Issue: August 2012
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Anesthesiology Errors: Complications, Malpractice, and Catastrophe

Introduction

Anesthesia Error Liability

Approximately 20 million patients receive anesthesia annually in the United States, and even though most encounter no problems some experience serious incidents. Each year, 2,000 or more deaths occur that can be attributed primarily to the induction of anesthesia, with the majority of these deaths considered to be preventable.

 

In 2012, the International Anesthesia Research Society reported that more than 80% of the anesthesiologists surveyed had been involved in a “fatal or serious incident to a patient during a surgical procedure.”

 

Almost 70% of the medical negligence claims brought against anesthesiologists that result in success for the claimants are based on the improper administration of anesthetic agents.

 

It is critical for attorneys to understand the medicine in this area and for physicians and insurers to learn about potential malpractice liability.


The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed to show anesthesia malpractice? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice be avoided for an anesthesia injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the anesthesiologist to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a medical malpractice liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent or there was no coverage for anesthesiology injuries?

Employers:

Can an employer be subject to liability for injuries caused by an anesthesiologist's error?


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Counsel must develop a list of facts and circumstances, specific to the client’s fact situation, which demonstrates proof of injury in connection with anesthesia.

Physicians:

Physicians must consider this litigation checklist when defending an alleged medical malpractice or negligence claim arising from an injury related to anesthesia.

Insurers:

When investigating a claim of anesthesiology malpractice, the insurer should carefully evaluate the actions of the anesthesiologist. The insurer should look for the following “red flags” and consider how they impact the insurance coverage and the liability for payouts.

Employers:

In the case of a hospital that could be considered the employer of an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, the hospital should be concerned with possible respondeat superior liability for injury from anesthesia errors.

Expert Analysis

How Does Anesthesia Malpractice Differ From Other Medical Malpractice Cases?

Keith A. Hebeisen, J.D.

What Are the Liability Dangers Anesthesiologists Face?

Jess Brallier, M.D. and Jacob Schauer, M.D.

Who Should Be Able To Administer Anesthesia?

Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D.

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.


Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take an action for anesthesiology error to trial.


Reasons to Go to Trial

Reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take an action for an anesthesiology error to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded recently in malpractice and negligence actions against anesthesiologists?



Medical Examples

Medical: Anesthesia Errors

This section provides detailed medical information on complications and adverse effects from anesthesia error, causes of these errors, basic anesthesia procedures (before surgery, surgery, emergence), anesthesiology equipment, color markings, common gases, and terminology.



Law and Medicine Resources

References

A listing of law and medical references for further information on anesthesiology errors.


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Anesthesiology Errors: Complications, Malpractice, and Catastrophe

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Keith A. Hebeisen, J.D.
   Jess Brallier, M.D. and Jacob Schauer, M.D.
   Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D.

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   Physicians and Health Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Physician Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons to Go to Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Medical: Anesthesia Errors

References