By Kenneth Lee
McKeen & Associates attorneys Brian McKeen and Kenneth Lee recently obtained a settlement of $1.5 million for the wrongful death of a 62-year-old man as a result of the neglect of a team of otolaryngology (surgical and medical issues of the head and neck) physicians.
Prior to his tragic and preventable death, the client had been diagnosed with cancer of the oropharynx and tongue. He underwent a surgical procedure to treat the cancer on July 12, 2016. After the surgery, the patient was treated with a medication called Lovenox, an anticoagulant (which thins the blood) in order to prevent the development of blood clots.
Following the surgery, the surgeon left to attend a conference out of town. The patient’s post-operative care was left to a team of otolaryngology residents. On post-op day number two, the patient developed a bleed in his mouth. A resident performed a procedure called a “flexible laryngoscopy” to investigate for the source of the bleed, however, the source was not able to be identified. Despite the occurrence of the bleed and the inability to identify the source, the team of otolaryngology physicians continued the administration of Lovenox which increased the patient’s risk of additional bleeding.
On post-op day number four, the patient again developed a bleed in his mouth. Again, a resident physician came and performed another flexible laryngoscopy. However, the procedure again failed to identify the source of the bleed and no other attempts were taken to identify the source of the bleed. The patient was sent to the intensive care unit that afternoon for closer observation.
That evening, the resident performed another flexible laryngoscopy. This time, it caused the patient to suffer a severe hemorrhage of blood from his mouth. A code blue was called but because of the torrential nature of the bleed, the anesthesia team had to make three different attempts before intubation could be accomplished to secure the patient’s airway. By this time, the patient had aspirated blood and suffered severe brain damage. He was not able to be resuscitated.
The entire otolaryngology team who managed the patient’s post-operative care was negligent and responsible for this tragic death. During the lawsuit, the McKeen & Associates team and its expert witnesses established that the standard of care required that the Lovenox administration be stopped after the first post-op bleed and that, after the first laryngoscopy had failed to identify the source of the bleed, the patient needed to be taken to the operating room where the bleeding vessel would have been identified and ligated. Had these critical steps been taken, this tragic death would have been avoided.