On June 17th, 2012 a jury in Pennsylvania awarded $1.1 million to a young boy who after undergoing surgery for sleep apnea was left with a brain injury. The family attorney reported that the child will has developmental delays leaving him nearly a year and half behind his peers in normal milestones of growth.
The plaintiff was only eleven months old when he was tested for sleep apnea. The results of the test found that he was experiencing 50 episodes per hour where the oxygen level in his blood would drop.
The Harrisburg Hospital doctor, an Otolaryngologist (doctor specializing in ear, nose and throat medicine) recommended surgery to remove the boy’s tonsils and adenoids. Additionally, he recommended inserting ear tubes.
Post-surgery, the child experienced breathing problems that required him to stay in the recovery room for over five hours due to low levels of oxygen in his blood. The average time spent in recovery post-surgery is an hour and a half.
Despite spending an abnormally excessive amount of time in recovery, not only did the doctor who performed the surgery fail to perform sufficient physical exams—the standard of care—but he also placed the child on a regular floor for recovery, as opposed to the intensive care unit where oxygen levels would have been monitored 24 hours a day.
As a result the child had to be resuscitated after he was found under cardiac arrest; not breathing and with no pulse causing brain injury that was visible after an MRI test.
The plaintiff attorney argued that cardiac arrest would not have occurred had the doctor monitored the plaintiff’s blood oxygen levels post-surgery.
The jury deliberated for five hours and found the doctor guilty, awarding the family $1.1 million and leaving the family to recoup about $800,000. The child’s attorney stated he would take 30 to 33 percent of the award, partially to cover for the $40,000 to $50,000 required for medical experts.
In 2001, Pennsylvania passed a series of legal reform to reduce the number of medical malpractice suits. In 2000, 2,632 lawsuits were filed while in 2011 on 1,528 suits were filed showing a significant decline in medical malpractice lawsuits since the reform. Most of the reform centered on reducing medical errors—most of which are preventable.
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