Dr. Fagel obtained a verdict of $5.6 million on the behalf of a child who remains in a persistent vegetative state after sustaining injuries resulting from anesthesia errors during and after surgery. The plaintiff, then age 3 years old underwent a standard tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy at Los Angeles Metropolitan Hospital. The defendant, Dr. Mitchell, was the assigned anesthesiologist. There were no complications during the surgery. However, while attaching monitors, the recovery room nurse noted that the patient was not breathing and notified the defendant. He, along with another anesthesiologist, began CPR with Ambu bag ventilation, chest compressions, medications and re-intubation. After 3-5 minutes the patients pulse finally returned. When the ET tube was replaced, blood was suctioned out of the trachea and a chest X-ray revealed aspiration. Despite resuscitation, the plaintiff remained in a coma and was discharged home approximately one month after surgery. Due to his injuries, which include hypoxic brain damage and cardiac arrest, the patient remains in a persistent vegetative state and requires 16 hour LVN care.
The defendant argued that his anesthesia care during and after surgery was “by the book�? and, therefore, not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. He claimed that once he was aware of the problems, his actions complied with the standard of care and that the outcome was an unavoidable complication of the surgery. However, Dr. Fagel proved that the defendant’s negligent actions directly led to the patient’s injuries and that, with proper treatment, the tragic outcome could have been avoided. He successfully argued that the defendant used an excessive amount of anesthesia and too wide an ET tube for anesthesia administration during the surgery, which led to swelling and respiration in the recovery room. Dr. Fagel also proved that the defendant failed to recognize and respond in a timely fashion when the patient’s blood oxygen saturation dropped to dangerously low levels in the recovery room, which allowed further hypoxia and eventually led to cardiac arrest.
The $5.6 million in damages will be used to compensate for the plaintiff’s future lost of earnings and to cover the costs of his past and future medical expenses.