Courtroom View Network reports that in Smith v. Introna, the 63-year-old female decedent had undergone knee replacement surgery in 2009 and died just days after the procedure. Her husband, as the representative of her estate, claimed the anesthesiologist involved in the procedure proximately caused his wife’s death by not properly medicating her or monitoring her during the surgery, and also by failing to take appropriate action when she stopped breathing.
The plaintiff alleges the doctor prescribed a drug called Dilaudid, which is a synthetic form of the drug morphine. This was prescribed to dull her pain both during and after surgery. This might not have been an issue, the plaintiff said, except for the fact that his wife had a severe allergy to morphine and other types of opioids – a fact that had been disclosed prior to her surgery. The procedure at first went normally, but then, according to the plaintiff, the doctor didn’t order heightened monitoring of the patient after the operation. Nurses discovered her soon after the procedure unconscious and without a heartbeat.
The doctor reportedly responded to her room in response to the emergency, but her husband claims the doctor didn’t successfully intubate her and restart her heart until a full 19 minutes had passed. By that time, it was too late. She was brain dead and died four days later.
The doctor has insisted he properly assessed the patient and her pain medication. He contends that given the circumstances, her post-operative monitoring was appropriate. He also asserts that the patient’s death – caused by her sudden failure to keep breathing – was not caused by either his medication or his treatment.
Jurors in the eight-day trial will ultimately be the ones to make that call. As in all medical malpractice lawsuits, they will need to decide not whether the doctor caused a poor outcome for the patient, but whether the treatment fell below the standard of care based on the circumstances. The plaintiff will need to rely on numerous expert witnesses to establish what the standard of care was and how the doctor allegedly breached it before he can work on tackling the issue of whether that breach proximately caused the decedent’s death.
Although there is a risk with any kind of surgical procedure, knee replacement surgery is becoming increasingly common, particularly among middle-aged and older Americans. It involves replacing the end of the upper thigh bone with a metal cap and then replacing the lower leg bone with a plastic piece and a stem. It could also remove or replace the ligaments on the sides of the knee joint.
Some potential risks and side effects of replacement knee surgery include:
- Damage to nerves
- Chronic stiffness or pain in the knee or surrounding area
- Pulmonary embolisms
- Urinary tract infections
- Blood vessel injury
- General loss of range of motion
- Bleeding into the knee joint
If you have undergone knee replacement surgery and have suffered any of these complications, our personal injury lawyers can review your case and provide a determination on a course of action to protect your rights.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Med Mal Trial Over Knee Surgery Patient’s Death to Begin Next Week, Nov. 3, 2016, By Arlin Crisco, CVN
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