April 6, 2012

Jury Returns Verdict for Plaintiff in Medical Malpractice Trial Following Brain Injury Death

by Levin & Perconti

MLive reported this week on the end of a medical malpractice trial involving injuries to a patient that are similar to those faced by many clients with which our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers have worked. The trial was prompted by a lawsuit that a family filed alleging that errors made during a surgery led to severe brain damage and ultimately death for their mother. The tragedy is a reminder of the serious risks that are present whenever one is in surgery and the utmost imperative incumbent upon medical professionals to act reasonably to prevent harm throughout these medical procedures.

The story explains how the 66-year old woman underwent surgery in the summer of 2008 to remove her thyroid and parathyroid glands in her neck. Nothing seemed to be wrong during the actual surgery, but it was evident that there were problems in its aftermath. The woman essentially never came out of her anesthesia following the operation. Doctors were unable to revive her in post-anesthesia care.

The wrongful death lawsuit that followed alleged that during the surgery, the anesthesiologist failed to notice that a breathing tube used in the surgery had been moved erroneously. The tube was needed to provide oxygen to the woman’s brain during the procedure. The woman had been given a general anesthetic which prevented her from breathing on her own. The anesthesia, in combination with the tube problem, meant that the woman’s brain was deprived of oxygen.

As a result of this, the woman needed to be put on life support. She died a week and a half after the operation when her family was forced to make the difficult decision of removing her life support. Tests performed after her passing found that the oxygen deprivation was the cause of death with no other explanations found as to why she would have been injured in this way. After hearing all of the evidence in the case the jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. Specifically, they found that the anesthesiologist involved in the operation was professionally negligent. They awarded $1.23 million to the family for their losses.

Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm appreciates the devastation that these events have on families; we understand that no amount of money changes the fact that a loved one has been lost. That is particularly true in situations like this, where none of the woman’s family (she had eight children) were under the impressions that the surgery was particularly risky.

However, the suit provided a level of accountable to those left behind. As the woman’s daughter in this case explained after the end of the trial, “The verdict doesn’t change anything for us because she’s not here with us. But there is closure that we know what happened to her in the operating room before the procedure even started. At least we have answers.” It is sad that it often takes litigation and a full trial before families actually have clear answers and full accountability for mistakes made during these operations.

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