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Medication Error - Anesthesia Awareness

CATEGORIES: Surgical Errors CASE LOCATION: Allegheny Co., PA. CLASSIFICATION: Substantial Recoveries

The Logan Case

This is a case involving a bronchoscopy where the patient, James Logan, was not sufficiently sedated and incurred an “anesthesia awareness” psychological injury.

On February 22, 2008, during Mr. Logan’s admission to the defendant hospital, he had a bronchoscopy performed by the defendant pulmonologist. Prior to the procedure, there was a medication error in which Mr. Logan was given 10 mg of the muscle relaxant Vecuronium instead of the proper sedation/anesthesia medication. Vecuronium is a paralyzing agent that causes a patient to stop breathing while on a respirator; although, in this case Mr. Logan was not on a respirator.

Believing that Mr. Logan was properly sedated, the defendant doctor began to perform the bronchoscopy. However, due to the Vecuronium, Mr. Logan was awake and conscious during the surgery. Moreover, he was paralyzed and could not breathe on his own, nor could he not alert anybody of this problem. Eerily, Mr. Logan, in desperate fear for his life, can recall the exact conversations in the room and could feel the bronchoscopy suctioning his lung. At some point, someone recognized that Mr. Logan’s heart rate was extremely elevated. The defendant doctor then removed the covering over Mr. Logan’s face and realized that he was paralyzed, was not properly sedated, in sheer terror, and not breathing on his own. Mr. Logan was ultimately sedated and placed on mechanical ventilator support.

As a result, Mr. Logan still experiences severe emotional distress, including insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, flashbacks, depression, night terrors, and an enormous – and reasonable – fear of hospital procedures. This fear of hospital procedures is especially significant for Mr. Logan, as his underlying medical condition – throat cancer – causes him to frequently be in the hospital undergoing medical procedures.

Suit was filed against the pulmonologist for ordering the wrong medication. Suit was also filed against the hospital for failing to have proper medication precautions in place and for the actions of the nurse who administered the medication for failing to recognize the obvious medication error.

After suit was filed, the defendants agreed to mediate the case before a former Allegheny County Trial Judge. The case settled for a substantial sum.