When a surgery goes well, the surgeon gets the pats on the back and is the one who tells the family the good news. But what most people don’t realize is that the anesthesiologist was just as responsible for the success of the procedure as the surgeon. An anesthesia error could lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit just as easily as a surgical error. An anesthesiologist’s negligence can lead to permanent damage or, in some cases, even death.
A Case Of Anesthesia Error In West Springfield, MA
In August 2016, a story emerged about an anesthesiologist’s negligence that affected five patients in one single day in an eye specialist’s office in West Springfield, MA. Dr. Tzay Chiu was performing what should have been a series of routine procedures that involved using an injection to prepare the eyes of five different patients for retina surgery when things went horribly wrong. Despite the fact that Dr. Tzay had performed this form of anesthesia several times before, he punctured the retinas of five patients and left them all blind in one eye.
Dr. Chiu has retained an attorney who has not released a statement on the incident. It is expected that all five patients, and possibly even the doctor’s office he was working for as an independent contractor at the time, will be bringing some sort of civil action against the doctor. An investigation has already established anesthesiologist’s negligence in this case, and the permanent damage has been attributed to that negligence.
The hope is that an investigation would cause the doctor to stop practicing medicine until the entire case has been resolved, but the doctor was back performing anesthesia procedures just a few months after the incident. He has signed an agreement to never perform the sort of anesthesia procedure that cost those five patients their eyesight ever again, but he is still allowed to practice his profession in other ways.
Statistics On Anesthesia Mistakes
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that medical errors result in the deaths of anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 patients each year. It is difficult to pinpoint the number of deaths that result from anesthesiologist’s negligence because those numbers are not accurately kept. But the IOM estimates that the majority of deaths each year come from medication errors, and many of those happen during anesthesia procedures.
To get an idea of how bad the problem could be in the United States, the IOM asked 2,266 Canadian anesthesiologists if they have ever made an error during a procedure and a shocking 30 percent said they have. In the United States, the majority of anesthesia errors occur during the middle of a procedure, while at least 28 percent of the errors occur when the patient is first put under.
It is common to think that late night surgical teams would make more errors than the teams that work during the day, but the statistics don’t bear that out. In one study, it was found that 56 anesthesia errors occurred during daytime surgical procedures, while only one error occurred during a night shift at the same facility.
Why Are These Errors Happening?
The West Springfield, MA incident shows that even experienced anesthesiologists can make mistakes performing procedures they have done hundreds of times before, but that is not always the excuse for these types of errors. While the equipment, information, and medication used in the anesthesia field have improved significantly over the years, the field has also become complicated.
Many anesthesiologists report that complex drug combinations and increasingly complicated procedures (it can take up to 80 separate actions just to ensure the success of one anesthesia session) are the primary causes of errors today. As we have seen with the West Springfield, MA incident, those errors can cause permanent damage. As evidenced from the data gathered, those errors can also result in death.
Anesthesiologists work in the background of the medical field, but the work they do is every bit as important as what the surgeons are doing. One mistake from an anesthesiologist could change a patient’s life forever, and sometimes that one mistake can end a patient’s life.