The Boston Globe recently featured an upsetting story of surgery error about five patients who went in for cataract surgery and came out blind in the eye that was operated on, allegedly due to consistent errors made by the anesthesiologist that day. Upon investigating what happened, specialists concluded that the anesthesiologist had potentially pierced their eyes or retinas upon injecting the numbing agent into their eyes.
What’s even more startling is the possibility that the anesthesiologist may not have been properly screened, but was placed at the outpatient surgery center that day by an anesthesiologist broker—a common practice for outpatient surgery centers, which often have to contract with outside companies for anesthesiologists instead of having a permanent one on staff.
These anesthesiologists are supposed to be trained, but these safety measures can sometimes fall through the cracks.
The Use of Eye Blocks
Today, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery operation in America.
Anesthesiologists sometimes use what’s called an “eye block” to inject the numbing agent into the muscles surrounding the eyeball so that the eye itself is immobilized during surgery. According to experts, the standard is to supervise an anesthesiologist for at least 10 eye block procedures before allowing them to work unsupervised.
If the patient experiences pain in the eye when they receive the numbing agent, this can be a sign that there is something wrong. In this case the patients screamed from the pain, yet no one stopped to make sure that the eye block had been done correctly – a strong potential case for medical malpractice.
The five patients who have been blinded in one eye have experienced life-altering changes, including one having to quit her job because she is no longer comfortable driving.
And as for the anesthesiologist, unfortunately, it is typically the state Board of Registration in Medicine which decides whether or not a doctor can continue to practice when mistakes like these are made. In this case, while they have blocked the anesthesiologist responsible from performing eye blocks while these injuries are investigated, he has been otherwise allowed to continue to practice anesthesiology.
The question ultimately becomes: Who is responsible here?
How many parties are responsible? If the surgery center doctors had caught the mistake right away, could the patients’ eyes have been spared? Another question this has brought to light is whether the use of eye blocks is appropriate at all for this surgery. Most physicians instead use the less-invasive numbing eye drops.
In this case, the surgery center is claiming that the event “was not preventable” simply because this particular anesthesiologist had “extensive prior experience.” However, several of the patients are bringing litigation claiming that this was preventable error, especially since it is, arguably, no coincidence that five patients all at the same surgery center, on the same day, being injected by the same anesthesiologist, were blinded during a surgery that rarely has any complications.
Attorneys Fighting For Victims of Anesthesia Errors and Surgery Errors
Administering anesthesia drugs incorrectly can cause serious harm, and sometimes permanent injury. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of medical malpractice, negligence in the use or administration of anesthesia or any other surgery error case, you may be entitled to compensation.