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$1,800,000 Settlement for Family of Woman Who Suffocated in Hospital Surgical ICU

Martin & Jones represented the widower and parents of a 30-year old North Carolina woman who died due to medical malpractice. After she was injured in an ATV accident, she was admitted to a large teaching hospital in North Carolina.

Her injuries were not life-threatening, but she did have to have her spleen removed. After the surgery, she remained intubated and attached to a ventilator. Five days after the surgery, the decision was made to remove her from the ventilator by removing her endotracheal tube, even though her respiratory condition had begun to deteriorate the day before.

The decision was made by a critical care and trauma surgeon in conjunction with medical residents that he was training. Martin & Jones lawyers learned that there were particular tests that were required to be performed before a patient was removed from a ventilator pursuant to this teaching hospital’s own policies and procedures. Two of these tests were not performed. Three minutes after the tube was removed, this young woman’s airway began to close.

The surgeon had left the room with the residents. The nursing staff brought in another resident who was 23 hours into a 24-hour shift, and he tried to “intubate” (replace the breathing tube), but he was not successful. The nurses summoned the surgeon back to the room, and he instructed the resident to again try to replace the breathing tube. The resident made a second attempt at intubating this young woman, and again he was unable to do so. Even though the surgeon was highly-skilled at placing breathing tubes, he did not even try to intubate the patient. He tried to establish an airway and provide oxygen by performing surgery on the patient’s neck. His surgery did not succeed.

After nearly 30 minutes, the surgeon told the nurses to call for help from anesthesia. An anesthesiologist arrived within two minutes and was able to intubate the patient within one minute . Tragically, by the time the tube was placed, the young woman had suffered irreversible and profound brain damage. Several days later, her parents and husband decided to remove her from life support.

This young woman was married to her college sweetheart. She had just left her job, because she and her husband were trying to start a family and going through fertility treatments. Not only her parents and husband, but numerous friends were listed as witnesses to attest to what a lovely and wonderful person she was.

Martin & Jones filed suit on behalf of her family and had three experts in critical care surgery (one of whom was the former president of the American College of Surgeons), an expert in pulmonary and critical care medicine and an expert anesthesiologist. After Martin & Jones attorneys took the testimony of the defense experts, the case settled for $1,800,000.