$630,000 SETTLEMENT - NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE FROM PLASTIC SURGERY CENTER

A 55-year-old woman underwent outpatient plastic surgery including abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) in the Bay Area. Shortly before she was discharged, she was shivering and needed oxygen. Demerol (50 mg) was injected just before she was discharged. Although she was pale and her head was falling to her side, the plastic surgeon told her husband to take her home and she would gradually come out of the anesthesia. She fell asleep in the car on the way home and her husband called the anesthesiologist who told him to leave her in the car and watch her. When her breathing decreased, her husband again called the anesthesiologist who told him to rush her to the hospital. A Code Blue was called and although she was eventually resuscitated at the hospital, she was clinically brain dead. The cause of death was hypoxic encephalopathy due to respiratory arrest during recovery from general anesthesia. We argued that inappropriate anesthesia had been administered and recovery room and discharge errors were made resulting in a negligent premature discharge. The plastic surgery office did not have written policies and procedures for discharging patients and the patient was rushed out of the recovery room because another surgery was scheduled and the operating room was also the recovery room. The decedent left a husband and two adult children. As in all medical malpractice cases the recovery was limited due to a 1976 California Law placing a low cap on damages.