Sommers Schwartz attorneys Matthew Turner and Robert Sickels secured a $2.9 million medical malpractice settlement for the estate of a woman who suffered irreversible brain damage while in the hospital and later died from related complications.
The 51-year old patient presented to the defendant hospital’s 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. At one point, a laboratory technician found the patient with no pulse or respirations. Her oxygen levels had dropped so significantly that she developed a cardiac arrest that impaired blood flow to her brain and throughout her body.
Had nurses at the hospital properly followed the doctor’s order to monitor the patient’s oxygen saturation, an alarm would have sounded, they would have detected her respiratory depression, and measures would have been taken to prevent the arrest and resulting anoxic-ischemic brain injury. The wrongful death lawsuit also claimed that the hospital’s system for responding to monitoring oxygen saturation levels was deficient.
Because of the negligence of the hospital doctors and nurses, the decedent suffered quadriplegia with severe cognitive dysfunction. After spending five years in extended-care facilities, the patient died due to complications from her neurological impairments.
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