Anesthesia is used in many intensive surgical procedures, and involves the administration of powerful drugs so that a person will lose consciousness during the procedure and regain consciousness once it is complete. Anesthesiologists are tasked with the correct administration of these drugs. This includes ensuring that the medication will not conflict with any medication the patient is currently taking, properly administering the drug at the beginning of the procedure, monitoring the patient’s status during the procedure, and ensuring a smooth transition at the end of the procedure.
Anesthesia Errors and Medical Malpractice
Despite efforts to ensure that anesthesia is administered properly, human error is a real possibility during a procedure using anesthesia. According to a study by NCBI, "Human errors were believed to be a factor ranging from 65-87% for deaths during anesthesia in several studies." Surveys of societies of anesthesiologists in several countries revealed that anesthesiologists commonly admitted to having made an error during a procedure at least once in their career. The study also revealed that 28% of incidents occurred during the beginning of the procedure when the medication was administered, 42% during the middle of the procedure, and 17% at the end.
Because anesthesiologists are responsible for the administration of these medications, they are held to a reasonable standard of care. During the course of a medical procedure, an anesthesiologist must act as another professional would act during the same treatment. If he or she does not meet this standard of care, then medical negligence comes into play. A patient would be considered a victim of medical malpractice if the anesthesiologist was medically negligent at any phase of the treatment, and this negligence resulted in injury. Because of the powerful nature of these drugs, the potential for injury is elevated.
Errors an anesthesiologist can commit include failing to account for possible complications involving conflicting medications or administration of the wrong medication or wrong dosage. Errors also include failing to monitor the vital signs of the patient or failing to assist their breathing correctly with the use of a procedure known as intubating. If the anesthesiologist fails to inform the patient of the risks of not following preoperative instructions such as not eating before surgery, this too, could result in medical malpractice.