Fire during surgery leaves woman unable to speak

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

New York is full of high-profile medical centers with many surgeries being performed in every practice area imaginable. Though surgeons are highly trained with a good deal of experience, things can still go drastically wrong in surgery. Some errors are relatively minor, but others can cause catastrophic injury and irreparable damage.

One such case occurred in Wenatchee, Washington, where a woman went through surgery to have polyps removed from her vocal cords. Her breathing tube caught fire within her throat during the surgery, and she was left unable to speak. The woman’s injuries were so severe that she had to be flown to a different hospital. She underwent a myriad of surgeries and was still a patient when a lawsuit was filed three months after the initial surgery.

The woman was awarded $30 million in the medical malpractice suit that was filed. The award came from the Wenatchee Medical Center, Wenatchee Anesthesia Associates and Central Washington Hospital. It was initially $12 million after Central Washington Hospital settled, but King County Superior Court ordered the additional $18 million from the other two institutions. This was the largest settlement the hospital has had to make, and it’s spurred staff efforts to ensure an error of this magnitude doesn’t happen again.

Sometimes surgical errors are minor, but those in this particular surgery led to lifelong catastrophic injury. Negligent operating room staff, improper use of equipment or a careless surgeon can cause major issues within a given surgical procedure. Medical malpractice suits attempt to improve the injured patient’s life by seeking compensation for additional medical procedures, pain and suffering and damages that can’t be repaired. Though this patient likely won’t be able to regain her speaking ability, her team of lawyers was successful in obtaining monetary compensation for her ordeal.

Source: The Wenatchee World, “Botched surgery will cost hospital“, K.C. Mehaffey, December 06, 2013

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