Also known as asphyxiation, suffocation results when someone is deprived of necessary oxygen for an extended period of time. Depending on the amount of time the person is without oxygen, asphyxiation can cause brain damage, coma or death. It is estimated that about 9.8 million cases of unintentional suffocation occur each year, with approximately 35,600 of these incidents ending in death.
While most cases of suffocation are accidental, there are instances where medical negligence is the cause of someone’s death or serious injury. These medical mistakes can happen to people of any age in a variety of situations; during surgery, labor and delivery, when breathing tubes are improperly used or with elderly people recovering from pneumonia.
Suffocation during Surgery
If instruments are used incorrectly or a patient is mistreated in a way that obstructs the airway and causes breathing difficulty, the consequences to the patient could be attributed to the surgeon or other medical practitioners involved in the surgery. In a tracheostomy revision surgery, for example, if the patient’s breathing is not monitored properly and/or there is a failure to restore the airway after surgery, the medical team may be responsible for the resultant oxygen deprivation.
Anesthesia errors could also cause serious consequences. If the type of anesthesia or the way it was administered causes the patient to stop breathing long enough to cause brain damage or death, this could be cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Suffocation during labor and delivery
Medical mistakes during the birth process could cause a baby to experience oxygen deprivation, which, if it continues for an extended period of time, can lead to brain damage or death. Other consequences of suffocation during delivery can include epilepsy, damage to the lungs or kidneys and cerebral palsy. The extent of the brain damage depends on the length of time the baby was deprived of oxygen.
Some of the mistakes that could cause a baby to have breathing difficulties due to lack of oxygen include:
- Failing to diagnose fetal distress and perform appropriate treatment
- Failing to recognize or treat blood poisoning (toxemia)
- Failing to perform an emergency cesarean section if doing so would have relieved the fetal distress
- Dispensing the wrong dose or type of medication
- Failing to detect or treat maternal hypertension
- Using vacuum extraction incorrectly
Suffocation from Mistakes involving Breathing Tubes
If breathing tubes are placed incorrectly, or they are damaged or become damaged during insertion, the patient can lose oxygen. Depending on how quickly breathing is restored, the patient can suffer brain damage or other harmful consequences, including death.
Suffocation from Pneumonia
Elderly patients who are suffering from pneumonia can be at risk of death by suffocation due to mucous secretions or vomit. This risk increases with the use of feeding tubes. If a patient in this condition suffocates because of inadequate supervision and monitoring, the hospital or nursing home facility could be liable.
Lawsuits for death or disability due to suffocation can be complicated. That is why you need an experienced medical malpractice law firm to obtain the benefits your family deserves. If you think a loved one’s suffocation was the result of negligence, contact us now for a free consultation.