Many of us may be unaware that a large portion of medical malpractice claims result from negligence occurring outside of the operating room. This includes mistakes made during the administration of anesthesia. There are conflicting results in studies concerning the number of operating room and non-operating room anesthetic complications. But it appears clear that the number of anesthesia mistakes made in a non-operating room setting is significant.
One disturbing finding found in one study was that substandard anesthesia care more frequently involved non-operating room cases. Such cases generally resulted in larger verdict or settlement payments than operating room cases.
Though generally practitioners involved in applying anesthesia in non-operating settings are well-qualified professionals, mistakes made under these circumstances can often be extremely traumatic. Too often, the medical personnel most needed when anesthesia complications arise in non-operating settings are not available to provide the necessary assistance. Also, in some circumstances the necessary equipment to assist distressed patients is lacking.
One chairman of anesthesiology at a university noted regarding non-operating settings: “Monitoring at the same level as the OR—which is required by the ASA—has been missing in many practices, particularly ventilation assessment with quantitative end-tidal CO2.” This failure of hospitals and clinics to follow safety protocol in non-operating settings is alarming. Anesthesia mistakes too often result in brain damage to the patient leading to a lifetime of disability.
Because these types of errors continue to occur, the need for experienced medical malpractice attorneys is great. Also, we learn about such errors because of medical malpractice claims filed by patients. Finally, verdicts against medical providers create an incentive for hospitals and clinics to take every safety precaution when administering anesthesia – regardless of the setting.