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Medical Negligence And Lack of Familiarity with Monitoring Machine Results in Death

Bruce D. suffered from a chronic condition that required him to make an annual trip to a hospital for a minor surgical procedure. Following one such procedure, Bruce was not recovering as well as usual. He required opioid medications, which can cause drowsiness and difficulty breathing.

When a nurse checked on Bruce shortly after he received the medications, she thought he looked a bit “sleepy,” and she attributed it to the meds. She was reassured that Bruce wasn’t having a breathing problem because his pulse oximeter showed that his blood was well oxygenated. When she returned 45 minutes later, however, Bruce had no pulse, wasn’t breathing, and had a “pulse ox” reading of zero. A “code blue” was called, and Bruce was resuscitated, but he died a few days later from the damage that was done to his brain, which had gone without oxygen for many minutes.

The hospital took the position that Bruce’s death was a mystery, and that Bruce’s family could not blame it for a mystery. It turns out, however, that Bruce died from the failure of hospital personnel to familiarize themselves with their own equipment. This is a form of professional negligence. Bruce was being monitored by a machine that kept track of his heart rate and his pulse ox. When a doctor determined that he no longer needed to monitor Bruce’s heart rate, that component of the machine was turned off. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the nurses, when the heart rate monitor was turned off, the pulse ox alarm setting reverted to the “off” position. So, when Bruce’s pulse ox plummeted because he was having trouble breathing, the alarm never sounded and precious minutes were wasted.

When The Eisen Law Firm zeroed in on this aspect of the case, the hospital realized that the “mystery death” had been solved and agreed to a confidential settlement.