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Anesthesia Error and Injury Lawyer


Clifford A. RiedersAccording to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, anesthesia injuries result in deaths every year in the United States. Preventable deaths as a result of medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Anesthesia errors also cause serious injuries, including tracheal damage, brain damage, birth defects, spinal cord injury, paralysis, heart attacks and stroke.

One well-known case involved Adam Covenko, a 24-year-old Philadelphia former wrestler. He died when undergoing routine rhinoplasty surgery due to being deprived of oxygen when an airway tube was removed improperly.

Those who administer anesthesia are held to standards of due care. Anesthesia must be provided and monitored properly and with due regard for the patient’s condition. If preventable errors are caused by a practitioner or equipment, then the attending physician, surgeon, anesthesiologist, paraprofessional, medical facility, and others may be liable for personal injuries that are caused as a result.

Cliff Rieders of the Rieders Travis Law Firm was involved in a case where a developmentally challenged man was mishandled with respect to administration of Ativan in order to perform a tonsillectomy. The man ultimately died, and in spite of a tough fought case, a settlement was obtained.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to medical anesthesia negligence, you may be entitled to compensation to help pay for medical and hospital bills, therapy and rehabilitation costs, plus loss of income, pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, and emotional stress. The experienced and compassionate Pennsylvania medical and hospital malpractice attorney Clifford Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters understands what you are going through. We offer a free consultation to help you investigate the cause and extent of your injury and determine the options you have to secure maximum benefits and compensation.

Causes of Preventable Errors

Anesthesiologists are doctors whose specialty is medically inducing sedation or sleep using a variety of medications to prevent a patient from feeling pain, most often during surgery. Their job is to administer anesthesia and monitor patients’ vital signs during the procedure to prevent anesthesia complications. These days, nurse practitioners and anesthetists perform much of the work that used to be performed by anesthesiologists who are medical doctors. These individuals are supposed to be properly supervised, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Anesthesia can wind up being handled in a factory-like setting, with little regard for individual characteristics of patients.

Unfortunately, there are many ways that preventable anesthesia errors occur. Common problems include:

  • Over- or under-dose of medication and interactions between drugs
  • Failure to monitor patients properly during procedures or in recovery rooms
  • Illegible or improper paperwork
  • Outdated or defective equipment, such as faulty tubes and hoses leaking intoxicating gases or disrupting the flow of oxygen and medications
  • Failure to recognize allergic reactions in patients
  • Improper positioning of patient’s body
  • Poor communication between or improper training of staff members on anesthesia machines, equipment, and procedures
  • Failure to ask the proper questions of patient to discover potential problems before administering anesthesia
  • Failure to perform routine maintenance on or to properly install anesthesia equipment, and incorrectly monitoring, operating, and setting up of the machines
  • Failure to intubate, resulting in oxygen deprivation, or negligent intubation from means such as placing the tube into the patient’s stomach or causing trachea or dental injuries
  • Failure to maintain a proper airway using modern equipment.

Consequences of Anesthesia Errors

The results of anesthesiologist mistakes may result in temporary or permanent injury, including stroke, coma, nerve injury and loss of neurological and sensory function, brain dysfunction, paralysis, blindness, and wrongful death.
Common problems include:

  • Birth injuries — During the birth process, improperly administered anesthesia can result in newborn brain damage or death, as well as injuries to the nerve system of the mother.
  • Anesthesia awareness – This occurs when a patient is given the wrong dosage of medications and therefore remains conscious but is unable to move or communicate with the doctors. The patient suffers the trauma of feeling the pain of the entire surgery in a paralyzed state.
  • Airway damage — Difficulties with a patient’s airway is one of the most serious complications and can cause death or permanent brain damage. The most common non-threatening airway care complication is damage to teeth. Cliff Rieders of the Rieders Travis Law Firm handled a case involving the death of a child where an incompetent and inept emergency room physician was unable to establish an airway and actually had to call 911! The ultimate settlement was in the multi-million dollar range.
  • Monitored anesthesia care (MAC) complications — According to the Society for Ambulatory Anesthesia (SAMBA), more than two-thirds of surgical procedures in the U.S. are done in surgical centers and medical offices, often using MAC. During MAC anesthesia, the airway is not protected, but potent medications including combinations of propofol and benzodiazepines or opioids are given to keep the patient comfortable. Although the use of airway instruments is minimal and the amount of anesthetic is usually much less, death is more common with MAC than in general or regional anesthesia.
  • Chronic Pain Treatment Complications – Chronic pain requires long-term treatment and the potential for addiction and serious drug interactions is real. Treatment for chronic pain medication, mostly from using long-acting opioids such as oxycodone and methadone, alone or in conjunction with other psychoactive medications, may lead to death.

Trust Our Firm for Honest Answers

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or has died due to anesthesia negligence, take steps to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Anesthesia malpractice cases are complicated, as each person’s symptoms and circumstances are unique. Since symptoms change over time and evidence and witnesses disappear, it is important to contact an attorney experienced in medical malpractice as soon as possible.

Whether in gathering evidence, dealing with medical professionals and insurance companies, negotiating settlements or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, the experienced Pennsylvania anesthesia malpractice attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters is familiar with the law and thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome. With our professional staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service. We offer a free consultation to help you investigate the cause and extent of your injury and determine the options you have to secure lifetime benefits and compensation.

Do not delay. Contact Cliff Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters by calling (570) 323-8711 for a free consultation, or use our online contact form.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]