Painful eye surgery continued after patient woke up, lawsuit says


Imagine going in for what you expect to be routine surgery. As you lie on the operating table and start to feel sleepy from the anesthesia, you are comforted by the fact that you won’t feel pain during the procedure and will wake up with only mild post-surgical discomfort. But part way through the surgery, you wake up. You can feel the surgeon operating on you but you can’t stop it. You may even be paralyzed and unable to speak.

For most of us, this nightmarish scenario would be deeply traumatizing. Yet nearly 30,000 Americans a year suffer this fate; a condition called “anesthesia awareness.” Sometimes it happens because of the unique way a patient responds to anesthesia. Other times, however, it is due to preventable¬†anesthesia errors.

In one recent medical malpractice case, a Mississippi man claims that his doctors “tortured” him after he awoke in the middle of cataract surgery. In his complaint, the man says that he was able to speak when he awoke and asked his surgeon to stop the procedure. But the medical staff allegedly put tape over his mouth and continued the operation.

The man even claims that he was held down so forcefully that one of his teeth was knocked out and swallowed. To add insult to this alleged injury, his surgery was unsuccessful and the man has lost all vision in his right eye.

If these allegations are true, they represent offenses far more reprehensible than medical errors alone. In many respects, this patient’s experiences were unlike those of other victims of anesthesia awareness.

But what is similar is the fact that anesthesia awareness can be extremely frightening, injurious and traumatic. When such injuries are the result of anesthesia errors, negligent physicians need to be held accountable.

Louisiana Record, “Man who awoke during cataract surgery sues over loss of vision and alleged ‘torture’,” Kyle Barnett, Feb. 23, 2013, “Man Sues Over Loss Of Vision And Alleged Torture After Waking Up During Cataract Surgery,” Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, Feb. 26, 2013

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