Malpractice in the Operating Room: Who Is Responsible?

It was supposed to be a routine hernia operation. But then the surgeon ordered the anesthesiologist to give the patient a blood-thinning drug. The anesthesiologist, who wasn’t familiar with the drug, injected the drug directly into the patient’s i.v. line, as soon as the surgeon ordered it. That was a double mistake, and it started a cascade of consequences for the patient, who later became our law firm’s client.

The legal issue in the medical malpractice lawsuit we filed was: Who was responsible for the misuse of the drug? Just the anesthesiologist, who should have known better than to inject the drug intravenously, and so soon? Or the surgeon too?

That issue was finally resolved this week in our client’s favor. Here is what happened.

The too-quick use of the drug Lovenox, which was intended to prevent blood clots in the legs after the surgery, caused bleeding in the spinal cord, with permanent nerve damage for our client. The use of the drug was against the “black box warning” on the drug’s official labeling, which said doctors should wait after a spinal anesthetic at least several hours, and also against the official policy of the Washington, DC hospital where the surgery happened.

The anesthesiologist settled out of court on the eve of trial and turned over to the injured patient the anesthesiologist’s cross-claim for “contribution” against the surgeon.

The trial court then ruled, after a hard-fought trial, that the surgeon was jointly responsible with the anesthesiologist for the injury.

After a long battle, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling in all respects. You can read the decision on our firm’s website here.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
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