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Lawsuit claims death of patient caused by anesthesiologist error

It's been reported that thousands of patients die each year from mistakes in treatment at hospitals, including receiving the wrong medicine. In a nearby state, a brother and sister have filed a medical malpractice suit against two hospital services and an anesthesiologist. The medical malpractice principles are the same in Maryland and the case is instructive. The siblings claimed the wrongful death of patient, alleging that anesthesiologist error and other mishaps in treatment and surgical procedures caused their father's death.

Their 60-year-old father died in the summer of 2011 about 10 days after entering the hospital emergency room with hypotension, kidney problems, diarrhea and pneumonia. He was put in intensive care. A day after being admitted, results showed improvement in his condition. There were indications of a gastric antral perforation, and he was well enough to be cleared for surgery to repair the gastric perforation.

The procedure was accidentally botched when the anesthesiologist mistakenly administered the wrong drug. She administered Sufentanil when she should have used Fentanyl. The suit alleges that the Sufentanil is up to 10 times more potent than Fentanyl. The suit alleges that Sufentanil should not be administered in the presence of kidney problems because the drug will overwork the kidneys and the liver.

The patient became hypotensive and nonresponsive after Sufentanil was administered. After a considerable time, the anesthesiologist alerted the surgical team to her mistake. The patient died a few days later after his systems failed. The lawsuit also claims negligence against the staff for having Sufentanil available on the surgical tray. The lawsuit was filed in North Carolina where the events occurred but the medical malpractice legal principles apply as well in Maryland.

In Maryland, causing a wrongful death of patient by anesthesiologist error can be grounds for a finding of professional negligence liability. First, it must be shown that the mistake fell below the minimally accepted standards of professional competence in the medical community. If the action was below acceptable standards, then it must be shown that the negligent action was a substantial factor in causing the man's death. That level of proof will result in a successful claim for monetary damages.

Source: The-Dispatch.com, "Siblings file medical malpractice suit over death of father," Darrick Ignasiak, June 20, 2013

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