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  • Hospital Malpractice: Failure to Monitor Respiratory Depression: Piotrowski v. William Beaumont Hospital et al.

Sommers Schwartz attorneys Robert Sickels and Matthew Turner filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of a woman who suffered respiratory arrest and brain damage while under the defendants’ care.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff presented to the emergency room complaining of upper abdominal pain. Because of her obesity and the prescription drugs she was taking, she was at risk for respiratory depression.

When an initial round of medications failed to relieve her symptoms, she was given the barbiturate phenobarbital, the opioid Dilaudid, and benzodiazepine Xanax over an 18-hour period. She received the Dilaudid and Xanax within two hours of one another, increasing the risk of respiratory depression. A doctor appropriately ordered continuous monitoring of her oxygen saturation levels.

As the patient slept, her respiratory rate decreased as did the volume of air she took in with each breath, while her carbon monoxide levels increased. The patient was found at 6 a.m. by a laboratory technician with no pulse and no respirations. Her oxygen levels had dropped so far, she developed a cardiac arrest that that impaired blood flow to the brain and throughout her body.

The lawsuit claims that had nurses properly followed the order for oxygen saturation monitoring, an alarm would have sounded, they would have detected her respiratory depression and measures would have been taken to prevent the arrest and resulting in anoxic-ischemic brain injury. The lawsuit also claims that the hospital had a deficient system for responding to monitoring oxygen saturation levels.

Because of the alleged negligence of the hospital doctors and nurses, the plaintiff is now a quadriplegic with severe cognitive dysfunction. Now and for the remainder of her life, she requires round-the-clock nursing care and medical monitoring.

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