T. underwent a successful lap-band surgery at an outpatient surgery center, but her recovery was another story.
Five hours after T.’s surgery, her sister received a panicked call from the surgery center. She was told that T. wasn’t breathing, was foaming at the mouth and had been transferred to another hospital. The anesthesiologist had apparently removed T.’s breathing tube before giving her the drugs to reverse her anesthesia, leaving her partially paralyzed and struggling to breathe.
The clinic’s records are unclear about exactly what happened after that, but she eventually went into cardiac arrest, never regained consciousness and died three days later.
The coroner ruled that T.’s death was a result of inadequate care while she was under anesthesia. An independent anesthesiologist who examined the coroner’s notes questioned whether, as an obese woman with sleep apnea, T. should have even been approved for outpatient surgery. But the report said T. could have survived if she had just received appropriate postoperative care in time.
T. died a needless death, but since she was not married and had no children, her life was worth no more than $250,000 under California’s outdated compensation cap in medical negligence cases. Because of the 1975 cap, her surviving siblings were unable to pursue a medical negligence suit.