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Anesthesia Providers Cleared in OR Fire Lawsuit

Jury finds providers were not negligent in administering oxygen to pediatric tonsillectomy patient.

Published: July 28, 2010

The anesthesia providers who administered 100% oxygen to a pediatric patient undergoing tonsillectomy were not responsible for a fire that broke out at the site of the oxygen mask, an Alabama jury recently ruled.

When Tyler Knight, then 4, was admitted to HealthSouth Metro West Hospital in Fairfield, Ala., for a tonsillectomy in July 2002, he was given 98% to 100% fractionally inspired oxygen, as he suffered from asthma and had recently recovered from a respiratory illness, according to the Alabama Jury Verdict Reporter. During the case, a fire ignited at the patient's oxygen's mask, causing him severe burns. Court records do not explain why the fire broke out.

Claiming medical negligence and a breach in the standard of care, the boy's family sued HealthSouth, John Gerwin, MD, ENT Associates of Alabama, anesthesiologist J. Allan Hale, MD, Cindy Routman, CRNA, who was handling the boy's case, and Anesthesia Services of Birmingham. The family also named 4 medical device companies in the suit — Bovie Medical Corp., Valley Lab & Medical Supplies, Ethicon Endo-Surgery and Megadyne Medical — claiming that they manufactured components of the electrosurgery unit involved in the fire.

All 4 companies were dismissed from the suit, either because their equipment was not actually involved in the incident or because it was not found to be defective. The hospital, surgeon and ENT practice were also dismissed, leaving the anesthesia providers and their firm to defend their actions in court.

They argued that it had been appropriate to administer 100% oxygen because of the boy's asthma and history of respiratory illness, and that the oxygen did not cause the fire because it was delivered via a well-sealed endotracheal tube.

The jury agreed and rendered a verdict in the defense's favor in March, awarding no money to the plaintiff. Lawyers for both sides of the case did not return calls for comment.

Irene Tsikitas

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