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Family awarded $2.1 million after fatal anesthesia error

Anesthesia is used in medical procedures every day throughout the country, and anesthesiologists are supposed to be licensed and well-trained to carry out their jobs. Unfortunately, though, incompetence and negligence lead to mistakes in the administration of pain-reducing drugs, and the consequences can be devastating.

With that in mind, readers in Illinois may be interested in a recently settled lawsuit in another state. In 2008, a 63-year-old man underwent a cosmetic operation and died because of an anesthesia error.

The death happened in 2008 when the man went in for a face-lift, and his wife and three children sued the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and a nurse. Two years ago, a jury in San Francisco found that all three defendants were guilty of various degrees of negligence.

According to a report, the nurse, who was found to be 55 percent responsible for the death, gave anesthetic drugs to the patient. When the surgery was completed, the doctor and the anesthesiologist actually exited the clinic before the patient had been resuscitated. This left the patient in the nurse's care, even though, according to witnesses, the anesthesiologist was aware that the nurse had previous difficulties waking up patients after surgery.

The patient died, and the doctor and the anesthesiologist were found to be 25 percent and 20 percent responsible, respectively.

The anesthesiologist was the only defendant who chose to go to trial, and he was found responsible for paying the family $2.1 million in compensation for economic losses. He tried to appeal that decision, but the appellate court ruled against him.

This case was decided in California, but anesthesia errors happen in Illinois, too. When these mistakes cause a person's death, the victim's family should be aware of their legal options for achieving the full measure of justice.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, "$2.1 million in damages upheld in S.F. surgery death," Bob Egelko, July 11, 2013

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