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Did Anesthesia-Related Medical Malpractice Lead to Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death, though uncommon, is a possible consequence of anesthesia malpractice. Anesthesiologists go through years of training so that they can properly administer anesthesia to their patients. However, mistakes sometimes get made, whether they be out of carelessness, lack of due diligence, or other factors. No matter the reason, the repercussions can be severe. 

If a person dies from the improper use of anesthesia, their surviving family can bring a wrongful death action against the physicians and medical facility that are responsible. Wrongful death lawsuits in medical malpractice cases are complex and time consuming. If you believe your loved one has died as a result of malpractice, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to see if a viable case can be made. 

Common Errors That Can Happen Due to Malpractice

There are many forms of anesthesia errors that can occur due to malpractice. Malpractice could happen at any point during the surgery timeline. This includes the consultation stages leading up to surgery, the surgery itself, and the post-surgery care. To pinpoint exactly what went wrong and when necessitates a thorough investigation. Some common errors include the following: 

Administering too much anesthesia 

  • Anesthesia overdose can result in cardiovascular or respiratory failure from hypotension (low blood pressure) and bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate)

Failing to monitor the patient

  • Not checking blood pressure prior to induction
  • Not noting a drop in oxygen levels from airway obstruction 
  • Failure to document breath sounds and a slow response to abnormal oxygen levels 
  • Improper management of complications that occur post surgery

Not considering risk factors

  • A patient may have a medical history and underlying health problems that could present risks to the patient 
  • The physician must weigh these risks against the type of anesthesia and route of anesthesia that will be selected for the surgery
  • Not considering the risks, not taking adequate precautions, or not referring to specialists for consideration can all lead to adverse effects from anesthesia 

Wrong medicine

  • Making a mistake with the medication and providing the wrong one can lead to fatal hypertension 
  • Mistakes can occur due to misidentification, wrong labeling, syringe swap, and exchange with other drugs due to inattention or haste 


  • Other risk factors include inadequate experience by the anesthesia provider or inadequate experience with the equipment being used
  • Lack of, or inadequate documentation of the procedure, which can impact quality of care 

Any of these unfortunate anesthesia errors can contribute to a patient’s death. If it does, it’s important to identify all parties who are at fault and pursue a legal remedy.

How Do You Know if Medical Malpractice Is to Blame?

Medical malpractice cases, especially those dealing with anesthesia, are especially difficult to prove. This is because there are a variety of factors that could have contributed to the person’s death. A person’s age, underlying health issues, and natural complications are all legitimate reasons that could have resulted in the person’s death. These are also the common defenses that physicians and hospitals use. 

In order for the injured party to prevail over the physician, they must show that the negligent behavior involving anesthesia was more likely or probably the cause of the injury as compared to all of the other possible causes presented. An attorney has to be prepared to retain an expert witness who can show that the harm would probably not have occurred if proper care was taken. Furthermore, the mere possibility that the physician’s negligence might have led to the wrongful death will not be enough in a court of law. In fact, the standard is high enough that it is quite challenging to make a viable claim, and goes to show the importance of retaining an experienced attorney.

What to Do if Someone You Loved Died Following Anesthesia

If someone you loved died following anesthesia, we understand that it is an extremely difficult time for you and your family. Your world may have been turned upside down in the blink of an eye, and the physicians that you entrusted to take care of your loved one may have failed you. While a lawsuit may not bring your loved one back, it can help compensate your family for the financial and emotional loss that has resulted from the death. The best way to ensure that your family stays afloat, and that the people responsible are held accountable for their actions, is to pursue a lawsuit against them. If you need further information on how personal injury lawsuits work, please see our other article

At Rosenblum Law, we’ve been handling medical malpractice claims for decades. We work with medical experts to help support our clients’ claims, and are experienced negotiators when it comes to going up against insurance companies. Our firm is here to help you make sense of your options and protect your rights as a patient. Contact us today for an initial consultation.


What is the risk of dying from general anesthetic?

While overall the risks are low, the chances are higher if the surgery is very difficult and/or the person has extensive health issues to begin with. This is why the physician has to do their due diligence in considering the patient’s entire medical history, possible allergies they might have, and other factors that could be hazardous for the patient.

Who is entitled to wrongful death benefits?

Generally, the spouse, children, and grandchildren can bring wrongful death suits. The distribution of economic awards can be quite complicated and vary from state to state. For example, in New York state, damages are distributed to those eligible to recover under intestate law, in proportion to their financial loss. Priority under intestate law is given to the spouse and the children, and distributed according to who is present at the time of death. However, when there is a surviving spouse and parents, but no children (or grandchildren), the parents of the deceased will also recover in proportion to their pecuniary loss. This is just a snapshot of wrongful death benefits, and does not cover the full scope. An attorney will be able to provide more information on this matter after they analyze your case. 

If the deceased person did not have a job, can you still sue for wrongful death?

Yes, for starters, the estate can recover for the funeral expenses. If the children have suffered the death of a parent, they can claim loss of nurture, guidance, and partnership. It will be more difficult if the children are adults, and especially if they are not receiving any financial support. If the spouse is claiming damages for the non-working deceased, then the claims will center on the loss of the deceased’s services to the household. Some examples include preparation of meals, providing shelter, child care, household repairs and maintenance, and counseling.

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