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$6M Settlement in Muted Monitor Death

Tonsillectomy patient's fentanyl-triggered respiratory arrest went unnoticed in PACU.

Published: April 26, 2013

The death of a teen-aged tonsillectomy patient following an unnoticed post-op respiratory arrest has resulted in a $6 million pre-trial settlement, according to court records.

Mariah Edwards, 17, underwent a routine and uncomplicated surgery at the Abington (Pa.) Surgical Center in March 2012. While in recovery, she was administered fentanyl for post-op pain, which her attorneys explain led to respiratory arrest, which wasn't discovered for 25 minutes.

Ms. Edwards suffered hypoxic brain injury and was transferred to a nearby hospital, where she died 15 days later. Her parents sued the center, 2 RNs and a nurse anesthetist, alleging a failure to adequately monitor her in post-op after delivering a dose of the respiratory depressant drug.

While defense attorneys initially countered that proper monitoring had been conducted, a nurse revealed in a pre-trial deposition that the complication had gone unnoticed because the vital signs monitor had been muted and a curtain had been pulled around Ms. Edwards's post-op bay.

In a statement issued at the time of the settlement, the surgery center announced that an investigation of the incident had led to a policy prohibiting the muting of monitors, the drawing of curtains or the staffing of more than one narcotized patient per nurse.

David Bernard


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