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Doctor's apology complicates a medical malpractice claim

Errors in the amount or type of anesthesia or dye administered to a patient can have deadly consequences, as a recent story illustrates.

Specifically, surviving family members alleged that a doctor at Tufts Medical Center admitted that he administered the wrong dye to their mother, who was undergoing an implantable pain pump procedure. She experienced pain and seizures shortly after awaking from the surgery, and her condition worsened until she died later that same day.

Shockingly, the hospital’s attorneys denied any negligence in their official correspondence with the woman’s surviving family members. Although any medical procedure might have risks, a severe reaction to a routine procedure might indicate the presence of medical negligence. To deny any liability -- even after a doctor’s admission of mistake and apology -- simply adds insult to injury.

A thorough patient intake must be performed before a procedure to screen for potential allergies. A doctor’s duty of care also extends after a procedure, as well, as the effects of anesthesia or a dye or other drug may also need to be monitored after a procedure.

Medicine is not perfect, so when health care professionals make mistakes, it is important for a patient to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can investigate a patient’s medical record for any potential breaches in a doctor’s duty of care.

In this example, there was a chain of communication between the pharmacist, the nurse assisting during the procedure, and the attending surgeon. Although the nurse had correctly asked for a specific brand of surgical dye, the pharmacist informed her that it didn’t carry that brand, and instead offered an intravenous dye clearly labeled with a warning label against intrathecal use. Unfortunately, that switch was apparently not communicated to the patient’s care team, and she suffered a fatal reaction as a result.

Source: Outpatient Surgery, “Surgeon Admitted Fatal Mistake, But Hospital Fights Negligence Charge,” Sept. 4, 2014

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