win your case. And if we don’t win your case? We don’t get paid.

While we can’t erase the pain and suffering you have experienced due to anesthesiologist medical malpractice, we can work with you to help you get the proper compensation you deserve.