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New York Court Allows Anesthesia Error Case to Proceed

Anesthesia, when administered with the proper care, allows patients to undergo surgery without feeling pain. Unfortunately, anesthesia errors are common and often lead to debilitating injures or death. A court recently decided a New York anesthesia error case involving the negligent application of morphine, a common form of surgical anesthesia.The plaintiff went in for gallbladder surgery; during surgery, however, he went into cardiopulmonary arrest. This resulted in a brain injury that left him on a ventilator and in a vegetative state. The plaintiff brought a malpractice claim against two doctors and alleged that his anesthesiologist failed to recognize that the plaintiff was not responding appropriately to opiate pain medication. The court’s decision came at the summary judgment phase of the lawsuit. The primary issue before the court was whether the amount of morphine administered to the plaintiff was done in a way that was negligent.

Under New York law, summary judgment is a procedural phase in which the defendant tries to persuade the judge that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because they lack merit. The defendant must present evidence that shows the absence of any triable issue regarding a claim. If the defendant meets this burden of proof, the plaintiff must present evidence to establish the presence of an issue of material fact. New York law provides that a summary judgment ruling in favor of the defendant is not proper in a medical malpractice claim when the parties have produced conflicting opinions by medical experts.

The defendants’ expert testimony stated that the doses of morphine administered to the plaintiff were within the accepted standard of care. Specifically, the dosage administered (9 to 13 mg) was insufficient to cause an overdose to the plaintiff. On the other hand, the plaintiff contended that although 9 to 13 mg of morphine may not have been excessive for a younger patient, it was negligent to administer this amount to the plaintiff, who was at an increased risk of an abnormal reaction because of his age and obesity. Furthermore, the plaintiff’s experts stated that the plaintiff’s pupils were severely dilated during surgery and evidence of the occurrence of an opioid overdose. The court acknowledged that this evidence could show that the plaintiff’s cardiac arrest was narcotics-induced and concluded that the plaintiff presented triable issues of fact concerning his possible opioid overdose as a result of his anesthesiologist’s negligence.

Although opioids are frequently used during surgical procedures, the risk for opioid overdose is high if they are not appropriately administered and managed by an anesthesiologist. Medical professionals are charged with adhering to a certain standard of care because a deviation from those standards, as alleged in this case, can lead to permanently debilitating injuries.

Our Rochester firm has extensive experience handling anesthesia errors. Call us if you believe you have a case. Consultations are always free, and you are not responsible for legal fees unless we are able to recover money for you. To speak with an attorney about your anesthesia error case, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers at 315-479-9000 or contact us online. We offer evening and weekend appointments as well as home and hospital visits.

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